Life lessons from Jim Tressel
Repetition does not transform a lie into a truth.” — Franklin D. Roosevelt
Wow, we certainly did not see this one coming.
Jim Tressel “resigned” on Monday as football coach at Ohio State, possibly at the urging of the university. You know, the old “you should quit because we are going to fire you” move.
What makes this all the more bizarre is that it never had to come to this.
If Tressel had just told his bosses that some players were up to shenanigans when he first learned about it, life would have gone on at Ohio State. The way life went on at Georgia following A.J. Green’s four-game suspension last season for selling memorabilia.
But he didn’t want to lose some of his best players to suspension so he sat on the information.
So that’s life lesson No. 1: What we do when no one is watching is the true reflection of our character.
It’s easy to “honor” players from the Naval Academy with a stadium full of people and the TV cameras focused on you. The same with singing the alma mater – which when you really look at it is a pointless gesture.
But when a situation came that called for Tressel to show true character, he shrunk from the moment.
He only made things worse by continuing to lie and deny that he knew something was wrong. Signing off on the players before the season started by claiming they were clean, denying he knew anything before the Sugar Bowl, lying about how he was trying to “protect” the players involved.
Once those lies started piling up, it got harder to keep them straight and, just like a loose thread on a sweater vest, everything started to unravel.
That’s life lesson No. 2: Don’t lie. We all learn that at an early age.
While we were surprised at first to learn that it was Ohio State that made the call to let Tressel go, the more we think about it the more that makes sense.
Ohio State tries to set itself up as being a program that is better than everyone else; one that doesn’t do things like “schools in the SEC.”
But for the school to continue to do nothing, or impose cosmetic punishments, would reveal it as having a win at all cost mentality. Throw in the fact that coaches who willingly lie to the NCAA – which is clearly what Tressel did – rarely keep their jobs and Ohio State was finally left with no way to spin this.
And a Sports Illustrated article detailing how this been going on for years should come as no surprise. The first time you get caught doing something wrong is rarely – if ever – the first time you committed a crime.
So now the apologists will be out looking to shoot the messenger – the media, the NCAA, Kirk Herbstreit, the players, whoever they can find – because they don’t like the message. And on some level we can understand their frustration.
They were sold a fairy tale about Tressel being a saint among sinners in college football and, it turns out, their false idol is no better than anyone else.
But above everything else, there’s no denying that Tressel has no one to blame but himself.