What Will We Tell Our Children?

By Ramzy Nasrallah on March 19, 2014 at 11:15a
Never saw a raffle he couldn't fix.

Bear Bryant must be spinning in his grave.

Jim Tressel has landed on the 2014 College Football Hall of Fame ballot. Yes, that Jim Tressel. The one who spawned the Tatgate scandal by not reporting some of his players instead of publicly shaming a bunch of mostly-disadvantaged kids who just wanted to make some extra pocket money turning them into the NCAA.

Yes, Tressel also won a bunch of conference and national titles, had over a thousand players graduate - a lot of whom wouldn’t have ever attended or matriculated all the way through college - and donated millions to Youngstown State and Ohio State while elevating the importance of the punt like no one at any level of football ever has.

His winning percentage at Ohio State was an absurd .822. Tressel won 12 Coach of the Year awards, though none from the Big Ten, because OSU coaches are ineligible for that one.

But forget about all of that. You're now wearing the comfortable loafers of a highly-refined and judgemental Hall of Fame voter, so you should dwell on the scandal Tressel could have avoided had he simply suspended his players for a few September games...which the Buckeyes would have won anyway.

Roll Tide
Gene Stallings in Bear Bryant's arms | 1968 Cotton Bowl

Is this the kind of man you want honored and enshrined among cherished legends like Bryant? Of course the Bear is spinning. In addition to winning six national titles and 13 conference championships at Alabama, Bryant also quickly pulled Texas A&M out from mediocrity. Perhaps too quickly.

His Aggies were given probation and a postseason ban for recruiting violations that occurred on his watch. He later admitted A&M boosters “probably paid some of the boys” who helped with the program’s resurgence, but what could Bryant have done at the time? He was A&M’s head coach and athletic director, intent on digging out a program that went 1-9 his first season.

Should he have actively pursued those boosters and reported those prized recruits for taking money that led them to College Station? Stop it. Bryant was inducted posthumously in 1986.

Bryant’s descendants/coaching tree includes Gene Stallings, Pat Dye, John David Crow, Danny Ford, Howard Schnellenberger, Mike Dubose, Jackie Sherill and Charlie Pell. It's an impressive group of his players and coaches who have gone on to leave indelible marks on college football.

While Schnelly's fledgling Miami program was pinched for rules violations that resulted in probation, he's easily the cleanest branch of the Bryant tree. Ford gave Clemson postseason and TV bans for massive violations and later got Arkansas in hot water with the NCAA as well. Sherill matched Ford in scandal variety, with the NCAA hammering both his A&M and Mississippi State teams.

Dubose gave Alabama five years of probation and a two-year bowl ban. Florida was alleged to have committed 107 (!) violations under Pell, but the NCAA only found him personally responsible for 59 of them (phew). His Gators got the requisite bowl and TV bans and were crushed with scholarship reductions, just as Ford's Tigers were a few years earlier.

Tressel would be the first coach ever enshrined in the Hall of Fame accused of rigging a camp raffle 30 years after it allegedly happened.

But you, judgemental Hall of Fame voter, should not concern yourself with  those branches of Bryant’s coaching tree; they’re not in the Hall of Fame or on the ballot. Stallings, Dye and Crow are a different story. They're already in.

Stallings had four major violations on his watch at Alabama, including personally working with his athletic director to falsify the eligibility status for a player. Wins were vacated, postseason bans were levied, scholarships were lost and Stallings resigned following the NCAA’s investigation. He was inducted in 2010. 

Dye’s coaching career ended when the NCAA caught Auburn boosters and members of Dye’s coaching staff funneling money to players. Like Bryant at A&M, Dye was both Auburn’s head coach and AD when the violations took place. Its football field is still named for him. Dye was inducted in 2006.

Crow resigned in 1993 from the AD position at A&M (which he took over from Sherill after he resigned in scandal) following the ol' getting cash for no-show jobs from boosters scheme - you know, the same one that was revealed at Ohio State where DeVier Posey was overpaid by $3.07, only with a lot more players and a lot more money.  

