Jim Tressel has resigned as head coach of the Ohio State University's football team. There are many questions, and about three answers.
What the hell just happened? Jim Tressel has resigned as head coach of the Buckeyes. In his wake he leaves seven Big Ten titles, one BCS National Championship, and a cloud of acrid smoke surrounding his lying to NCAA investigators during the illegal benefits investigation at Ohio State. (You might also know it as Tatgate, per the National [ITEM] + [GATE] Act of 1978 specifying that all scandals use the -Gate suffix.)
If he's made it this far, why resign on the morning of Memorial Day? Unless this was all part of an elaborate plan to avoid a company Memorial Day picnic that Tressel really didn't want to attend, then the best hypothesis re: Tressel resigning now is to pre-empt the impending fallout from George Dorhmann's Sports Illustrated piece on Ohio State, which will be published Monday afternoon.
You don't know what's in that piece, do you? No, and neither do you or anyone else until it's posted on SI.com. Regardless of what is in the piece--murder, organ harvesting, or news of Tressel's amazing and very illegal pirated DVD collection kept on OSU servers--the SI piece would be the proverbial straw that broke the camel's back, not the fat dude who jumped off a roof and snapped the poor beast in half all at once.
Who takes over, then? Luke Fickell, co-defensive coordinator and the designated interim coach for the five games Tressel was going to miss anyway. Fickell has never been a head coach at any level, and is an interim for interim's sake with flawless Ohio State credentials and a key to the locker room. He will not, however, be the next head coach barring circumstances of a truly freakish nature.
Okay, better question: how long is this person going to take over? Not for too long, though the Buckeyes could play the long-term strategy and wait the entire 2011 season out before making a decision. Starting QB Terrelle Pryor and other impact players were already going to miss the first five games. A coaching search is always a protracted, dicey affair, but doing it in the month of June is even worse given the settled state of the coaching HR pool. Rather than rush the decision, Ohio State might punt on the 2011 season, rebuild, and take their time finding the next man for the Big Ten's flagship football program.
That would be ironic considering Tressel's fondness for punting, yes?
I'm glad I pointed that out to myself. Nice work, me!
JON GRUDEN BILL BELICHICK JESUS CHRIST HIMSELF. Now that we have typed that, let's talk about people who both want to coach college football and who have actually done it before with success. Ashtabula native Urban Meyer has a portrait of Woody Hayes in his foyer and listed Ohio State in his contract as one of the three schools he could leave Florida for without penalty. He must be considered seriously as the first candidate, even if his health issues and mental state are a concern.
Other candidates of a serious nature:
- Bo Pelini. Youngtown native, current Nebraska head coach. Angry, which Ohio State fans like. Coveted by Nebraska fans, which could start a nasty bidding war neither school wants.
- Gary Patterson, TCU. Brilliant defensive mind who turned TCU into a national power. No Ohio connections, and about to move into a snug BCS spot in the Big East at a school that will do almost anything to keep him.
- Mark Dantonio, Michigan State. Former Tressel assistant currently coaching at Michigan State. Also a former Tressel assistant, so possibly too close to the coaching tree for a fresh start.
- Chris Petersen, Boise State. He's never leaving Boise, but his name always comes up, so let's just mention that he's brilliant, mentioned for every big job, and will still stay in Boise.
- Dan Mullen, Mississippi State. The Costco Urban Meyer, and a spread offense guru who hasn't had a major health crisis or burnout episode yet.
Was this inevitable? Yes. Tressel was probably a dead man walking the minute the emails in Tatgate went public, and only worsened his condition as time wore on in the case. The timing was the question, a question that the SI article's looming publication answered for Ohio State's admins this weekend. The word was there for all to see, and has been for months now. The article itself will be the sousaphone player running out to dot the "i" in "resignation."