Ohio State University Coach Jim Tressel has resigned amid NCAA infractions and allegedly lying to everyone about everything. The media bashing floodgates have opened, and like a broken levee, new waters of allegations break through almost hourly. Everyone has an opinion, and rightfully so. Sports is a public activity. The public has the right to speak and the media, like flies on a dead possom, has the right to pounce. But when it comes to what happened with Coach Tressel, his team and college sports, don’t believe the hype.
Until you have children, mainly multiple teens, you will never fully understand the path you must navigate when raising young adults, let alone 120 young men at a time. The role of a coach to so many young people from varying backgrounds is an unimaginably challenging job, especially when you are competing with so much to get their hearts, minds and attention. You’re constantly competing with their background and everything they’ve picked up during their first 18 plus years. You’re competing with their new cemented star statuses, their fame and its lures, their attitudes and definition of manhood.
Like a parent, as a coach, you hope to have more planting days and less putting out fire days. Listening to AJ Hawk, Cam Heyward and other OSU football alums talk about the great impact of Coach Tressel on their lives makes you remember that as a parent, a coach can only teach, set the right example and pray they listen. You’re happy when most do and torn when others don’t.
So, let’s look at the main allegations against Coach Tressel. He allegedly lied about not knowing and not reporting players selling their stuff for financial gains, as NCAA rules indicate. Yes, he should have followed the letter of the law and reported what he knew when he knew it. But don’t be quick to throw this man’s integrity under the bus. Great men and women of integrity make mistakes, for reasons that will never make headlines. Tressel’s failure to report his players makes him loyal to a fault, but it should not diminish his greatness as a man, a husband, a father, a coach and mentor to thousands.
Coach Tressel was in a tough place, as a coach and a parental figure. Many times as parents, our children put us in some bad places and positions. We make the best choice we can at the time. We try to teach and better our kids without destroying their lives, their future. When Tressel reportedly reached out to one of his player’s close family friend to alert him about what he knew in hopes that someone else who loves this kid would reach out to help stir him straight, it said something about Tressel: He’s not perfect, but he cares about his players. Kids will break rules. They will deliberately do the opposite of what you have taught them.
With sports being larger than life, we forget college athletes are young adults with more temptation than most of us will ever see in our lifetime. Is this an excuse? No, it’s a fact. Just ask the thousands of former players whose lives he touched. Why would I allow my son, a growing Division 1 prospect to play for Tressel? Because if I were in his shoes, I probably would have responded with my heart instead of my head. Does this make me a person with no integrity? No, it makes me a parent.