Despite Current Chaos Tressel Hopes Penn State Will Move Forward and Heal
By Patrick Maks
Photo by Jim Davidson
Jim Tressel knows all-too-well what it feels like when the sky is falling.
The former Ohio State football coach has been there.
As the NCAA prepares to hand down reportedly “unprecedented” penalties on Penn State University for covering up claims of child sexual abuse involving former Nittany Lions’ defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky, Tressel holds an especially unique vantage point on the situation continuing to unfold in State College, Pa.
More than a year removed from his own scandal-induced resignation at Ohio State, Tressel says he “can’t think of anything good in the whole situation” involving the Nittany Lions and former head coach Joe Paterno, whose statue was removed from outside Beaver Stadium on Sunday morning.
“I feel horrible with the victims to start with,” Tressel told The-Ozone.
“You know, I knew Jerry Sandusky and I feel horrible that —whatever is the exact situation—I feel horrible that took place.”
Jim Tressel and Gene Smith
Photo by Jim Davidson
Tressel, who was urged to step down by OSU athletic director Gene Smith a year ago last May amid major NCAA violations, says he would encourage Penn State officials to continue to move forward from the horrific incidents which ultimately led the firing of Paterno and the imprisonment of Sandusky.
“All you can do is root for them going forward,” he said.
“Whatever path that is…you just got to root for them going forward.”
Moving forward, though, has been hindered lately—especially with the July 12 release of the Freeh Report, which claimed the late Paterno—head coach at Penn State for nearly five decades—aided in a university-wide cover up regarding allegations against Sandusky over the past 14 years.
For Tressel, it’s been nearly 38 years since he first crossed paths with Paterno in December of 1974.
Fresh off his playing career under his father Lee Tressel at Baldwin-Wallace College, Tressel says he was deciding between the University of Akron and Paterno’s stomping grounds—and future college football empire—in State College for graduate school.
Though he ended up Akron, Tressel says he learned “so much” from Paterno in the time since their first meeting nearly four decades ago. The two had maintained a friendship ever since, all the way up until the time of Paterno’s death in January.
He was 85 years old.
“Obviously, I hurt for his family and for the whole university, because Penn State’s a great place,” Tressel said.
“I can’t think of anything good about the whole situation.”
During his decade at Ohio State, Tressel was 6-3 against Paterno’s Nittany Lions—not including the Buckeyes’ 38-14 victory in 2010, which was later vacated. He reiterated, however, the importance for everyone at Penn State to move past this recent saga and learn from the mistakes that were made, especially by those closest to the top.
“If you spend too much time dwelling on the past—other than learning from it, of course you have to learn from the past,” Tressel added.
“But if you dwell on the past and stay mired in the past, you’re not going to move forward.”
Additional story notes:
Tressel on the Freeh report:
“I didn’t really actually get to read the Freeh Report, so I’d have a hard time commenting on that.”
Tressel on the idea of taking down the Joe Paterno statue before its removal on Sunday morning:
“Typically in my life, I’ve tried not to have a whole bunch of opinions about decisions other people have to make because I know how hard it is to make decisions. I’m sure they’ll put their heads together and whatever decisions they make, some people will like it, some won’t.”
“I’ve got confidence, they’re good people over there (at Penn State) and they’ll make good decisions that obviously not everyone will agree with and hopefully they’ll hold their heads high and go forward and be proud that they’re an American let alone being from Penn State. Obviously it’s a tough situation.”
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