Type firejimtressel.com into a Web browser and this is what you’ll find.
“Fire Jim Tressel? Are you NUTS?!?”
That’s the kind of support Ohio State’s coach now receives after five years at the head of one of the nation’s most-followed football programs.
However, the fact a Tressel supporter felt the need to park on the domain name after the 2003 national championship game speaks volumes about the intense scrutiny under which everyone involved in Ohio State football work.
“Early on anyone would have doubters,” defensive end Mike Kudla said. “In a city like Columbus, people expect results.”
And Tressel has delivered.
In five years at the school, he has led the Buckeyes to five bowl games including three BCS contests. After winning five national championships at Division I-AA Youngstown State, Tressel won a Division I-A title with a Fiesta Bowl win over Miami in 2003.
He’s the only coach to win national titles at two different schools and at two different divisional levels.
Many of Tressel’s doubters early on pointed to his lack of I-A coaching experience, but that argument quickly lost steam as he led the Buckeyes to a 14-0 national championship season.
Tressel said the game itself is no different from one level to the next. It’s the issues aside from football that vary, but the Ohio native had the advantage of knowing the lay of the land before signing up.
“I was moving to a place where I knew everybody,” Tressel said. “I had been there before. I was recruiting the same places I’m recruiting now. It wasn’t a big change in my world.”
Even after the national championship, some still doubted Tressel’s conservative willingness to win with strong defense and just enough points.
After all, the former quarterback built his reputation coaching on offense. Ohio State has enjoyed its best offensive season of Tressel’s tenure this season, with scoring up from 24.2 points per game last year to 32.5 points per contest this year.
Tressel, who has been known to talk trash to the Buckeyes’ defensive unit when the offense and defense practice against one another, seems to be the toast of the town now.
“From what I hear he’s pretty much a rock star,” defensive tackle Marcus Green said. “Everyone wants to be around him all the time. People always ask me about him as a coach. He’s Columbus’ hero.”
That’s how it goes when you’re a winner in a college town.
Tressel has beaten rival Michigan four out of five attempts (his predecessor, John Cooper, was 2-10-1), won his last three bowl games and tallied 49 total victories.
A win over Notre Dame in Monday’s Fiesta Bowl would be his 50th, but that’s not the number Tressel, who by all accounts is a players’ coach, seeks most.
“Fifty is better than 49, I guess. Really the number that would excite me would be the number 43,” Tressel said of the record for most career wins by a senior class that could be tied with a victory over the Irish.
“That means a lot to the guys.”
No learning curve
After a successful 15-year stint at Division I-AA Youngstown State, Jim Tressel took his game to the next level and didn’t miss a beat. Here’s how Tressel’s Buckeye teams have done.