Well, it's safe to say Michael Rosenberg isn't going to make himself too many friends in Ohio.
The former Michigan beat writer – not the kind of thing to start him off on the right foot in the Buckeye State – wrote a column published this afternoon on SI.com fairly ripping Jim Tressel and Youngstown State for hiring the former Ohio State coach as its president.
Of course, that will likely get Rosenberg a vehement reaction among Ohio State fans (and YSU backers, for sure) who still revere the former head coach, one who won a ton of football games at both universities and also built up a ton of goodwill among just about everyone he came across for his kindness and generosity.
But Tressel always has been a favorite of the media when it comes to pot shots, with many believing his mild-mannered, reverential personality was merely a façade to cover a scheming, cutthroat nature.
Such is the contradiction of Jim Tressel.
Do you want to view the coach as a good guy? It's easy. Not only did he win games – enough to win five national championships in college – his work in the community approaches legendary. Much of his CV he submitted to both Akron and Youngstown State listed his speaking engagements, charity work, military support and more. He wrote "The Winner's Manual," a how-to guide to approach life with the right attitude and habits, and looked over a football program that reached its highest level of academics success in years. Many of his former players swear by his character, honesty and personality.
Then again, do you want to view Tressel as an anti-hero? It's easy to do that, too, if you're in the mood. Start with why he's no longer at Ohio State – the NCAA scandal that made OSU's continued employment of him nearly impossible after he failed to report a tip he knew about his players committing NCAA violations. Breaking that code is one of the biggest no-nos in college sports, and it resulted in what is essentially a five-year coaching ban. Throw in other scandals involving Maurice Clarett, Troy Smith and even Ray Isaac at Youngstown State – you ever notice his biggest names, including Terrelle Pryor, always seemed to find trouble? – and you can paint him a cheater if you so desire.
So which one is the real Tressel?
Why not both?
There's something in all of us that likes to paint things in absolutes, label people in blacks and whites. People are either a good or bad, with the narrative always seemingly confounded when someone falls in between. That habit is even more contrived when it comes to sports, where someone's actions on a field and their personality off of it are much more linked in the public eye than logic would seem to dictate.
But the truth of the matter is most of us are more complex than that. Bad people can do good things for others, and good people make mistakes – but that doesn't fit into today's #hotsportstakes way of looking at things, which is where I feel Rosenberg missed the point with his column.
The truth of the matter is that Tressel is a deeply fascinating human being, but that doesn't disqualify him from his new job at Youngstown State. In fact, even though he's not a lifelong academician, I feel confident Tressel is likely the right choice at Youngstown State, one who can bring a proud but struggling area a shot in the arm.
Those who know him best maintain his sincerity when it comes to his view of himself as an educator, and I'd have a hard time arguing that view. I had a chance for a short interview with Tressel about a year ago at which he said he was enjoying working in administration at Akron because it allowed him to continue teaching young people, a role he's always embraced even in his time at Ohio State.
After spending a life as a coach at two major universities, I don't doubt that he's mastered many of the keys of success, especially at such large institutions. No one will argue his ability to win friends and influence people, and that will likely lead to a massive fundraising push at Youngstown State. The name recognition he has bought his new school will also be hugely important.
He knows how to work in a university setting and will likely surround himself with smart people when it comes to the daily ins and outs – not to mention the major policy pushes – of his new job. And there's no doubt that as someone who proudly calls himself a Youngstown Boy that Tressel will work his rear end off for the community.
At the end of the day, it's fair to ask whether someone who is banned from coaching at the college level is suited for this new position. Add in his relative lack of experience in academics affairs – at least compared to those he was up against – and Tressel could be viewed as a curious choice.
That's the thing about James Patrick Tressel. You can always see what you want to see.
Looking forward, I see success for Youngstown State.