Departing Buckeyes Stand Behind Tressel

The controversy surrounding head coach Jim Tressel hasn't appeared to cost him any believers at Ohio State. After university administration came to Tressel's support while announcing his punishment March 8, a number of the coach's former players backed him up as well, as detailed in this piece.

When Dane Sanzenbacher first heard about the troubles facing Jim Tressel and the Ohio State football program, it sounds as though his reaction was the same as many OSU fans – not again.

Sanzenbacher was a kid when Maurice Clarett trouble broke out, a high schooler when Troy Smith was suspended two games for taking money from a booster and a senior wide receiver getting ready for his last game when six teammates were given suspensions in December for selling memorabilia and receiving discounted services.

So he was disappointed to hear Tressel was facing a suspension and fine after it was found out that the coach had been informed of the potential violations in April of last year.

"It's disappointing that Ohio State is in that light again," Sanzenbacher said, "but it's just something that you have to deal with from this point. Obviously, anytime we're in the media over something bad, everybody is affected that's involved with the program, everybody in Columbus. But what can you do about it now? Everybody is accepting their punishments, everybody is saying the right things and moving on."

To that end, Sanzenbacher said he didn't notice a difference in the atmosphere around the Woody Hayes Athletic Center after taking part in OSU's Pro Day on March 11. That was three days after the press conference with Tressel, athletics director Gene Smith and university president Dr. E. Gordon Gee at which Tressel's violation was acknowledged and punishment was announced.

"To be honest, it seems like business as usual around here," Sanzenbacher said. "If it wasn't plastered all over the media, if you didn't see it everywhere, I wouldn't have thought anything different coming in (here)."

Linebacker Brian Rolle said that was similar to the way things were when the initial trouble – which will sideline Terrelle Pryor, Dan Herron, Mike Adams, DeVier Posey, Solomon Thomas for five games and Jordan Whiting for one – first surfaced in December.

"Everybody is cool, just like when the five guys got in trouble," he said. "There's nobody pointing fingers, nobody is down on each other, nobody is talking trash. It's the same old Ohio State here. We're having fun and joking around. I saw Coach Tressel today and it's same old coach. Everybody makes mistakes.

"I don't know much about it, but the demeanor around here, the attitude, the emotion around here is the same."

Like Rolle, a number of the former players working out – no current players have been available to the media since the announcement – said they hadn't paid too much attention to the media talk surrounding the issue.

One player who said he had is defensive tackle Dexter Larimore, who said that he didn't take any of the negative talk too seriously.

"Honestly, I think the more I talk to guys in here, they're kind of locking arms and saying Coach Tressel is our guy," Larimore said. "All these guys are our guys, and things happen, people make mistakes, but we still trust him and we still respect him. Everyone else, they block out the distractions and say, 'This is Ohio State, this our family and if a guy messes up, you can learn from it and we grow together.'"

Rolle was more direct when asked if it was tough to see OSU's name in the spotlight for the wrong reasons.

"It is, but you're going to have doubters," he said. "All the people that talk about us wish they were here. Somebody is always looking for something to talk about, and the people that slander Coach Tressel's name and guys in this program, in my eyes are nobodies. If they knew the whole story and the kind of people that Coach Tressel and the players in this program are, they wouldn't say things like that."

Both Larimore and Rolle went on to say their opinions of Tressel hadn't change with the new revelations.

"He's definitely still my guy, that's for sure," Larimore said. "Honestly when I heard the allegations and all that stuff, I went into defense mode and said I know at the time he did what was right in his mind. Maybe it was the wrong thing in the NCAA's eyes or whatever, but I still respect the man a million times over because I don't think there are too many guys who can do what he does with the kids that we have and teaching them life lessons. You can't get any better than Coach Tressel, to be honest with you."

Added Rolle, "Coach Tressel is a guy that a lot of guys trust in and see him, some guys, as a father figure. For me, Coach Tressel is a guy that I respect. I have nothing but respect for him. Like I said, I don't know the full story, but for guys to take his name and make of it what they want, it's heartbreaking, but at the same time guys in this program know what kind of coach he is and we're behind him."

Summing it up, linebacker Ross Homan, who spent five years in the OSU program, said no one at Ohio State had anything bad to say about the coach after being around him for so long and seeing what he had helped them accomplish.

"He has all of our support," Homan said. "I think every player, past or present, wouldn't take one bullet, they would take two bullets for that man for everything he's done for us."

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