Jim Tressel, who led Ohio State to eight Bowl Championship Series appearances and a national title in his 10 years as the Buckeyes head football coach, resigned Monday amid an NCAA investigation into allegations that star players received impermissible benefits and that the coach tried to cover it up.
Tressel, who has written two books on faith and integrity, could not not overcome growing evidence that he not only knew that players had sold football memorabilia in exchange for discounts on tattoos—but that he had allowed those players to compete while their eligibility had been compromised. Worse, he failed to disclose the apparent violations to his compliance or legal staff until more than nine months after learning of them.
The allegations against the players surfaced as part of a U.S attorney’s investigation into drug trafficking at the tattoo parlor. At a news conference in March, Tressel said he didn’t disclose the apparent violations because he was bound by confidentiality in the drug-trafficking case.
At that same news conference, in which the university announced that Tressel had been fined $250,00 and suspended for two games for his involvement (three more games were later tacked on to match the penalty against the players), Ohio State officials took heat over their handling of the case. Gordon Gee, the university’s president, assured Buckeye Nation that the coach’s job was secure, joking that, “I’m just hoping the coach doesn’t dismiss me.”
Since then more allegations have come out, including a report in the Columbus Dispatch that players or their family members received discounts on cars from two local dealers. On Monday, Sports Illustrated published an investigation revealing that an additional 22 players had traded merchandise for tattoos dating as far back as 2002.
By distancing itself from the coach, the university appears to be positioning itself for its August appearance before the NCAA’s Committee on Infractions, in which it must answer questions about the players’ alleged violations and the coach’s role, as well as other problems. With Tressel gone, the program could avoid the harshest penalties.