A Man Enters: A Culture Leaves

By Ramzy Nasrallah on May 28, 2014 at 11:15a
el presidente

Ohio State football was completely transformed in less than three years following Jim Tressel's hiring.

During his honeymoon season the Buckeyes won in Ann Arbor for the first time in 14 years. The following season they won the BCS title and in his third year they played the balance of the season without a serviceable tailback - yet still had a shot at defending their title entering the final game. 

Tress was asked by Ohio State to resign three years ago this Friday. He's now been gone for the same amount of time as it took him to get the foundering Buckeye football program to the doorstep of back-to-back national title games (which he eventually did four years later).

His forced resignation was not met with tempered, reasonable views from salaried media people who were clearly not teeming with impotent outrage:

Nor was it greeted by restrained, judicious OSU stakeholders embracing the fact that Tressel's undoing was all his own:

...all while professional contrarians failed to grasp that the mis-named Tatgate was really a scandal of consequences stemming from a serial coverup, rather than the petty non-crimes of violating amateurism:

It's been three years since we scraped the bottom. That summer of 2011 was without a doubt the stupidest era in sports media history and we're all dumber for having survived it. 

That said, since then we've evolved in the way we view and tolerate NCAA violations in addition to how we see the NCAA as a clumsy, ham-fisted cartel governing body. That progression has been conspicuous, but there has been another transformation in that span that hasn't been nearly as loud.

Ohio State football. You know - the big, punchable catalyst for that big, dumb summer.

Yeah, the Buckeyes run out of the spread now - but they ran spread elements for years under Tressel. Yes, they still win most if not all of their games, but that's a tradition that predates both Urban Meyer and JT by several coaches. And obviously, the offense has never been this good and the defense has never been this bad - but that's not program culture. That's all Saturday stuff.

Meyer doesn't appear to care for headaches.

Let's start with an example: Was there any Tressel defense at Ohio State where Jamal Marcus wouldn't contribute? Marcus and the Buckeyes are now "mutually parting ways" which - coincidence or not - brings the Buckeye roster down to its probation-compliant 82-man limit.

Prior to the most recent Ohio State game, Meyer said this about him:

Jamal Marcus is going to be a disruptive guy. He's one of our more talented guys on defense.

[obligatory GIF of Marcus destroying Zach Zwinak] [rules are rules]


And now they're parting ways. Regardless of the real reasons why, this never would have happened under Tressel. Not like this - and definitely not this soon.

First, the oversigning thing, which has significantly contributed to programs like Alabama and LSU (and now Tennessee and Texas A&M) by building depth and writing off recruiting mistakes: Marcus isn't dead weight by any measure, but going from one of our more talented guys on defense to nope no longer on the team over the course of a single game reeks of surrender. Ohio State is going to quit a guy this good this quickly?

Troubled, apathetic or otherwise - contrast Marcus' abrupt departure to, say, Ray Small's. Tressel clinged to the failed idea that he could rehabilitate him for years. Marcus was going to be a disruptive guy as recently as January. Wait, maybe it was the wrong kind of disruptive.

Even when Small was still in high school, Tress wrote a lengthy letter to OSU admissions pleading if not begging for some latitude. Small arrived, impressed no one of consequence, poisoned way too many teammates most notably Duron Carter and finished his career spending more time suspended by his coach than playing in games.

Hindsight being flawless, Small was not worth a fraction of the trouble Tressel put himself through to land and keep him. Neither were Redgie Arden, Angelo Chattams, Louis Irrizary, Ira Guilford, Albert Dukes, Jonathan Skeete, Marcel Frost, Eugene Clifford...we'll stop there. Those are all Tressel pet projects whose headaches outweighed their contributions.

Tressel clINGED to the failed idea that he could rehabilitate Ray Small.

Meyer doesn't appear to care for headaches. The urgency to get-your-shit-together-or-leave on his watch compared to Tressel's is as glaring as [Glendale nightmare simile goes here]. All of those guys listed were forced to fail in multiples before finally finding their exits. We're not exactly sure what Marcus did, but it absolutely wasn't being lousy at football or repeated brushes with law enforcement.