Crow's alma mater got five years of probation along with postseason and TV-ban combo. He was inducted in 1976 as a player. In 2004 he was given the Doak Walker Legends Award, which is presented by the SMU Athletic Forum (Craig James won it in 2009, so you know it's an honor that carries distinction).

So when you hear “Bear Bryant” you must immediately think "Cheater Zero From Which College Football’s Most Prolific Swindlers Sprang,” right? You don’t? You think "25 years of dominance, houndstooth everything, helping integrate football in the South and the Junction Boys" instead? Oh.

Charlie Ward, Bobby Bowden and a HOF polo shirt.

Well, good - you should. Bryant was one of the best things to ever happen to college football. Kind of like Tressel, but with different fashion accessories and less scandalous coaching tree branches - unless you're some weirdo who wants to describe a man who looks like Mark Mangino as a branch.

It's not just Bryant and his Hall of Fame descendants who stand to have their sacred honor tarnished by having Tressel inducted: Barry Switzer won three national titles at Oklahoma and accumulated enough scandals and violations to make SMU blush, culminating in his resignation in 1989. Switzer was inducted in 2001.

Lou Holtz is a Hall of Fame coach. He left Minnesota on probation with a postseason ban, then left Notre Dame on probation after failing to report violations he knew about (hmmm...) then left South Carolina on probation for lack of institutional control. There's a statue of him on campus in South Bend. Holtz was inducted in 2008. He came from the Woody Hayes coaching tree. Woody punched a kid on live television in 1978. He was inducted five years later.

Bobby Bowden made cognitive dissonance an art form. His Florida State teams had street agents, runners, half the roster emptying the shelves at the local Foot Locker, trips to Vegas, cash payments, academic scandals - and he expertly knew about none of it, nailing the role of folksy, oblivious grandpa like nobody else outside of State College, PA. Bowden was inducted in 2006. The State College guy, who operated with literally a one-person Compliance Department (no violations! Ever!) made it in a year later.

Frank Kush was fired by Arizona State for meddling with its investigation into his serial mistreatment of players. He was inducted in 1995. Don James left Washington in 1992 after the NCAA sanctioned it with both a postseason and TV ban for using funds designated for recruiting visits to pay recruits, while dozens of active players were given money for no-show jobs dating back to the 1970s. James was inducted in 1998.

Charlie Bachman coached Northwestern, Kansas State, Florida and Michigan State. He never won a conference title and retired with a career record of 137-83-24, which is almost exactly what Brady Hoke's record will look like in about a decade (seriously). Bachman's coaching career ended right around the same time NCAA enforcement began, so who knows how scandalous he was. What's known is his coaching record is absolutely unremarkable. He was inducted in 1978.

Tressel would be the first coach ever enshrined in the Hall of Fame to have been accused of rigging a high school raffle 30 years after it allegedly happened. He was also complicit in NCAA violations nobody seems to care about anymore.

Tressel is a first-ballot Hall of Fame coach by any standard, especially the one set by so many coaches who were both exceptional and flawed.

The prevailing take on Tressel in the Hall is that it may take a few years for voters to marinate on his entire career instead of the fading headlines from what will undoubtedly be remembered as the height of the stupidest era in sports journalism.

Waiting to induct Tressel would be equally stupid. He is one of the best things to ever happen to the state, impacting the lives of mostly less-fortunate Ohioans in a manner that few if any ever have. Tressel is a first-ballot Hall of Fame coach by any standard, especially the one set by Bryant, Holtz and so many other coaches who were exceptional and flawed.

However, it won't matter if the voters like yourself take years to vote him in on his merits. Regardless of how long you take to do the inevitable there's already a Coach Tressel enshrined in the Hall of Fame. That's because Jim's late father Lee was inducted in 1996. That Coach Tressel routinely had some of his players living in his house, rent-free.

He's probably spinning in his grave too. At least he's in good company.


Comments Show All Comments

German Buckeye's picture

As always Ramzy, you lay it out that the logical conclusion is clearly evident.  JT will probably get screwed and the media will do nothing about about.  Just don't stop doing your research and writing.

+11 HS
Boxley's picture

Amen, not that our opinion matters after the whipping post treatment Tress got from ESPuuhhnnnn.

