Ohio State announced that football coach Jim Tressel requested a change in his university-imposed sanctions to be levied next season.
No, he didn’t appeal. He asked for more.
In a move that, if true, restores at least some of my faith in the man’s integrity, Tressel asked A.D. Gene Smith and other Ohio State officials to extend his suspension from 2 games to 5. In a statement to the media, Tressel said:
“Throughout this entire situation, my players and I have committed ourselves to facing our mistakes and growing from them; we can only successfully do this together. I spoke with athletic director [Gene] Smith, and our student-athletes involved, and told them that my mistakes need to share the same game sanctions.”
If the cynic in you is still doubting the coach’s intentions, I can’t blame you. But this supposedly voluntary move was made in response to the NCAA’s denial of Ohio State’s appeal on Thursday. The Buckeyes were appealing the original decision that left quarterback Terrelle Pryor and 5 of his teammates suspended for games in 2011. Of the 6 players involved, 5 are suspended for the first 5 games. When the NCAA announced that that ban would remain intact, Tressel acted.
“Coach Tressel has requested that he sit out the first five games of the 2011 season. I have accepted his request and we are taking action to notify the NCAA,” said Gene Smith.
Tressel added, “Like my players, I am very sorry for the mistakes I made. I request of the university that my sanctions now include five games so that the players and I can handle this adversity together.”
Granted, this in no way absolves the coach of his ill deeds. But in a time when the public is begging for some signs of character, this decision finally delivers. After watching countless coaches and players get nailed for various infractions, we finally see some tangible accountability to go along with the ubiquitous and obligatory (yet virtually meaningless) after-the-fact apology.
Tressel’s contrition didn’t do much for me. When he stood in front of the press and said he was disappointed and sorry, it sounded like just another rehearsed bit of lip-service. But I have to admit, the coach is backing up his own words. He put his money where his mouth is, so to speak. He said he shared in his player’s mistakes, and he’s now willing to pay an equal price.
Does it mitigate what he did? Or didn’t do?
Not really. But at least it gives an indication that someone is still interested in doing the right thing.
The NCAA has yet to rule on Tressel’s case, and whatever sanctions it hands down will be independent of the decision made by Tressel and Ohio State. For now, it appears that the coach will miss at least the first 5 games of 2011. We’re no longer talking about just a pair of walkovers against Akron and Toledo. Now there’s a trip to Miami involved. A game against Colorado. A conference tilt with Michigan State. Now Tressel, and by extension the team, is paying an actual price for his errors.
It’s tough to take from a fan’s point of view. But it was the right thing to do.