Remember Taylor Graham, Dom Clarke, DerJuan Gambrell, Jaamal Berry, Jordan Whiting, Brian Bobek, Jeremy Cash, David Durham, Chad Hagan, Scott McVey, Melvin Fellows, T.Y. Williams and Jamie Wood - all Tressel recruits? They didn't last a summer after Meyer's hiring. He didn't coach a single game before those guys were gone, be it for scheme fit, legitimate, medical or other reasons.

The point isn't that they were exited; it's that they were exited post haste.

This is where you point and scream-laugh at everyone who believed Tatgate happened because Tressel would do anything to win. No, those headaches Tressel consistently gave himself with way too many football players - including the final headache that cost him his job as well as $21MM in guaranteed income - had far less to do with winning games than with his radical if not twisted obsession with saving troubled players.

no one actually pays for this
Oh man. They had no idea what was coming.

Urban does not seem to be interested in maintaining a hobby like that. It just happens to be Tressel's passion.

Urb's predecessor also showed excessive loyalty to crony coaches, some of whom could not recruit or just didn't care to. Position battles? What position battles? You could predict the entire two-deep after signing day with a margin of error of no more than two players. The second-string offensive line was the first string with the same five guys at different positions.

Ohio State had the best offensive line in the country last year and did not win the Big Ten. That unit underperformed every single year under Tressel - right before it was fitted for conference championship rings. If an assistant cannot recruit or coach well under Meyer, he will not stay at Ohio State. This was not uniformly the case prior to his arrival.

Tressel preferred to handle discipline in-house and shade his players from shaming throughout his tenure. Meyer stripped scholarships from two starters for peeing outside at 1am during his first summer. He suspended his starting corner for a game last year for a bar incident that turned out to be an assault on him, and he suspended the best tailback in the country for three games after he aggressively reached in the vicinity of a female bar patron who had struck him in the face, on film.

There were no charges to be found, but it did not matter. Under Tressel Arden got a DUI and missed some practices. Santonio Holmes was arrested the week of the Michigan game and ended up scoring two touchdowns in it. Alex Boone caused a car accident while drunk and missed no games. We'll stop there.

There's zero tolerance, no shade and compliance über alles under Meyer, which is to say it isn't Tressel's program anymore. The Buckeyes still sing Carmen Ohio after games. The view from the blimp above Ohio Stadium on Saturdays is mostly the same. Michigan still loses the game that matters most. 

And everyone still hates Ohio State's coach.

Yep, Urb and Utah are on lousy terms. So much hate.

This guy was on Top Chef. He knows how to create.

Beggars can't be choosers, sir.

It's been three years since Ohio State football came crashing down, and it's been almost 11 since that 2003 loss to Michigan; the most recent one suffered by any Ohio State team with a permanent head coach. Some elements of program culture are best left alone.

Others are going to change dramatically, which has undoubtedly been the case since Meyer took over. Ironically, it took Tressel - whom outsiders falsely believed was a win-at-all-costs coach - to leave in order for Ohio State to get a guy who values winning above everything else.

And personally - I would happily take either of them without blinking.


Comments Show All Comments

bucked up's picture

:::glass shatters:::

+12 HS
acBuckeye's picture

"By gawd, Jerry, here he comes!!!!!"

+8 HS
Crumb's picture

And that's the bottom line because Stone Cold Ramzy said so!

"The only good thing about it is winning the d*** thing" - Urban Meyer on The Game The War

+1 HS
Ashtabula's picture

Tressel is who I want my son to play for.  Meyer is who I would want to play for.  Both great coaches and great leaders.

+13 HS
Denny's picture

Goddamn, it's amazing how much we were willing to sweep under the rug (or were oblivious to) w/r/t Tressel. This is not to say that he is a bad man, or was a bad coach, or a sub-par molder of men. But there was a lot of wink-and-nod compliance that we as a fan base accepted. That's gone, and I'm not sure how to feel about it. 


+8 HS
andretolstoy's picture

I'm not sure things were swept under the rug for their own sake. Tressel and Meyer view their position in life differently. For Tressel you're always a good kid or have the potential. For Meyer you're a good kid only if you excell in his system. I can respect both views. Where I tend to lean more with Meyer is his attitude with assistants. And then Bollman beat us ... :)

+5 HS
acBuckeye's picture

For Meyer you're a good kid only if you excell in his system.