He should be a first ballot winner just on his YSU feats.

"...the man who really counts in the world is the doer, not the mere critic-the man who actually does the work, even if roughly and imperfectly, not the man who only talks or writes about how it ought to be done." President T. Roosevelt

+8 HS
OvalBeachBum's picture

The Hypocrisy of how ESecPN treated Tressel, but then barely mentioned Miami's huge transgressions just kills me.  If there is one thing that really gets me going, its Hypocrisy.

"Well, thats just like, your opinion, man."  -The Dude

+2 HS
spqr2008's picture

My cousin's kid will probably play D-1 baseball somewhere, while he gets his education (he's really good, but not so much that college would hurt his chances at an MLB career), and I kind of want to go visit while he's in college, and make a shirt that says "NCAA "Logic" 5 games = $3.07", and wear it around the school's compliance staff, so they have to investigate.  And when they investigate, I will merely look at them and say, "No, I deny your authority over me, as a person independent of this institution and the NCAA."

James Mee's picture

I especially like how they made Miami seem to be the victims when the school had clearly violated a number of rules. It's just stupid. 

gumtape's picture

I would be okay with my kids growing up to be like Jim Tressel.

High and tight boo boo

+10 HS
Seattle Linga's picture

Agreed - he does Most (98%) of life the right way - so happy he was our coach and that he owned it to ttun.

+1 HS
alust2013's picture

I do hope he isn't presented in the media as a scandal-ridden cheat. I doubt there is a coach in the hall of fame that hasn't committed some sort of violation, and it's not like any of us are perfect either.

...and Michigan still sucks.

+2 HS
Hovenaut's picture

I'll tell my son (3 and a half, but happily joins in with his dad on the O-H I-O chant) all about Coach Tressel, his place in Ohio State AND college football history.

Or at the least steer him towards this very article.

+6 HS
nburns18's picture

He most definitely deserves to be in the hall of fame, first ballot. One violation shouldnt stop that

"You win with people." -Woody Hayes

+1 HS
doodah_man's picture

As a human being, much like the oft assailed Wayne Woodrow Hayes, the above referenced coaches cannot carry water for Jim Tressel. Say what you like about the Xs and Os.

Jim "DooDah" Day

"If I were giving a young man advice as to how he might succeed in life, I would say to him, pick out a good father and mother, and begin life in Ohio.” --Wilbur Wright, 1910

+2 HS
Oakland Buckeye's picture

Honestly Ramzy, the best article IMHO you have ever written - If only we could find a way to get this to uneducated voters....

+1 HS
Angry Panda's picture

Great article...well written, logically sound, excellent examples, and, as always Ramzy, presented in such a great way. After reading it there is no doubt that he should be in (not that I needed any convincing in the first place).

+1 HS
Ethos's picture

Not defending the NCAA or their BS about the tat scandal, but lets call it like it is here.  those "kids" (and I still get upset when people call an 18 year old a kid) did not sell their stuff to make a little money cause they are "disadvantaged" and wanted some pocket change.  They sold their items to get a cool tattoo.

I obviously still think they should be able to sell whatever hard earned items they were able to squeeze out of the tight tit that is the NCAA, but lets not get carried away with what the reasons were.


"I spent 90 percent of my money on women and drink. The rest I wasted." - George Best

OSUFlash's picture

Pretty much says it all. Please let the first coach of any sport without a flaw cast the first stone. Que the sound of crickets.


+1 HS
buckeye_chick's picture

As one of the two people left in Buckeye Nation who doesn't think JT should be fitted for his scarlet-and-gray halo, I would like to share some thoughts:

The "mostly disadvantaged kids" were not selling their MVP awards and other memorabilia (which they didn't seem to give two hoots in hell about) so their poor mammas could have food in their stomachs. No, they were selling them for cents on the dollar for scummy tattoos from a weed dealer. Not exactly noble.

JT went around the country for years telling everyone else how to live their lives (e.g., the way he does). He made millions telling everyone else to do the right thing. Yet the first time he has a real moral dilemma, what does he do? Lies, lies, and more lies. Then, for good measure, takes down the football program he claims to care so much about.

