- Associated Press - Monday, May 30, 2011

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Jim Tressel, who guided Ohio State to its first national title in 34 years, resigned Monday amid NCAA violations from a tattoo-parlor scandal that sullied the image of one of the country’s top football programs.

“After meeting with university officials, we agreed that it is in the best interest of Ohio State that I resign as head football coach,” Tressel said in a statement released by the university. “The appreciation that (my wife) Ellen and I have for the Buckeye Nation is immeasurable.”

Luke Fickell will be the coach for the 2011 season. He already had been selected to be the interim head coach while Tressel served a five-game suspension.

Ohio State spokesman Jim Lynch said he was unaware of any buyout or severance package. He added that Tressel had returned from vacation Sunday night and met with Athletic Director Gene Smith, who then met with staff. Tressel typed his resignation and submitted it to Smith, he said.


The resignation was first reported by the Columbus Dispatch.

Clearly, the turmoil had been building. The resignation came nearly three months after Ohio State called a news conference to announce it had suspended Tressel for two games — later increasing the ban to five games to coincide with the players’ punishment — and fined him $250,000 for knowing his players had received improper benefits from a local tattoo-parlor owner. The school said at the time it was “very surprised and disappointed” in Tressel. Yet, the school still managed to crack jokes.

Asked if he considered firing Tressel, Ohio State President E. Gordon Gee said then: “No, are you kidding? Let me just be very clear: I’m just hopeful the coach doesn’t dismiss me.”

Tressel’s downfall came with public and media pressure mounting on Ohio State, its board of trustees, Gee and Smith.

“We look forward to refocusing the football program on doing what we do best — representing this extraordinary university and its values on the field, in the classroom, and in life,” Smith said in a statement Monday. “We look forward to supporting Luke Fickell in his role as our football coach. We have full confidence in his ability to lead our football program.”

Tressel and Ohio State were to go before the NCAA’s infractions committee Aug. 12 to answer questions about the player violations and why Tressel did not report them. He denied knowledge of improper benefits to players until confronted by investigators with emails that showed he had known since April 2010.

After several NCAA violations by him or his players over the years, Tressel’s problems deepened after learning several players received cash or discounted tattoos. Contrary to NCAA bylaws — and his own contract — Tressel received emails from a former player about this and did not tell his athletic director, university president, compliance or legal departments, or the NCAA for more than nine months.

The 58-year-old Tressel had a record of 106-22-0 at Ohio State. He led the Buckeyes to eight Bowl Championship Series games in his 10 years. Combined with a 135-57-2 record in 15 years at Youngstown State, where he won four Division I-AA national championships, Tressel’s career mark was 241-79-2.

The author of two books about faith and integrity, he remains a scapegoat to many and a hypocrite to others. Even though he has many backers, a rising chorus of detractors has stepped forward during the ongoing NCAA investigation. There were also questions about his players and their friends and family members receiving special deals on used cars from two Columbus dealers.

But at one time, his image was that of an honest, religious man who never said or did anything without thinking it through first. His nickname was “the Senator,” for never having a hair out of place, praising opponents and seldom giving a clear answer to even the simplest of questions.

He got into trouble with the NCAA even before coming to Ohio State. He was the coach at Youngstown State when it received scholarship and recruiting restrictions for violations involving star quarterback Ray Isaacs.

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