President Tressel makes sense at YSU
May, 9, 2014
By Adam Rittenberg | ESPN.com
Several coaches close to Jim Tressel whom I spoke to for this story in November held out hope that he would one day return to the sideline.
They also knew his interest in education -- teaching, mentoring and administration -- wasn't just something to fill his days until the next coaching opportunity came along. Tressel was mentioned as a candidate to join Jim Caldwell's staff with the Detroit Lions in January, but he stayed at Akron as the school's vice president for student success and soon applied for the president positions at both Akron and Youngstown State, where he coached from 1986 to 2000 and won four Division I-AA national championships.
Akron selected another candidate on Thursday, but Youngstown State's trustees on Friday voted to offer the position to Tressel. He had been one of three finalists at both schools.
"Mr. Tressel has the personality and leadership skills, in addition to widespread community support, to dramatically raise YSU’s profile and prominence across Ohio and the nation," Youngstown State board of trustees chairman Sudershan Garg said in a statement.
Tressel's appointment won't be finalized until contract terms are reached.
Earlier this month at a public forum in Youngstown, Tressel told a questioner that his coaching days are over.
He left the door open a little more when we spoke in November, but his interest in education came across as sincere, including how he taught a coaching staff with Jim Dennison and how he interacted with students around campus.
"We're mediocre in the world in education," Tressel told me. "We're not at the top of the heap. I don't like being mediocre. I want every kid to get that job they're looking for. It drives you every day to figure out how we can get 26,000 to 27,000 kids to succeed. That's as tough of a game as there is."
Tressel's coaching friends wanted him back in the game, not just because of the success he had but because of the way things ended at Ohio State. But his own pull to the sideline didn't seem as strong.
He wasn't overtly bitter about Ohio State, and while he still spends much of the fall around football, he seemed to get his competitive fill from being a top administrator at Akron.
"Jim is a lot more comfortable in a shirt and tie than most coaches," Akron coach Terry Bowden said. "I don't think there are many coaches in the country that are as comfortable in the administrative side of colleges as Jim Tressel. So I wouldn't be surprised if that's where he finishes his career."
It appears that will be the case. Tressel knows Youngstown and immediately enhances the school's profile as president. The job is largely about fundraising, an area where he will undoubtedly excel.
Tressel has trouble spots in his past, including some during his coaching tenure at Youngstown State. People remember Ray Isaac and Maurice Clarett and the Tat-5 scandal. Tressel is still under a show-cause penalty from the NCAA. These issues will be brought up as he begins his new role.
But college presidents aren't saints. Neither are coaches, despite the image Tressel often portrayed. Tressel has his flaws, but I found it interesting that two of his former players he talks to the most -- Clarett and Terrelle Pryor -- are the ones who most damaged his reputation. You can't say he doesn't care about helping people.
Bottom line: You look at what college presidents do and where the job will be, and Tressel looks like a good fit. He reportedly wanted the Youngstown job more than the Akron one, and he remains extremely popular in the Youngstown community.
He has turned a page on his career. So should we.