Anyone old enough to remember Watergate should surely know that the coverup is ALWAYS worse than the original offense. If he had just come clean, apologized, and took his medicine, everything would have been fine. But no. And please don't give me the crap he tried to sell at the news conference that he "didn't know what to do." He was an AD at YSU for how long? Ohio State has buildings full of lawyers just sitting around waiting for stuff like this to happen. The man's not that dumb.

Let's face it: As long he beats Michigan, a Buckeye football coach could screw a goat on the 50-yard-line during Script Ohio and very few Buckeye fans would care. I do a lot of traveling, and I sometimes wear my Buckeye gear. Even in Europe, I've had people give me the "O-H" and a thumbs-up. But I also have people with bewildered looks on their faces ask me how Buckeye fans could embrace so tightly the person who screwed up their program so willingly. Beats me.

I think the NCAA is an outdated, ridiculous organization that needs to be shut down yesterday. But when you agree to be a head football coach at an NCAA school, you agree to abide by their ridiculous rules.

And please spare me the "But Mom, everybody else does it" defense. Sheesh. Everyone else commits offenses; what everyone else doesn't do is look the NCAA in the face and lie to them. Those jerks really hate it when you do that.

And yes, I am a Buckeye fan. But I want it to be the cleanest program, one we can all be proud of. I don't want to be ashamed of that diploma on my wall.

Let the hating begin! :)

-7 HS
OSUFlash's picture


Very good points but Tressel is now and always will be a HOF coach.  Woody assaulted another player and deserves to be in the HOF. If only perfect coaches got in the HOF, they'd still be looking for it's first inductee.


+5 HS
pcg396's picture

Excellent points, Buckeye_Chick.  Apparently lies and hypocrisy should be overlooked as long as they are perceived to be less egregious than those of prior inductees. Brilliant.

Scottsdale Buckeye

-5 HS
Silver Bullet 10's picture

Or... When you look back on things, it becomes apparent that Tressel is the only coach out there who truly cares for his kids. He never cheated. Why rat out and jeopardize the careers of your kids (because of dumb NCAA rules) over a few "free" tats? Why have their careers suffer? Looking back, it appears to me that Tressel made the right choice. It was a tough choice, and even costly, but it was the morally superior choice. It may not have appeared that way back then, but if tatgate happened today no one would really care.
So go ahead and continue to believe Tressel is a man of no morals.




+7 HS
TheHumbleBuckeye's picture

Yet the first time he has a real moral dilemma, what does he do? Lies, lies, and more lies.

You consider what happened a "moral dilemma"? I could soundly argue that throwing two kids under the bus for something that is perfectly legal and did not harm a soul just to save your own job would be immoral.

And his only lie was the signing of a routine compliance form in September of 2010 that basically stated that no player on the roster had done anything to jeopardize their eligibility as far as he knew. It's a little like when every person that works for tips (pizza delivery drivers, waiters and waitresses, etc) doesn't report 100% of their tips on their taxes, yet signs their name saying they've truthfully reported everything "under penalty of perjury". Read the COI transcript. Tressel was told them in December that he'd received a tip (page 122). He didn't lie about it. The media just trumped it up later after they found out.



+5 HS
German Buckeye's picture

Let the record be clear - if Urban dropped his drawers on the 50 and started to furiously pump away at a goat or anything else, I for one would care and not be amused.  Just sayin.

-1 HS
Arizona_Buckeye's picture

Senator Jim Tressel has earned and deserves to be in the HOF - period!

The best thing about Pastafarianism? It is not only acceptable, but advisable, to be heavily sauced

+2 HS
BroJim's picture


Quick story: Tressel's Godfather is a legend on my undergraduate campus (Ohio Northern!) and even wears Tressel's 2002 ring. When the tattoo scandal broke out you could find Stretch Roberson sporting a scarlet and gray cap that said, "You're damn right I'm a Jim Tressel fan"

Love Tressel!

Ohio Forever!

I season my simple food with hunger

+1 HS
mc22's picture

Punters Unite!  Let Jim in!

