For those fans who hunger to read more about yesterday's events, here is a transcript of the press conference held by Jim Tressel. Some of it might be considered "old news" in this Internet world, but a good deal of it is not. What was has been written about covered only a part of what was discussed yesterday. Be aware as you are reading that any dysfluencies (um's, and's, uh's, etc.) have been removed. Also, the gist of the questions the reporters asked is given rather than word for word in most instances. Tressel had a microphone allowing his comments to be picked up without any problem. The reporters did not.
Opening Statement by Tressel:
We appreciate you being here this evening and taking part in our photo day. Hopefully you got everything you needed. Steve (Snapp) and his staff did a good job streamlining it. This is usually one of the days that the players and coaches like the least because there is a lot of hurry up and wait. We appreciate you being here for that - 2003 photo day. Obviously the thing we would like to talk about most is the 2003 team. Obviously also, there are some questions that all of you will want to ask because you need to do your jobs. What I thought we would try to do is to talk a little bit about some of the adversities we faced here recently and take care of that but most especially move forward to a lot of the exciting things we feel as if we have in front of us. Obviously this summer we have had some adversities. The way adversities are - how you handle those things will determine a great deal of what lies ahead in the future. Like most adversities, some of them - you are the major cause of - some of them you might not have been. All of them you need to figure out perhaps why they occurred. That is what we have been doing, that is what we plan to do. Obviously our university has done a great job of putting together a committee of academic folks that take very seriously their charge, and I have every confidence that we will be borne out just as we truly believe. We have a tremendous academic institution - great integrity, great faculty. Our athletics department has an extraordinary program in place for the student athletes' support, and sometimes when you look hard at some of your adversities you even end up being a little bit better than you thought you were. We also have some NCAA issues obviously that we are confronted with at this time. Our entire family is not here at camp - that is the way that it is. That is the situation we are in. We are moving as expeditiously as we can possibly do but not all of the time constraints are in our lap. We need to move at the pace of which the NCAA would like to move, but we have been told that they will move as quickly as they possibly can. Our goal and hope in our mind is that we would have our entire family together to attack this 2003 season as quickly as we can. Those have not been easy things for any of us on the coaching staff or for the institution or for any of our players, certainly for the young men involved but I think they have handled it as well as they possibly can and have a lot of confidence in how we move forward with it. What I would like to do is open up for questioning in terms of some of the adversities we have faced and we will talk about that briefly. Obviously I do not want that to be the highlight of what we are here to talk about because we have a lot more other things than we do adversities. In deference to your job and what some of you may have been sent here to do, we certainly need to address those, so I will open it up for questions.
Q: How much of a distraction without Maurice being here?
A: Well, we have a couple of guys that are not here. The distractions I guess are individual in nature. I am sure that the X number of freshmen who are here are distracted in other ways. They are away from home, it is a whole new world. I am sure they do not even know the difference. I think some of the guys who do not work closely from a position standpoint outside of maybe having to answer questions about it do not find it extremely distracting. That is one of the challenges you have. We have had to become good at not being distracted. All of a sudden when you are 6-0 and then you are 7-0 and then 8-0, distractions are a part of what it is all about. Our guys have done a good job of trying to focus on the task at hand - the tremendous challenges we have on the field and I have been proud of the way they handled that."
Q: Do you have any indication from anyone about Maurice Clarett's status - have you been told to be confident about him coming back? Is there any kind of feeling at all?
A: You know really when it comes to NCAA situations you really don't get indications that way per se. They do that. That is what we are - a part of a group that has a governing body. Obviously even if we knew something along the lines of that question we could not answer because the NCAA has certain standards that you hold when they are looking into situations. One of which is anyone involved in being asked about it has a responsibility of keeping that confidential. That is just the way it is.
Q: As a coaching staff are you preparing for a possibility that he might not be here for several games, for an entire season, or never again?
A: Well, we move forward coaching like crazy all the guys that are here period. We don't know who is going to be injured, we don't know who is going to get homesick, we don't know who is not going to perform maybe as well as we hoped. Really there is no change when it comes to that. We have a couple of guys banged up, and we are not all of a sudden saying we have to change the whole nature of what we do because someone might not be there on August 30. So, I would like to think we are not changing anything we are doing - we are just trying to figure out… Preseason I think is two fold. I hate to move into what I am here for a little early, but preseason in my mind is twofold. One is to work hard on fundamentals - just the fundamentals of the game. Two is to find out with the group of people you have practicing what they do best. Then that is what you do the first time you play. Then you find out a little bit more. Then the second time you might change it, etc. and see how the season evolves. To get back to your question, we would not change per se our thinking at this point in time with that situation.
Q: How will your involvement with Youngstown State's probation affect the way you handle this NCAA investigation.