 I think a more accurate statement would be, "you're a good kid that doesn't get many chances to screw up."

Like Ramzy said, Tressel wanted to mold these kids b/c he believed that was the best way to turn them into positive members of society. Meyer takes the approach that these kids need to learn the hard way, and to grow up faster. And I think Meyer took this approach b/c of his past experiences at Florida, and b/c of the situation he knew he was stepping into at OSU.

+7 HS
hodge's picture

"And I think Meyer took this approach b/c of his past experiences at Florida, and b/c of the situation he knew he was stepping into at OSU."

Exactly.  By all accounts, Meyer's "lax" discipline at UF was attributed to his desire to not abandon his players -- especially since he knew where they came from.  Granted, no one knows how much of that is honesty vs. rationalizing, but that's what he's said in articles.

+2 HS
teddyballgame's picture

Meyer took this approach b/c of his past experiences at Florida, and b/c of the situation he knew he was stepping into at OSU.

Good point.  I think we have to assume that Tressel also might have a slightly different philosophy and approach to solving problems if he were to return to coaching someday.

+3 HS
hodge's picture

I couldn't agree more.  It's amazing how willfully I ignored it when Tress was coach, too.  Perhaps it was cognitive dissonance, but Tress draws such a stark contrast with Meyer's disciplinary policies that it sheds a light on how lax the former really was.

What's really ironic is that Tressel's disciplinary policies are identical to Brady Hoke's (they have a lot in common, actually; including their reliance on crony hires).  Perhaps he's not as deserving of our spite if he's trying to "mold his men" in the same vein as our former coach?

-1 HS
BierStube's picture

Michigan still loses the game that matters most. 

Nuff said ..

Great read as always!

"No matter where you go, there you are." B. Banzai

+8 HS
andretolstoy's picture

So these guys who are being "trickled" off the team, do they lose the "once a Buckeye, always a Buckeye" status?

+1 HS
acBuckeye's picture

We are so lucky to have had the coaches we've had at this great university.

The contrasting styles of Meyer and JT don't take away from the fact that either one of them would do anything for the school, and especially the football program.

The love for Ohio and it's state university reach far and wide, and it's grip is tight.

+1 HS
daveyt11's picture

My opinion...Tressel seemed to have more of the "family" approach...basically he figured giving up on a kid would be like giving up on his own son. Urban has a bit more of the "business" approach but still both great coaches and good men.

+3 HS
Barnsey69's picture

There is attrition in any organization, Meyer just expedites the process when necessary. I'm sure Marcus would have been a good player for us, and now he'll do that for a different team. 

Good write-up, as usual sir!

Thank the Maker that I was born in Ohio, cradle of coaches, US Presidents, confederate-stomping Generals, and home of The Ohio State University Football Buckeyes- 2014 UNDISPUTED National Champions!

+1 HS
causeicouldntgo43's picture

Tonsil surgery has you in a reflective mood (hope they are healing!). I read Urban's book and the narrative was that at Florida he tended to take the "care too much" approach and it bit him in the ass many times. Back then, he knew he was recruiting "problem" cases but he thought they could be turned around with some "care & feeding" and tough love so to speak. That obviously didn't happen in all cases and there was a lot of negative pub about all the arrests his players had at Florida.

It would appear Urban is taking a new approach at Ohio State. He doesn't want the headaches and has less to little tolerance for those who don't buy in after some period of time - much shorter than Tress was willing to tolerate.

I think both approaches are valid, but the thought of  changing a young guy's life for the better, even if it costs you some wins along the way, is powerful and meaningful. 

+3 HS
unknownmusketeer's picture

I would argue that Coach Meyer cares even more now. If you violate and disrespect rules repeatedly, Coach Meyer won't act as an enabler of future indiscretions. If you can't change your behavior (whatever it may be) in your current situation, you need to change your current situation. Coach Meyer is just facilitating the change.

"Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, well you can't fool me twice." ~ Philosopher Extraordinaire

+2 HS
BroJim's picture

Nice bit, always surprised by what is posted on 11W, thanks.

