NEWS. Tressel Resignation "As Big As It Gets" in Ohio State Football History

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Last updated: 05/30/2011 4:17 PM
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Tressel Resignation "As Big As It Gets" in Ohio State Football History
By Tony Gerdeman

On Monday morning, the Ohio State University announced that Jim Tressel had resigned as head football coach of the Buckeyes.

While many viewed Tressel's stepping down as inevitable, it does nothing to lessen the impact that his resignation has made, and will continue to make as the days grow.

Ohio State football began in 1889, and Tressel was just the 22nd head football coach to lead the Buckeyes out onto the field of play.

And now he is gone.

Since Paul Brown left for World War II following the 1943 season, every head football coach at The Ohio State University has either resigned or been fired.

Brown was expected to return to Ohio State once the War was over, but he instead chose to follow through on an opportunity to start the Cleveland Browns football organization.

Carroll Widdoes, who was the interim head coach for Brown's first year away in 1944, was then made the full-time head coach in 1945. After the 1945 season, he asked athletic director Lynn St. John if he could return to his old position as an assistant coach.

"He couldn't stand the pressure of being a head coach," Ohio State football historian Jack Park said of Widdoes.

"He said he never wanted to be the head coach, he never solicited the position, and he never had any intentions of being head coach. He was asked to do it, and he felt it was his duty to do it. But he didn't know it was going to be a permanent head coaching thing, and once he got it, he didn't want it.”

Paul Bixler, an assistant coach, was then given the head coaching position, and Widdoes went back to being an assistant.

After one season, Bixler resigned because of the pressure and took a job at Colgate.

"He said 'I don't want this job', and he took the job at Colgate instead," according to Park. "It was written up that he was going from the big time to the little time."

Wes Fesler then took the job in 1947, and following the infamous "Snow Bowl" in 1950 he resigned after just four seasons as Ohio State head coach.

"He couldn't take the pressure either," Park said.
Woody Hayes followed Fesler and eventually succumbed to his own resignation/firing following the 1978 Gator Bowl incident.

Earle Bruce took over in 1979 and lasted nine seasons before he was fired. John Cooper was fired after 13 seasons. Jim Tressel made it ten seasons before his apparently inevitable end came.

But even though Jim Tressel's end comes like everybody else's in the modern era, this one is going to be remembered for a very long time.

“It's about as big as it gets," Park said.

"In terms of significance to the program, it's definitely right up there with the Hayes resignation/firing."

"We've had 121 seasons now, and if you had to ask me which is bigger—the Hayes firing for punching a player, or Jim Tressel resigning when he's got a lot of good years left, I don't know which is bigger. Right now, I guess the Tressel thing is bigger because it's happening right now.”

When you are the head coach at Ohio State, there are really only two options for the end of your career--either you retire, or you are told that you are no longer wanted.

This is not a stepping-stone job, so when somebody leaves the post, it is for good reason and will have stirring ramifications down many roads.

Jim Tressel's teams won nearly eleven games per season for an entire decade (106). Only Boise State (114) and Oklahoma (109) won more games--and Oklahoma had to play seven more games than the Buckeyes to do it.

To think that Ohio State will simply pick right up where Tressel left off might be foolish. He took the program to a place where only a select few have had it. So it reasons that only a select few could keep it there.

A BCS National Championship following the 2002 season, and seven Big Ten Titles in his ten years will be his ultimate legacy, but it may be a while before the dust settles and once again allows that legacy to be seen.

"We're losing as good of a football coach as Ohio State will ever have," Park said.

It may just take some time before everybody else begins to realize it.

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