Tom WistrcillDirector of AthleticsUniversity of Akron
Re: Your next football coach and a potential new associate AD
I write to inform you of a glorious opportunity, courtesy of the NCAA's Committee on Infractions. What if I told you that you could hire a football coach who has won one BCS national title, four Division I-AA titles and seven Big Ten titles (including six that still count)? What if I told you that you could hire a man who has won 81.7 percent of his games at the FBS level? Might that pique your interest?
Well, let me ask you another question. For the past few days, you've promised to reveal the identity of your next coach using social media. The fancy splash page announcing this initiative on your athletic department website features a male silhouette. Is there any way you can Photoshop a sweatervest onto that shadow?
Tom, I know you know where I'm going with this now. I know you realize there is a catch. But trust me. It isn't as big of a catch as you think. So repeat after me.
The next football coach at the University of Akron is ... Jim Tressel.
I know this sounds crazy, Tom, but hear me out. Sure, Tressel knowingly played ineligible players for an entire season and lied about it to the NCAA. Sure, cheating and lying are bad. But do you know what else he did? He won. And the Zips need to start doing some of that.
In most cases, a coach who knowingly played ineligible players and lied about it to the NCAA would be as toxic as dining hall fish. The Committee on Infractions normally would hammer a coach so hard that he wouldn't even think about coming back before his show-cause penalty expired. Take former Tennessee basketball coach Bruce Pearl. As a condition of his three-year show-cause, Pearl is not allowed to recruit for three years. A coach who can't recruit isn't worth employing.
But the COI blew it in Tressel's case. The committee gave Tressel a five year show-cause, but the penalty only has teeth for the first five weeks of Tressel's first season, when he must miss games. He also must miss that season's bowl game. Tom, I saw your team on TV this season. We could reanimate Vince Lombardi, put him on your sideline and your team might not make a bowl game in 2012. So Tressel's postseason ban is essentially meaningless in your case. Basically, you can get one of the best coaches in the history of the game, and all it will cost you is five games and a progress report submitted to the NCAA every six months. Tressel can still recruit. He can still hire a staff. All he has to do is sit out five weeks of meetings, practices and games.
COI member Greg Sankey said Tuesday that Tressel's penalties were consistent with the ones given to the players involved and to Ohio State's program. Tom, the COI's failure to interpret how this penalty would play out in practice is your gain.
Will Tressel want your job? Who knows? But you should at least make the call.
Certainly, hiring Tressel would set us media morality hounds to baying. But you fired former coach Rob Ianello while he traveled to his own mother's funeral, so we already know manners and decorum aren't high on your department's list of priorities. We do, however, know one thing that is high on that list.
"Ultimately, we need to win more games," you said on the day you added insult to Ianello's grief, Tom. "It's not all about winning. There are lots of things that go in it. Certainly, we didn't feel the program was headed in the direction we wanted it to. Winning was a factor in the decision."
Tressel will win.
While you're at it, Tom, you may be able to pick up an administrator on the rebound at a rock-bottom price. After Gene Smith, your counterpart at Ohio State, bungled this case so thoroughly, the Buckeyes might be forced to cut him loose. That, or he may run from Columbus after new coach Urban Meyer storms into his office breathing fire.
Ultimately, Smith has to take the blame for assuming Ohio State wouldn't receive a bowl ban and for allowing the team to accept a bid to the TaxSlayer.com -- heh, heh -- Gator Bowl instead of self-imposing a postseason ban. So now the 6-6 Buckeyes, being coached by a lame-duck staff, get to play a meaningless game against 6-6 Florida. Meanwhile, Meyer and his staff won't get 15 additional practices at the end of their first season. How important are those practices? In 2005, practices for the Outback Bowl allowed Meyer and his Florida staff to identify and develop many of the players who helped the Gators win the 2006 national title.
It was bad enough that Smith kept saying there was nothing more to see only to keep coming back with new violations. By the time Ohio State had to admit to a Failure to Monitor violation, Smith should have realized the Buckeyes might be facing something more serious than a vacated 2010 season and a few lost scholarships.
So keep Gene in mind, Tom. He may need the work.
But by all means, consider Jim Tressel. He screwed up, but apparently not enough for the COI to issue a penalty that would actually keep him from coaching. So think about it.
Zippy would look fantastic in a sweatervest.