Tressel’s fall a warning to other coaches

In a profession that provides little in the way of job security, Jim Tressel was about as comfortable as a college football coach could get.

The man in the sweater vest won 83 percent of his games in 10 seasons with Ohio State. He went 9-1 against Michigan, won seven Big Ten titles and a national championship.

But when he committed the cardinal sin of college sports, covering up an NCAA violation in his program, none of his success on the field could save him.

While NCAA President Mark Emmert has talked tough in recent months about cracking down on rule-breakers with penalties severe enough to deter future wrongdoers, maybe Tressel’s departure from Ohio State will help send that message.

“It’s a tough situation for Jim and his family, but also I think if we’re going to find anything good in this it can be a wake-up call for (other coaches),” said former Baylor coach Grant Teaff, the president of the American Football Coaches Association.

“There are a myriad of rules. There’s no excuse for any of us missing those rules. It’s not an easy task, but it never has been. It’s always been a challenge but probably rightly so, because it’s an important job.”

Tressel was, of course, a trending topic at the Southeastern Conference meetings in Destin, Fla., on Tuesday, with reporters looking for reaction from his fellow coaches.

When a guy like Tressel goes down, other coaches pay particular attention.

“I know all this stuff that’s happening at Ohio State, every other coach out there, if ever presented that situation, I am sure they will think about how to handle it,” Tennessee coach Derek Dooley said.

Or as Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino said: “There’s no question there’s lessons to be learned.”

The main lesson being: Don’t think for a second you are A) above the rules or B) won’t get caught breaking them. Oh, and C) no matter how noble your intentions might be, if you break the rules it could cost you your job.

Teaff said following the rules and doing what’s best for a player are not always the same thing.

“It may appear you’re not acting in the best interest of your student-athletes, but the rules may overshadow that particular feeling you may have,” Teaff said.

There were more than a few skeptics when Tressel said back in March _ during a news conference that in retrospect was the beginning of the end for him _ that he was trying to protect his players by sitting for months on an email that tipped him off to the memorabilia-for-tattoos problem.

It certainly seemed more as if Tressel was protecting his chances to win another Big Ten title. But if ever there was a coach who could have absorbed a 7-5 season, it was Tressel.

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