I season my simple food with hunger

+1 HS
NC_Buckeye's picture

If you listen to Spartans, Bollman is a gd offensive genius. To which I usually respond, he's either a genius who purposely tanked the 2011 tOSU season (maybe out of spite for Fickell being selected interim HC). Or he's a schlub who managed to get Cook & company serviceable for one season (but will eventually be responsible for tanking MSU's offense). Which is it?

If Bollman prospers at MSU, I wish nothing but bad juju for him for what he did in 2011.

+1 HS
Ethos's picture

The fuck?!  Bollman didn't call their plays, so those spartan fans are obviously morons.  

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

+3 HS
NC_Buckeye's picture

From what I've read he has a lot of input in the booth as far as play selection. He officially holds the role of co-offensive coordinator/tight ends coach. link

Dave Warner who is the other half of that tandem was MSU's QB coach for the previous six years. Currently his secondary duties have  shifted to RBs rather than QBs.

Ethos's picture

I always found it concerning about our society in General that a football coach would find it his responsibility to "mold" an 18 year old man.  Pretty sad times when it appears the parents of our society have forgotten that is their job.

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

+2 HS
Denny's picture

I always found it concerning about our society in General that a football coach would find it his responsibility to "mold" an 18 year old man.

Yeah, it's a good thing universities don't try and do the same.


+3 HS
MikeLew's picture

Any teacher or coach worth a dime tries to mold those in their classroom or on their team. There are a lot of different approaches to doing so, but to think otherwise is, quite frankly, insulting.

Ethos's picture

My point being Americans are more and more pointing at someone else to raise their kids. Obviously teachers have input in a persons life but without appropriate parenting its very often lost on the child. I've had this discussion with elementary school teachers that are friends of mine and they say they have clearly seen a reduction in parental accountability. 

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

+1 HS
Waltbuck's picture

You can always count on change.  It never stops.  I am enjoying the ride.

BucksfanXC's picture

I would still hold out on my opinion of Urban until he starts dismissing with haste more players that he recruited. It would be easy to cut guys you didn't necessarily want to be there in the first place than guys you were in their living rooms and met their moms and dads.

“Any time you give a man something he doesn't earn, you cheapen him. Our kids earn what they get, and that includes respect.”  - Woody

IGotAWoody's picture

Marcus was in Meyer's first recruiting class. After seeing film, he made it a priority to bring him to OSU.

“The good life is a process, not a state of being. It is a direction, not a destination.” ~Carl Rogers

southbuc's picture

And I think we are being way too harsh on urban. From spring it looks like Marcus couldn't keep up academically and perhaps asked for a transfer so he could finish or concentrate on his education. 

buckskin's picture

Great article, agreed that ther coaching styles are night and day. I respectfully disagree that saving young men is a twisted obsession. Sometimes we fail to remember some of these young men come from horrible backgrounds.

Fear The Elf's picture

The could've called Zwinak for holding. But don't tell PSU fans that they got away with one.

+1 HS
AndyVance's picture

There's one more way to look at this - rather than simply analyzing Tressel's desire to rehab "project" players versus Meyer's "zero tolerance" mindset on potential issues, consider what history has taught us in spades: there is no tolerance in the sports media/social media universe for flaps from highly-publicized Ohio State leaders.

Tressel was forced out for the most nonsensical of reasons, as was Gordon Gee two years later. Carlos Hyde was crucified in the press for what was in essence a non-event. I could go on and on.

While the SEC teams of the world (looking at you, 'Bama) say "eff 'em" when it comes to critics of the bagman culture we all assume exists, any whiff of impropriety North of the Mason-Dixon is met with the hue and cry of an accused witch in 17th-century Salem, Mass.

+9 HS
Toilrt Paper's picture

There is a zero tolerance clause Urban's contract. There had to be following the dismissal of Tressel and the NCAA watching every move made by the Ohio State athletic department.

Tressel's problem was he tried to be like a father instead of a head coach, the NCAA doesn't like that.

+3 HS
MassiveAttack's picture

Fantastic write-up as always.  To echo the above points to some extent, both Urban and Tress learned the hard way that caring too much will come back to haunt you.  Also both coaches had a lot of experience before Social Media was popular.  Now that it is, no big time program's coach can afford to "care too much", lest they find themselves temporarily unemployed.

The Ohio State University - "Haters love us!"

