Saturday, June 4, 2011

An OSU fan reacts to the Tressel story

Tresselgate, the downfall of Ohio State, the Bucks stop here…how ever you say it it’s an embarrassment to Ohio State football and the University.  As a lifelong Ohio State fan, I am very saddened by what has come up within the past few months regarding Jim Tressel and the players.  At this point I’m just hoping the hits stop coming and that we can fade out of the headlines.
When the first accusations came out in December 2010 about players receiving benefits from selling items I was shocked, but at the same time not overly surprised.  Even before all the NCAA investigations, it was obvious that football players at major programs receive extra benefits in some way, OSU included.  At the same time, I thought some of the players that got caught would’ve known better.  After that was said and done, I thought us fans could move on and look forward to the next season and argue about who should be the starting QB and RB.  This was just the beginning, however, of what looks like a very long road ahead.
The day Yahoo! published the story about Tressel lying to the NCAA, I first thought it had to be a lie or that there was more to the story; as did most of the fan base I’ve spoken to.  Tressel has been looked upon as almost a Messiah like figure by both fans and players.  After the 90’s with Cooper we just wanted a coach that could win the big game and beat Michigan.  At Tressel’s first speech/press conference for the fans he promised that we would be proud of the players come Michigan week…and we were.  Tressel then followed up his first season with a second straight win against Michigan and our first National Championship in 34 years.  After the 2002 season, Tressel was solidified as a god among coaches in Ohio State’s eyes.  His success continued by going to three National Championships, winning seven Big Ten Championships, and a 9-1 record against Michigan.
After so long, the fans, myself included, thought Tressel was unstoppable.  Sure we had issues with Clarrett and Troy Smith, but no one ever thought Tressel would’ve been involved at all.  No one wanted to think about life without Tressel, we wanted him for life.  Three months ago, that all changed.
Ever since the Yahoo! article, it just been hit after hit for the program.  We are now just along for the ride hoping there is something left once the dust clears.  Even with Gordon Gee and Gene Smith backing Tressel I thought it wasn’t going to be that bad, the program would get some sanctions and we would move on.  Sure it is horrible to violate the NCAA, but us fans thought everything would still be good with Tressel at the helm.
Then came Memorial Day.  I woke up that morning with about 4-5 text messages on my phone asking what happened with Tressel.  I was completely shocked at first to see that Tressel resigned as head coach, especially with all the higher ups at OSU saying he was still the coach no matter what.  It then came to light the depth of violations OSU had committed.  Never did I think Tressel could, and would, cover up so many violations and then on top of that lie to the NCAA about it all.
After reading many articles and talking to multiple people about the whole situation I thought Tressel resigning was the best option.  As horrible as it was to see him leave, it was what was best for the program.  I was actually not too surprised that he actually resigned considering nearly every major coach that has lied to the NCAA has been fired, dismissed, or resigned.  I don’t think Tressel or OSU wanted to go against that mold.
Right now us fans are just sitting back waiting for the hits to stop coming.  With ex-players now talking and the NCAA investigating every little thing about the athletic department it could get really ugly.  Fans are just hoping the NCAA does not make an example out of Ohio State to warn other major schools to clean up their act.  Personally, I’m guessing we get a USC-like treatment with a couple year post season ban, scholarships reduced, and the 2010 season vacated (besides the Sugar Bowl since the NCAA made the “Tat 5” eligible).  If more and more information surfaces the NCAA could go back further and vacate more seasons, which we hope does not happen.
As the 2011 season comes closer the program and fans are at a crossroads.  What will happen this year?  Who will be the next coach?  Who will start in place of the “Tat 5”?  When we will beat Michigan again?  These questions will hopefully be answered within the next few months.  This 2011 team just went from a possible National Championship contending team to fighting for 8-10 wins and keeping their head above water in the Big Ten.
Come 15-20 years down the road I’m guessing Tressel with get the Woody treatment.  Both coaches went out in the wrong way, but what they did on the field is undeniable.  They won Big Ten championships, beat Michigan, and won at least one National Championship.  Woody’s memorable hat and thick black framed glasses can be seen all over the place on game days.  In 20 years, I think we will be seeing sweatervests just as much.
As the dust settles, this thing I know…I will still be a Buckeye and wear my team colors proudly.  Sure there will be fans that leave and hate OSU, Tressel, and the players involved but that just comes with the nature of the beast.  True fans will stay around and stand up for their school.  I’m not saying what Tressel or the players did was the right thing or even remotely okay, but whatever happens I will still be an OSU fan and still be at every home game cheering them on just as hard.  Once a Buckeye, always a Buckeye…Go Bucks!

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