Power Vacuum as Tressel Resigns from Ohio State, What Does it Mean for Notre Dame?

After 10 years as head coach at Ohio State, Jim Tressel has resigned. Co-defensive coordinator Luke Fickell (who was slated to coach the team during Tressel’s 5-game suspension) will take over as interim head coach.

Needless to say this opens up a huge power vacuum in the Midwest and throughout the entire college football landscape.

Tressel’s legacy will be affected by this current controversy and resignation, but here are the numbers on his career in Columbus:

106-22 record.

After a 7-5 first season at Ohio State, Tressel won a national championship in his second year and only lost 17 games over the next nine seasons.

Tressel had 5 fewer losses in twice as many seasons than Charlie Weis at Notre Dame.

He has the highest winning percentage ever at Ohio State for anyone who has coached more than 30 games in Columbus.

In 22 seasons from 1979 to 2000, Ohio State won 7 games against Michigan. Tressel beat Michigan 9 out of 10 times.

What’s more, he racked up 7 Big Ten titles, 8 BCS appearances, and made Ohio State the absolute power of the Midwest and Big Ten.

Now, Tressel walks away under a cloud of scrutiny and shame.

So what does this mean for Notre Dame and the rest of college football?

First, let’s admit that Ohio State is a blue-chip job and a true football powerhouse.

Losing someone like Tressel will hurt, but like USC, the pieces are in place and always have been to run a very successful football program.

As much as previous Buckeye head coaches John Cooper and Earl Bruce are derided for not winning a national championship, struggling against Michigan, or losing the big game, those two coaches still managed to put together a combined .731 winning percentage.

In comparison, these two "bad" Ohio State coaches only won at a rate under three hundredths less than Lou Holtz’ time (.765) at Notre Dame.

Moreover, since 1950 Ohio State leads all BCS teams with a .760 winning percentage.

Therefore, with or without Jim Tressel...Ohio State should be okay.

But is okay good enough for the foreseeable future?

As dominant as the Buckeyes have been for decades, losing someone like Tressel plus the threat and likely eventual punishment from the NCAA is going to put some chains on this program.

However much programs like Nebraska, Michigan, Notre Dame and others benefit from this will probably depend on just how hard the NCAA comes down on Ohio State.

That Tressel stepped down, or was asked to, probably means the sanctions in whatever form they come will possibly be less severe. If we’re talking USC-type probation and scholarship reductions, then the Buckeyes could be in big trouble.

As of right now though, I don’t think there will be any immediate repercussions in the form of Ohio State’s current recruiting class falling apart and teams like the Irish poaching a couple star athletes away from the Buckeyes.

Maybe a player here and there over the course of the season, but nothing too catastrophic.

As we’ve seen with the example of USC, it’s going to take A LOT for a major program like Ohio State to suffer in recruiting either in the short or long term.

That doesn’t mean Ohio State won’t start losing more games, I am sure they will, but they will remain loaded with talent regardless of what happens.

If I had to guess how bad things are going to get for Ohio State in terms of the dirt dug up, I don’t think I’m going out on too much of a limb in saying that it’s going to be really bad.

But Notre Dame still needs to prove themselves on the field in order to fill whatever power vacuum may open up, instead of hoping players will fall into their lap because of the crumbling of Ohio State.

In other words, it will be a slow process with the NCAA taking their time with a punishment and opponents trying to usurp Ohio State as the big dog in the Midwest.

This isn't something that's going to happen over night, but will likely be a two or three year effort. Ohio State's still going to get in-state talent, yet it will be meaningless if they are not successful on the field.

You might be asking yourself if Urban Meyer is going to be the coach of the Buckeyes this team next year.

His statement about not coaching this fall certainly leaves the door open for him to return to the game in 2012, but I doubt it.

Ohio State is in a tough position right now both because they will have to take a wait and see approach with the NCAA, plus they already have tabbed Fickell as the 2011 interim coach.

Ideally, a place like Ohio State would like to hire a big name relatively quickly, but that’s looking like it’s not an option right now.

By the time next year rolls around, Ohio State’s sanctions will be fully realized and I doubt that’s a situation Urban Meyer is going to want to walk into.

Certainly another high profile coach might want to take over in Columbus (especially if the sanctions aren’t too bad) and I expect a big coaching search to begin in January.

I just don't think Urban Meyer will be the one who is hired.

UPDATE:

So the George Dohrmann Sports Illusrated story wasn't THAT juicy, but it's still a pretty damaging piece.

There wasn't a whole lot of new information, but the investigation shows that Tressel has always been a shady character, and the current merchandise-for-tattoo problems were much larger in scope than first believed.

Still, I'm not sure how much getting rid of Tressel is going to help Ohio State in this situation.

No doubt Tressel was turning a blind eye or even actively helping the school cheat, but it seems pretty clear that this was just as much of an institutional problem than anything else. Like the article states in the beginning, living in Columbus is like being in Knoxville or Tuscaloosa...there's an entire culture that has been ingrained for decades in support of the football program.

So while the exit of Tressel may lessen the blow for the Buckeyes, the people who look the worst right now have to be Gene Smith and Gordon Gee, two men who have done as little as possible to keep the football program in check.

When the news came out about this tattoo business, Ohio State "investigated" and said it was limited to those six player already outed by the press.

Sports Illustrated says the number is close to 30 stretching back years, and has been a pattern at Ohio State ever since Jim Tressel came to Columbus.

That looks really bad.

Tressel lying to the NCAA about his knowledge of this, and his subsequent playing of ineligible athletes will always be the headline from this scandal.

However, with Tressel out of the building Ohio State still has to answer to the NCAA about how they let things get so out of control, and maybe more importantly, why the school never seemed to investigate anything properly.

I am sure the university will try to tow the line that Tressel was the problem and they had however many compliance officers doing the best job they could do, but it's pretty clear that Ohio State has been more or less a rogue program for a decade or longer, with the university leadership barely batting an eye lash.

A lot of people had their hopes up that there was going to be some really grimy dirt coming out of this investigation (I'd add that you just need to keep digging and you'll continue to find stuff) and were somewhat let down.

Nevertheless, it doesn't look good for Ohio State.

Terrelle Pryor is being investigated by the NCAA and you can bet his playing days in the scarlet and gray are probably over.

Even with Tressel out of the picture there will be many dark days ahead for Ohio State.

Time for Notre Dame to set things in motion to fill this power vacuum.


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