We have all seen the headlines: Jim Tressel will be suspended for 2 games this season and fined $250,000 as per suggestion by Ohio State University. It has also been pointed out that the NCAA has every right to step in and decide that these sanctions are not enough, and may indeed pose a sturdier punishment on the Buckeye’s head football coach. As a fan of NCAA sports, I understand that by not notifying the compliance officer or athletic director of the possible NCAA violations, Jim Tressel indeed violated the terms of his contract. The question that has been gnawing at me since however, is this: Was he justified in doing so?
A head coach is much more than just someone who calls out plays from the sidelines. A good coach is someone who is accessible to his or her athletes- no matter if it is in season, or off. Athletes need to know that they can confide in a coach, and over the years, I would disagree with anyone who would say that Jim Tressel has not been any of these things. He has prayed both with and for his athletes, and stood by them when they have had had troubles of their own to deal with. Tressel has been nothing but polite to coaches, fans, reporters and anyone else he has come in contact with in his years as head coach; he has shown class and a quiet sense of dignity.
But he sure did make a mistake this time. I just have a hard time wrapping my head around the “why” part of this whole situation- could it be that I have simply been duped all these years, and should I now think that this portrayal of the straight-and-narrow Jim Tressel has been false? Call me biased, but I for one would like to give the man the benefit of the doubt. Is it so hard to believe that he honestly thought that he was doing the right thing by his players by not disclosing the information he received? Perhaps we don’t know the full details of the case, and maybe his players would have been in danger if the information would have been brought to the forefront at that time. Maybe the emails made the situation seem much less benign than what it was, or maybe Tressel warned the players who were selling merchandise, and thought it was the end of it- who knows? My intuition just keeps tugging at me, insisting that we (the public) don’t know the whole story here, and yet everyone seems rather content to crucify a man who made a mistake, and has now owned up to it.
I for one will certainly be watching over the next few months as the NCAA looks over the sanctions imposed by Ohio State University. I am interested to see if this organization is as anxious to make an example out of Jim Tressel, because they have certainly not done so in other situations in which there were violations of NCAA rules. Ohio State fans have a long road ahead, and while there will certainly be a small population that will turn their backs on Jim Tressel, I believe the majority of fans will show support and forgiveness for their head coach and leader of Buckeye Nation.