Whether it means anything or not, Jim Tressel has at least cemented his reputation enough with a couple peers enough that they were willing to speak out on his behalf. On ESPN radio, both Bob Knight and former Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez have had supportive words for Jim Tressel.
“There is no coach in college sports that’s a better example, in my mind, of what coaching is all about and what it should be and how things should be done than Jimmy Tressel. He has done a great job at Ohio State, not because he’s won a lot of games, but because he has won a lot of games doing things the absolute right way. And I think that he would be at the top of the heap when it came to picking guys that did things the way they were supposed to be done. There isn’t anybody who is better in that regard than Jim Tressel is.”
Knight was critical of the “obscure” rule before proclaiming that “God himself” couldn’t know every rule in the NCAA rulebook. As a former college coach, Bob Knight seemed to be striking out at the absurdity of some of the NCAA rules. Knight then went on to say that Tressel shouldn’t even be suspended for the two games and fined the $250,000.
“If you run a program at Ohio State or at Michigan or something like that, so much of what you do is public. There’s not all this crazy cheating and things like that going on that people think. There are some guys out there that bend the rules a little bit or they get around the rules and try to get a competitive advantage. I don’t think that was the case in this at all. There were five guys who sold items who shouldn’t have sold it. And they were wrong for doing it. Did that give Ohio State a competitive advantage? I don’t think so.”
Ridriguez even took his complimentary words beyond this incident with Tressel and praised the way he and Ohio State go about recruiting. Rodriguez claims – and I don’t doubt him for a second – that he and his staff dealt with some “negative” recruiting tactics from other schools that tried to steer players away from Michigan. Rodriguez was emphatic in proclaiming that in his experience Ohio State never engaged in those dirty tactics.
“Some people would think Ohio State-Michigan is such a big rivalry, they probably did a lot of negative recruiting. They didn’t. There were other schools that did, but they didn’t, and that to me sends a message they’re trying to do things the right way.”
Take it for what it’s worth. Jim Tressel and company aren’t perfect as we learned this week. We all know that college athletics at the highest levels is a dirty pool to swim in. The fact that Jim Tressel has some peers out front speaking about his track record positively has to be viewed as a good thing. It doesn’t change what happened in this case, but it certainly makes for a compelling roster of character witnesses.