+1 HS
klfeck's picture

"Time and change will surely show. How firm thy friendship O-hi-o." - Carmen Ohio



Proud parent of a Senior at The Ohio State University

+1 HS
OSUFlash's picture

Tressels name belongs hanging in the Shoe and so will Meyers some day.


+3 HS
The Thrill is Gone's picture

Culture.  Hmm.

Tressel's was a winning, championship culture.  Undisputed Kings of the Big Ten.  Good things happening in January.  A title.  Consistently in the hunt.

Meyer's (to date): Lots of talk and bravado.  Nothing to show for any of it.  "4 to 6 seconds...Make the great state of Ohio proud..."  Blah, blah.

I'd take Tressel back - with show/cause penalty - in a second.  Meyer will be out of here before he does anything significant.


-2 HS
Nutinpa's picture

While I think your post is a bit strong in its contempt....or skeptism toward Meyer, I will agree that the 2 Michigan wins as an exception, his next win at OSU on the National Stage with national title implications....will be his first. 

For all the bile in this fanbase directed at the Tressel-Bollman combination vs. the Meyer - Mensa combination, I dare say that Tress and Bollman won the games in 2002 with everything on the line...while the mensa combo could not.  Yes, yes, Tress and Bollman won with a vastly superior Defense, no need to remind.  But when the 2 biggest games of the Meyer-Herman era were on the line...and the offense had the ball, our current coaching braintrust puked into their headsets. 

But in fairnes....snarky comments aside,  let's give the Meyer era some time before we decide on its place in Buckeye history.

And one last thing to finish my mini-rant.....the "culture" mystique rans its course by the end of last year.  There was an element on last year's team that had heard enough of the "chase" and its related bull-shit that you could see the kids were ready for the season to be over.  If you don't believe me..re-watch the 1st quarter of the Sparty game and the first quarter of the Clemson game.  Or then again....don't.

+1 HS
Toilrt Paper's picture


You prove yourself to be unknowledgeable.

The Thrill is Gone's picture

You're right.  I forgot about those inspired performances in the B1G CG and Orange Bowl last year.  What was I thinking?

Reggie Jackson was Mr. October because he did it best when it mattered most.  There was another Yankee (I can't remember who) whom George Steinbrenner called "Mr. April" because he was at his best when it mattered least.

As we enter year 3 of the Urban Meyer era at Ohio State, the record suggests that Meyer is more Mr. April than Mr. October.  And consider this: Urban won those Nat'l Championships at Florida with possibly the greatest college football leader/player of all time on the roster.  Then Tebow left, it all fell apart and Urban quit (then un-quit and quit again).

I would love to be proved wrong about Urban, I really would.  But when I look at how it ended at Florida after Tebow graduated and I look at how last year ended when things got real...I think: More sizzle than steak...  All hat, no cattle...  More talk than walk...  Etc...

causeicouldntgo43's picture

You really do believe the thrill is gone. Time for a transfer to UNC son. Turn in your playbook.

-2 HS
D-Day0043's picture

1) Tressel didn't take over a team on probation with scholarship reductions and a bowl ban.

2) Tressel never won 24 in a row.

3) Tressel never had to play a B1G championship game.

4) Remember those a$$ whippings Tressel took from Florida, LSU, and USC? Meyer has lost 2 games by a grand total off 15 points and still hasn't lost to _ichigan.

5) Tressel won his championship with mostly Coopers players.

I will always love Tressel, but I think you should give Meyer a little time before you pass judgement. In a couple of years if he hasn't won any B1G championships or a bowl game, then you can call his tenure a bust.


I am D-Day0043 and I approve this message.

+3 HS
Nutinpa's picture

1. Tressel took over a team in shambles and whose lack of academic effort was a national joke; a team whose fall from excellence in 1998 was practically stunning.   A team whose players were suing each other when they weren't busy being Michigan's bitches. 

2. Tressel did not win 24 games in a row, that is true;  while his teams played the likes of Youngstown St, they also played Texas, Miami and USC OOC.  Who has Meyer played in recent years?  UAB? 

3.  True;  his team also beat Miami in the NC Game; recent Buckeyes have not played a team of this caliber or anywhere in its hemisphere.