A: I don't know that we ever had any probation. I know that as both a coach and athletic director I have been a part of investigations, discussions, certifications, etc. To my knowledge we were not on probation. If we were on probation - I don't know that the net effect of it was anything like a player being able to play or whatever but of course we have - wherever we have been - had reams of things written and discussed on how we should have outstanding institutional control, how we should make sure we take care of thing right. Experience as an athletic director certainly helps.
*Note I have shortened this question from the reporter. They clarified their question after the initial discussion. The answer remained the same.
Q: How much communication have you had with Maurice during this time period? Can you give us some idea of his level of anxiety over this whole thing and what he might be feeling in these days where he is hanging in limbo?
A: I think it is hard on anyone if they do not get to be a part of the group. Certainly that is the way he feels, but he also knows he has responsibilities and with those responsibilities go privileges that either come or don't come based on your responsibility. I know he would rather be here that is for sure. I know he plans on being here - that is certainly his goal.
Q: What do you make of Maurice Clarett's attorney's statements that he might actually try to challenge the NFL rule that says he can't come out for another two years? Is that lawyers talking?
A: What do I make of it? I certainly did not confer with him about those things. Nor have I conferred with him about anything along those lines. Would I like those kind of statements being made? No. But, that is - if you want to call it lawyer talk or whatever.
Q: Has your tailback ever given you any indication he intends to challenge the NFL rule?
A: No he never has. Early last year there was some innuendo of that - that he was I guess put into - if that is the right way to say it - and certainly at that time said that was not the way he felt. I have heard nothing along those lines since then, but I will have to be honest with you, I usually try to pull any discussions with any of the young people into what are we going to do right now as opposed to what is going to happen down the road.
Q: (garbled) Will Clarett be expected to be at practices?
A: Well, we are not requiring him to be there. He is free to stop by. He is not suspended from being on the grounds if you will. He is not taking part in any activities - meetings or practices and that type of thing. He can certainly stop by and observe. We have a standing rule with our former players, there is no such thing as a closed practice for them. It is along those same lines. They do not get in the huddle. They do not get the ball."
Q: Is there any place here when you look back at this and think we should have done this better, we should have done that better?
A: I think any time you look in the mirror and try to figure out your part of anything - you can usually center it back to - could you have spent more time with whomever. The discussions have to center around Maurice, but it is not the only problem any of us have been around, nor will it be the last. So, yes, you always look back and say, "If I would have done a little bit less of this or that, if I would have been perhaps more cognizant of what this person was thinking or doing… I think any time you are a person who wants to be in a position of responsibility and leadership, etc. - you always look at yourself from that standpoint.
Q: (garbled) Have you sat down and talked with him yet?
A: We have sat down and talked here in the last week or so. Again, I guess I do not want to belabor the NCAA situation. I really can't sit down and talk with Maurice Clarett about that. That is just the way it works. I think that is probably the right way for things to occur. Just like someone from the NCAA can't sit down and talk with you about it or sit there and talk with me and gameplan about it. That is just not the way that it works, and my experience has been - you do the best you can possibly do to figure out every situation as it occurred - where you could have done better. Someone threw out the phrase of institutional control [reporter clarifying his question on Youngstown State] earlier and ultimately we feel as if we are responsible to control every situation. It is hard to do, but that is the way we feel and there is no question about it. As leaders we talk to our guys about trying to control their situations - it moves up the ladder and certainly we need to do the best we can to control ours.
A: As we sit right now we are in the midst of making sure that we clarify everything. The phrase that is used in the NCAA jargon is amateurism phrase. Just to make sure we have taken care of whatever we are supposed to take care of - which again - we hope is done as quick as possible for everyone involved. At this point in time we made a decision here a few days ago - at this point in time we have to make sure - which will be a good segue way for me to get to the rest of the guys… we have to make sure we go to work on the guys that are here. It is just a decision we made not unlike any other decision that you make sometimes. Should you have passed, should you have run, should you have sat so and so out the first quarter… When you are dealing with young people you make decisions. You work as hard as you can to do the best job you can within the guidelines of your institution and the NCAA. You have to be more than willing to take the privileges - lose the privileges as you go based on your merits. That is what we are doing. That does not mean we are not going to work like crazy with the rest of the people here. Nor does it mean if and when we get this situation cleared up that we won't work like crazy with the guys who are having some struggles right now, Maurice included."
Q: Are you confident that he did nothing wrong (with regard to the NCAA and university)?
A: Nothing that I am aware of.
Q: If the police report was filed back in April why was he just held out?
A: I am not sure that - I am just trying to think back - I am not sure that I was aware back in April when a police report was filled out that it was or was not accurate. To this day, I still have not seen the police report. Again, I can't really talk about what was done right, what was not done right, etc. At that point in time I was not aware that there may even be any problems there.
Q: Can you win the Big Ten with the running backs you have right now?
A: Great question! (laughter) Thanks Terry. We would be here a long time if we allowed it. Can we win the Big Ten with the running backs we have at this moment? Absolutely.
Q: Why would you say that?