+3 HS
Seattle Linga's picture

NICE !!!!!!!!!!!!!! Jim's favorite play - well almost


andretolstoy's picture

I wish (wonder if) Meyer would/could do a little more to help promote the image of Tress (.?)

cronimi's picture

I have no doubt Tress will be in the HOF. I think the only question is whether he's in on the first ballot.

Great article, Ramzy. One question: How many of the others you mention made it in on the first ballot? Could this be a circumstance where the voters (acting in concert or not) choose to not elect JT this ballot -- as a (stupid) gesture to the 'integrity' of the game -- but vote him in on the second ballot?

buckibri's picture

I dont think there can be any debate that The Former Coach deserves accolades for the accomplishments on the field and with the OSU players in the classroom and even with the majority of players in the community. I am very much aware of the state of the OSU football program in those areas before The Former Coach arrived.

However it is just as unfair to simply gloss over the issues where he played an active role in at OSU that led to his ouster as coach. The actions are well beyond the "everybody does it", "it was just trinkets and tats" arguements. Lets not forget that the compliance lies to the NCAA and The University led to OSU losing one season of football, one year of a 12-0 record and a post season ban, the loss of 9 scholarships, several years of probation plus damage to the University. Lets all keep in mind that had he taken correct action that the players would have been suspended for 4 worthless non conference games vs the likes of Eastern Michigan and OSU would still have won the conference and played in the Sugar Bowl that season.

We must keep in mind the scumbag tat parlor owner was a felon and a drug dealer. How much of a stretch is it to take the next steps in his actions when he needs some quick cash and blackmails the players to drop a pass, fumble, make sure you have a 3 and out in order to be sure the spread is covered? Please. Do you really think Eddie Martin with the Felony 5 at Umich in the 90's made the $660k he paid those players from his day job as a janitor or his real job as a number runner for the mafia? We just leared a few weeks ago that McQueary from PSU had a massive gambling issue as a player and did things to infuence point spreads.

ScarletNGrey01's picture

Insight as only Ramzy can provide.  Fascinating and eye-opening stuff.

The will to win is not as important as the will to prepare to win. -- Woody Hayes

+1 HS
Maestro's picture

We all know that JT is in the Ramzy Hall of Fame for way more than his college football coaching record and he certainly is mine as well.

vacuuming sucks

+1 HS
WezBuck28's picture

One should judge by what coach does on the field, and unless those guys got their tattoos at halftime..it, through my eyes, should have little to no affect on weather a coach is elected...what you, or your team does on the field is what makes you a legend..

Buckeye5000's picture

Excellent article Ramzy. One of the most well thought out, reasoned and written articles I have read on a sports site. Thanks.

I do have one problem with it though, you said:

"while elevating the importance of the punt like no one at any level of football ever has."

Being old school, I think maybe Ray Guy might deserve credit for that.

2014 Undisputed National Champions!

Go1Bucks's picture

Considering the shear number of ridiculous rules in the NCAA, I find it hard to believe that any coach, short of his first season, hasn't run afoul and committed a violation. 

Tressel is a HOF Coach in anyone's book, that uses common sense as a guide. 

Go Bucks!

pamemake's picture

If you're inside Ohio borders, you want Tressel in the HOF. That's it....that's where it ends. Tressel's not getting in and rightfully so. Ever since Woody punched that kid in the throat, Earl Bruce has been your only shining star and you ran him out of town. That's your legacy in a nutshell.

-7 HS
Johnny-Shane_Utah-Falco's picture

Haha, typical arrogant "Michigan man"

Awwww, are you still butthurt from Jim Tressel making your pathetic football program his own personal bitch for a decade?

Tressel is far and away better than any coach in Michigan history, and a Hall of Famer ... and you know it.

-1 HS
Johnny-Shane_Utah-Falco's picture

Haha, typical arrogant "Michigan man"

Awwww, are you still butthurt from Jim Tressel making your pathetic football program his own personal bitch for a decade?

Tressel is far and away better than any coach in Michigan history, and a Hall of Famer ... and you know it.

-1 HS
Deadly Nuts's picture

Any coach that wins a national championship deserves a HOF spot.


+1 HS