4.   Agree with you on the ass whippings....no argument there.  I will only counter with ...in only the 2nd year of his tenure, and on the cusp of greatness, Meyer's team in 2013 came out embarrassingly flat against Sparty and Clemson.  Two very good....but not great football teams.  A team who appeared to grow tired of "the chase"....blah, blah.

5.  Yes, Tress won his NC with Coop's players.  He also won with Mo Clarett, the freshman alpha male on the team who  was Tressel's prize recruit.  Now take away Tressel's players or those he recruited -- and how many wins does Meyer have these past 2 years?

Okay, D-Day.....I am just playing devils' advocate just to bust your chops.  Meyer is the perfect guy for the OSU job right now.  My only point....is that so far....he has a gaudy win record against weak competition.  I think his teams can achieve greatness, no doubt.  But I can clearly support a wait and see attitude before anointing him king of anything just yet.


+7 HS
andretolstoy's picture

I consider Sparty's team last year close to being great. That's the only disagreement here.

I don't think this is a matter of which coach is better, or who we like more. We're blessed to have had both. There are just certain things Tressel did because of my personal worldview that mesh better with me. That is all.

Crumb's picture

And personally - I would happily take either of them without blinking.

I couldn't agree more with this statement. Oh and I'd like to say to Mike Hart, what would you know about beating Jim Tressel and or The Ohio State University? Mr. 0-4 can suck it.

"The only good thing about it is winning the d*** thing" - Urban Meyer on The Game The War

+3 HS
Bucks's picture

I've been told Tress is preparing/working on a tell all book, in regards to his time @ OSU. Wasn't described to me as flattering & hope it isn't the case.

causeicouldntgo43's picture

Doesn't sound like something he would do. Ever.

+8 HS
Nutinpa's picture

No way.   He is the President of another University now.  

If he ever writes or signs off on a tell-all book....it will be as a withered old man....or approved for publishing by his kids after he passes.  Otherwise, no f-ing way.  I just don't see it under any circumstance.  I call b.s. on this.

WildMan Leather and Lace's picture

Tressel: A good man will always be despised.





+1 HS
Shangheyed's picture

Indeed a great guy and a elite coach.... this was not a black and white issue, and the NCAA bares some of the responsibility for creating such insanity. 

Suddenly all the talk about paying players more, Unions being formed...individuals owning the use of their names and likenesses... there was change in the winds before the Tatoo thang... but since the Tatoogate... it is trending more towards the Vest being vindicated at some level.

Hopefully CF schollie athletes will enjoy the same rights to pursue happiness (make a living) as all other Americans do, and in the future protected against a group of "companies" colluding together(NCAA MEMBERS) to keep the cost of their labor low.  I can't imagine a Math Schollie student not talking a job in a think tank because they are paying him/ner too much, or any American Citizen not being allowed to sell their own personal property.

+2 HS
O-H-I-Owe-U's picture

Marcus Baugh has had a couple run-ins and he's still around. You have to consider him a pet project at this point. There may be a few others that we don't know about.

+1 HS
MAVBuck's picture

Great read. Amazing how much hate outsiders give Urb for his "lack of control". Hopefully articles like this shed a light on what he really stands for and what he will not tolerate. Then again, what would we do with our free time if ESPN & others stopped casting stones?!?

Jpfbuck's picture

I would say this article is a gross over-simplification. Tressel cut guys and suspended guys all the time, (as even you note in regards to Small)

and Urban has kept guys who have had off the field issues as well, (again as you noted with Stoney, Mewhort, Roby and Hyde), and as another just noted Baugh has had multiple issues and is still around, how does that jive with the narrative? it doesn't

Tressel cut guys loose after one incident, typically for drug related issues. Urban does seem to be willing to suspend more quickly rather than "let it play out" before he does it, think about Storm Klein

I think most of the difference is style, I think as noted Tressel said things like "teaching moments" etc that gave the impression he was giving 2nd chances etc, and he rarely called out guys behavior either on or off the field

Urban is much more demonstrative is saying guys mis-behaved and have to pay a price

I think the actual difference in their actions as compared to their style or approach are far less different than is claimed.

sure we can point to someone like Boone not ever seemingly getting punished, but who knows what player X today who is a key cog who never gets punished

if anything I think Urban has shown he will treat every one the same where I think Tressel frankly played favorites

+1 HS