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May 31, 2011

Tressel reaction, Dantonio anxiety

On the same day Jim Tressel resigns, Sports Illustrated hurries to post this investigation of his program that has been all the buzz for the past couple weeks.

    As it turns out, the SI story wasn't quite the nuke job it was purported to be. More players in the tattoo-for-favors club. More details on the Youngstown State shadiness (much of that had been reported back when the Maurice Clarett stuff was going on in 2003). And this especially scathing anecdote-plus-quote on Tressel as an Ohio State assistant:

    According to his fellow assistant, Tressel rigged the raffle so that the elite prospects won -- a potential violation of NCAA rules. Says the former colleague, who asked not to be identified because he still has ties to the Ohio State community, "In the morning he would read the Bible with another coach. Then, in the afternoon, he would go out and cheat kids who had probably saved up money from mowing lawns to buy those raffle tickets. That's Jim Tressel."

    And that's the problem with quoting anonymous sources. They aren't accountable for statements like that, they can take wild shots at people, and for all we know this source has a personal feud with Tressel going back to the '80s and is finally exacting revenge without having to give his name. But hey, it's a good quote.

    Speaking of good quotes, there's no limit to the Tressel reax out there, and I'd gather it together for you, but Adam Rittenberg already did. Thanks, Adam. Here's another viewpoint, with one passage in particular that I find appropriate:

    In a way, Tressel epitomizes his sport, and that is neither a compliment nor a defense. His father, Lee Tressel, was a highly respected coach at Baldwin-Wallace College in Berea, Ohio. Lee died of lung cancer in 1981, just as money was beginning to transform "amateur" athletics.

    College football today is a professional enterprise in every way but one: It is illegal to pay players. Even mediocre head coaches make millions. Ohio State's athletic budget is bigger than the player payroll of most major pro sports teams. But the players aren't allowed to get a cut.

    Tressel and his legacy are being excoriated right now, and he has earned it with the way he reacted to what could have been a relatively small problem -- the correct reaction would have cost Ohio State some eligible players and some wins in 2010 but would have kept his job safe -- but let's be real. His deceit is still the worst part of this whole ordeal. What we know so far of Ohio State's misdeeds does not approach the football/basketball/AD conduct we saw at USC. And this is just the latest glimpse at an undeniable aspect of big-time college sports. A lot of guys who come from little money, who take part in making millions for their university and coach, who are going to scrape together a few extra bucks where they can and not feel the least bit bad about it.

    Rittenberg also put together a list of interesting tweets on the resignation.

    (Michigan DT Mike Martin: "The head of the scarlet and grey Demon has been cut off!" You've got to love the way Twitter has empowered college athletes to provide bulletin board material)

    Now, to Mark Dantonio. He has been listed as a candidate to replace Tressel, and he will continue to be. Ohio State will go through the 2011 season with Luke Fickell, then decide on a replacement.

    I would put the chances of Dantonio leaving MSU for Ohio State at 1 percent. That may seem low, but for one, I think Urban Meyer will be the guy (you have to love how he put out a statement saying he "will not pursue any coaching opportunities this fall," but failed to mention what he might be doing in 2012). For two, even if it isn't Meyer, I'm not sure Ohio State will want to bring in a "Tressel guy" off this mess. For three, Dantonio is loyal to Tressel, not Ohio State. I got the sense this spring that he feels his friend has been wronged, and I have a hard time seeing him capitalize on the opening under the circumstances.

    But this fall will be interesting. Because if Michigan State has the kind of season it's hoping for and the Meyer talk cools (I can't see Bo Pelini or Bob Stoops leaving their jobs for OSU, despite their Ohio ties), the Dantonio talk will get louder.

    

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Joe Rexrode
MSU Sports Reporter
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