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Last updated: 04/28/2011 1:32 PM

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Football
Around the-Ozone Water Cooler -- Has Your Opinion of Jim Tressel Changed?
By the-Ozone Staff

A year ago, the notion that Jim Tressel could be fired seemed preposterous. Today, it is the overwhelming topic of conversation.

The recent NCAA infractions by Jim Tressel have polarized the Buckeye nation and led to the debate as to whether he should be fired or kept.

That debate has, of course, found its way to the-Ozone Water Cooler where the talk has been been spirited and animated.

In the course of discussion, we asked ourselves if and how our perceptions of Tressel have been changed. Here's what we came up with.

Tony Gerdeman -- Yes and no.

My opinion of him as a coach has changed because I can no longer see him as the coach that he portrays himself to be.

Maybe that's my fault for thinking him something that he wasn't.

As I wrote on Tuesday, it's hard to stay very clean in college football when wins (and millions of dollars) are on the line, so I guess that makes me gullible for thinking Jim Tressel would always try.

I also look at it like we all know things go on, but as long as a blind eye can be turned, then we're cool, but once that blind eye is opened, you have no choice but to see what's really going on.

Just like coaches, I want my plausible deniability.

You know how magicians aren't really magic, but as long as they don't screw the trick up, you'll allow yourself to be amazed? It's sort of like that, but this wasn't the first time Tressel flubbed a trick. Remember the whole Donald Washington “will he play, or won't he” deal from a few years ago? Washington was reportedly suspended for the BCS National Championship game following the 2007 season, but as the game drew closer his suspension never materialized.

Ohio State said people got the story wrong, but even if he wasn't suspended, he clearly did something that warranted it, didn't he?

You could see then that sometimes a big game was more important than a big lesson.

But then, this is also the same coach who sat Steve Bellisari for the Michigan game in 2001. Of course, that was the season before he won a National Championship and began to wield absolute power, but still, a precedent had been set.

It's not that I ever thought Jim Tressel was pure, but I certainly never thought he would knowingly play an entire season with ineligible players.

And while my opinion of him as a coach has changed, my opinion of him as a man remains the same.

His contributions to the Ohio State University go far beyond the path he walks on the sidelines. Just as his contributions to the collective Buckeye nation go far beyond what they get on those twelve Saturdays every autumn.

Ask anybody—ANYBODY—who has spent time with Tressel how they feel about the man, and see how many answer in a negative light. You will get an overwhelmingly positive response, which is something that you can't say for all coaches, nor many men.

So no, my opinion of Jim Tressel the man hasn't changed, because he's so much more than just the football coach that I now know him to be.

Brandon Castel - It’s a little early to say exactly how my opinion of Jim Tressel has changed in the last five months.

I’m a firm believer that screwing up is a part of life, a part of being human, and that it’s how you respond to your mistakes that separates one individual from another.

That’s not to say that Tressel’s oversight was a minor slip up, because it could have very major ramifications. Assuming Tressel isn’t fired, which seems highly unlikely to me at this moment unless new violations are brought to light, it will be most interesting to see how he handles this adversity moving forward.

What I have learned so far is that he’s not so different from many, many other coaches. That may come as the biggest surprise to many. I think it’s unfair to slander the man’s character based on how we perceive his actions; after all, he is only a football coach. We can’t be sure what his exact motives were for keeping it quiet, but the bottom line is that Tressel did two things that should not be surprising.

The first thing Tressel did was look out for his players—both the players involved the seniors who would have been affected. The second was try to win football games. Though he comes across as a mild-mannered coach who spends all of his free time at church, Tressel has a competitive fire that burns hot. Yanking four offensive starters off the field in a year where the Buckeyes were expected to compete for a shot at the national title would have devastated the 2010 season.

Whatever his motive, Tressel was dishonest in his approach. He committed a violation and knowingly put potentially ineligible players on the football field. More importantly, he didn’t set an example of how things are going to be done in his program. If the FBI had never gotten involved, would any of this have ever come to light? How many more situations like this have simply been ignored over the years? We don’t know the answer to that, but it’s no longer safe to assume this was the first and only of its kind.

John Porentas - My opinion on Jim Tressel has not changed one bit, but my opinion probably wasn't the same as a lot of other people to start. I don't think he gets to work every day by walking across the Olentangy without the aid of a bridge or floatation device, nor does he change water into wine.

That being said, Tressel's conduct is, to me, extremely consistent with what he has said and how he has portrayed himself all along.

Tressel had consistently and publicly said that his number one concern as a head coach is the welfare of his players. While his actions in this matter may have violated an NCAA rule, what they did not violate was his underlying principal that the players and his "football family" are his top priority.

The heart of the matter is that Tressel was presented a conflict in what he saw as the best interest of his players and the rules, and rightly or wrongly, chose to act in conformity with his values rather than the rules.

That may seem offensive at first, but history is littered with people who have broken rules and have been called heroes for doing so. There was a bunch of gun play in the 1776 timeframe that is a good example of that. Those people broke rules because the rules violated their values. At the time, they were considered criminals and traitors by those in power. Now their faces adorn our currency.

There are some of you who are bristling right now, wanting to shout at me through your computer screen that I am a total buffoon. Tressel, you want to scream, simply cheated to win. Here's what I want to shout back: does is surprise you that a football coach wanted to win?

Let me tell you something about football. It's a game that when played, often results in pain, both long term and short term. We're talking about physical pain, emotional pain, all sorts of pain, so why play the game? The answer is to compete and to succeed. That is the payoff.

What Tressel saw was that the actions of seven players jeopardized the ability of the entire team to compete and succeed, and chose to act in a way that protected the larger group. He also protected the smaller group, electing not to throw them under the bus. In doing so, he opted for the well being of the players but put the OSU department of athletics at risk and violated an NCAA rule.

In case you haven't noticed, public opinion on this affair is extremely polarized. People are very passionate in their opinions on how this should go.

Those who are ready to dump Tressel fall into two groups. One group is completely disappointed that Tressel somehow acted in a way that was not consistent with their view of him. That group should calm down. His behavior was entirely consistent, but it was outside the rules. What you should be asking yourself now is whether you would rather have a coach who puts his players ahead of the rules or the rules ahead of the players, no matter what the rules are.

The other group wanting to dump Tressel are those who are threatened by the notion that taking care of people is more important than taking care of institutions. Ask a lawyer what is more important, the law or justice for one individual, and more likely than not he will tell you the law. Bureaucrats will usually tell you that government regulations are more important than the well being of any one person. Pick a group that relies on an institution for its well being, and you probably have found a lot of people who are offended by Jim Tressel's action of putting his football family ahead of his school and the NCAA. Its a whole lot like that group in 1776 that I was talking about. In England, they were considered vile and terrible criminals because they dared question the validitiy of the status quo.

Tressel's actions are offensive to some people, but there are others who find them admirable. Within a large part of the football community his actions will be seen as a person who "took care or his guys", who took care of "the team". Others see him as a man who is acting on his principals rather than on the rules.

Was he right or wrong? Depends on your point of view I guess, but I say he's been consistent, and I have no reason to see him differently today than I did before.


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