Tressel resigns as Buckeyes coach in wake of NCAA violations

Jim Tressel, who guided Ohio State to its first national title in 34 years, resigned Monday amid NCAA violations and mounting revelations 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 (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.

"It's not (Tressel's) fault at all that he had a few go stray out of hundreds."

  -- Beanie Wells 

As word spread of Tressel's resignation, NFL players connected with Ohio State were quick to react.

"Do they not understand that only society will suffer more not having a Jim tressel around! He's more than a coach to alot of guys," tweeted Arizona Cardinals running back Beanie Wells.

"Alot of the players that came thru OSU are like myself and don't come from the ideal situation and when u have a guy like tress that steps in as a father, mentor, friend and teacher! It only helps the maturation process from a boy to man! And that alone is worth more than winnin"

Wells further defended Tressel: "It's not his fault at all that he had a few go stray out of hundreds! U check the success rate of the people that have been around him!"

"Sad day to be a buckeye. #coach tressel you will be missed," tweeted defensive tackle Cam Heyward, who was drafted in the first round last month by the Pittsburgh Steelers. "No one understands what that man has taught me and done for me."

Added New Orleans Saints safety Malcolm Jenkins, via Twitter: "This is a sad day in Ohio State's History."

Under Tressel, Ohio State had 66 players drafted into the NFL, including 13 in the first round.

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.

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Clearly, the turmoil had been building. The resignation comes 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."

Fickell joined Tressel's coaching staff in 2002 and took on the role of co-defensive coordinator and linebackers coach from 2005 through last season. He was a defensive lineman for Ohio State from 1992 to 1996 before the New Orleans Saints signed him as an undrafted free agent in 1997. He spent that season on injured reserve and was subsequently released. He was out of pro football by 1998 and on to a career in coaching.

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. For more than nine months, 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.

Gee said the university's "public purposes" and "tradition of excellence" are guiding its actions. He shared the news with Ohio State trustees Monday morning in a memo obtained by *The Columbus Dispatch*.

"I write to let you know that later this morning we will be announcing the resignation of Jim Tressel as head coach of the University's football program," Gee wrote. "As you all know, I appointed a special committee to analyze and provide advice to me regarding issues attendant to our football program. In consultation with the senior leadership of the University and the senior leadership of the Board, I have been actively reviewing the matter and have accepted Coach Tressel's resignation.

"My public statement will include our common understanding that throughout all we do, we are One University with one set of standards and one overarching mission. The University's enduring public purposes and its tradition of excellence continue to guide our actions."

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 had 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.

Introduced at an Ohio State basketball game in 2001, Tressel vowed that fans would "be proud of our young people, in the classroom, in the community, and most especially in 310 days in Ann Arbor, Mich., on the football field."

"As I think back to what I could have done differently ... I've learned that I probably needed to go to the top legal counsel person at the university and get some help," Tressel said at a March 8 news conference.

He said he hadn't given a thought to what the rest of the country thought of Ohio State's program and that he was not beating himself up over the violation.

"I don't think less of myself at this moment," he said. "I felt at the time as if I was doing the right thing for the safety of young people."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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