By Stephen J. Nesbitt, Daily Sports Editor
Published May 30, 2011
Ohio State announced the resignation of embattled football coach Jim Tressel on Monday.
Tressel, who posted a 106-22 record in 10 seasons in Columbus and guided the Buckeyes to the 2002 national title, saw his job security wane in the wake of an ongoing NCAA investigation into the program for multiple violations.
During his tenure, Tressel’s Buckeyes had unparalleled success against Michigan, going 9-1, including a current stretch of seven-consecutive victories. Tressel will be replaced by interim head coach Luke Fickell for the 2011 season.
“After meeting with University officials, we agreed that it is in the best interest of Ohio State that I resign as head football coach,” Tressel said Monday. “The appreciation that (my wife) Ellen and I have for the Buckeye Nation is immeasurable."
In March, President E. Gordon Gee and Athletic Director Gene Smith both voiced their support for Tressel, who then admitted that he withheld information concerning ineligible players in 2010.
“I’m just hoping the coach doesn’t dismiss me,” Gee joked at a press conference March 8.
Initially, Tressel was given just a two-game ban with a $250,000 fine — five of his players, including star quarterback Terelle Pryor, were previously given six-game suspensions for their part in selling memorabilia to a local tattoo parlor, as well as receiving discounted tattoos — Tressel asked that his suspension be increased to match his players.' Tattoo-parlor owner Edward Rife was then under investigation for drug trafficking.
The program came under increased heat when The Columbus Dispatch reported a suspicious connection that Ohio State football players and families shared with Columbus-area car dealers. The Universtity’s director of compliance is currently investigating 50 separate car sales to Buckeye athletes.
Tressel’s hot seat grew hotter and the fever pitch surrounding Ohio State football heightened this week when former Buckeye wide receiver Ray Small told The Lantern — the Ohio State student newspaper — that he saw the selling of memorabilia and car deals as commonplace for Buckeye athletes.
"I had sold my things but it was just for the money," Small said. "At that time in college, you're kind of struggling.
"We had four Big Ten rings," he continued. "There was enough to go around."
Finally, after more than sixth months of investigations and a battery of NCAA allegations detailing that Tressel "permitted football student-athletes to participate in intercollegiate athletics while ineligible” and "failed to deport himself ... (with) honesty and integrity," Tressel has called it quits.
He finishes as the No. 2 coach in Big Ten history in terms of winning percentage (.828).
Although the NCAA has not yet released its penalties against Ohio State, which are expected later this fall, Smith and Ohio State are trying to look beyond the Jim Tressel era, one that will be remembered forever in Buckeye lore — for better and for worse.
"We look forward to refocusing the football program on doing what we do best — representing this extraordinary University and its values on the field, in the classroom, and in life,” Smith said. “We look forward to supporting Luke Fickell in his role as our football coach. We have full confidence in his ability to lead our football program."