A: I think we have good running backs. I think Lydell Ross and Maurice Hall have shown that they can do outstanding things. I think they have grown a lot. I thought they had good springs. We put them in very difficult situations in the spring and if you will think back to the spring game, I think each team blitzed 30-some times and those running backs had to pick up the blitzes, which is the most difficult thing for a running back to do. They demonstrated to me that they are very, very good running backs. I feel confident that we could do that (win the Big Ten)… Not by itself… Obviously there are a lot of other things that have to go into that, but I have a lot of confidence in Lydell and Maurice and that group.
Q: Do you get a sense that there is added pressure on those guys to demonstrate to you that they are 1 and 2 so when Clarett comes they do not get blown out of the water?
A: I don't know that our guys look that far down the road. I hope that Lydell and Maurice Hall and all of those guys are looking at what can they do to get better today in the meetings and tomorrow at practice. I think that is where you struggle a little bit - when you look way beyond what is going on today or you look way back and start getting caught up in wasn't that wonderful in Tempe, Arizona, or wasn't that wonderful six years ago when this or that happened? I think you really have to work hard and concentrate on becoming the best you can be with what is going on at this very moment. I think those guys do a pretty good job of that.
Q: You said a second ago that you were not aware of the inaccuracy of the police report… (garbled) Essentially - the reported wanted to know more about this and whether or not this was part of why Maurice is now suspended.
A: I think it is real hard to pinpoint a thing or even a thing or two which leads toward a decision - an accumulation of experiences etc. Which usually I hope is what we base our decision making on. I don't know that I could point right to that.
Tressel: Can we move to football? I mean I know you would love to do this, but you are going to be here on the night of August 30. You are going to have a lot of other questions. I want to make sure…
Q: Is Guilford ok?
A: I think he is going to be in good shape. We have some paperwork things that we are finishing up, but he is in good shape. I don't know for sure if he will be over on the offensive side or - you know I think you make decisions as you go through camp and you just see how things unfold. I don't know exactly what is going to unfold. We are working night and day trying to become the best team we can become. Obviously there are some other things - just you are working night and day on doing your normal reporting and there are other things to report about. I know that. I respect that, but you still have to get your other work done. So, I don't know exactly how it is going to come out, but we will adjust to that. That is part of growing and getting better and becoming a champion - handling the things that come your way. You have no idea what is going to come your way. That is real. None of you sitting out there have any idea what is going to come your way in life, but you are going to have to handle that. That is what we set out to do. Right now, the only thing we can work on is football. I would love to talk about it.
Q: Coach, can you talk a little bit about the offensive line. They look like they are in great shape. Who has been impressive to the staff up to this point?
A: You know, our offensive line - I was really proud of the way they ran today. I was really proud the way they took a major step from the Michigan game to the Miami game. They have really, I thought, made a major step forward. They had a great spring. I thought their summer has been excellent. I thought they ran very well. The thing that a lineman likes the least is to run. I thought they did a good job in our running test today. They are veterans. They have a lot of pride in themselves. They want to play better than they have ever played. That is fairly typical for seniors, and we have a lot of seniors. I feel good about our offensive line.
Q: Any specific things that Maurice and Lydell bring to the table?
A: I think what Lydell and Maurice bring to the table this particular year is more maturity. They are more veterans. Last year was really the first year - they jumped in there as freshmen a little bit but they were clearly just being asked to do what they knew how to do and it was not the full package - last year they could do the full package. They did some things better than others, but they still knew where they were heading. I would like to think that they could bring the maturity of just bringing the full package to whatever we would like to do, run and pass. They are juniors which is I think a real positive thing.
Q: With the freshman and upperclassmen reporting at the same time does that make it more difficult to evaluate the freshmen? How do you handle the changes?
A: You know it is a little bit different. I suppose I would say I am probably in favor of having the freshmen here for a couple of days, but with the change in the NCAA preseason calendar - we as a group of institutions said, "We are moving up the beginning of camp because we are spreading out how many practices you are allowed to have back to back - to bring it even a few more days earlier - no one thought that was in their best interests. I would love some time with the freshmen just to help them get oriented. The next two mornings they will do some academic orientation work, and I think that will be a positive. It is nice to have the freshmen in just by themselves getting all the attention, but we will adjust. We have asked our older guys to accept part of that responsibility. We have roomed all of our young guys with a veteran and we told them that these guys do not have the benefit you had in coming in early and having an orientation period. I have to think our guys will do a good job.
Q: Having won championships at I-AA does that give you insight that you can relate to your team about how marked you are?
A: Well, I don't have any problem knowing how marked we are because I have been there and have been marked and handled it maybe well at times and maybe not handled it well at other times. We talk about it certainly. I think our guys naturally have a feel for that because they came to Ohio State and Ohio State is marked to begin with. I hope that they can comprehend just how marked we are, but they are going to have to adjust to that within games. We talked to them a little bit about the film that you are watching for our opponents as you prepare is not really who you are going to play. They are going to play so much better than what you see on film. Now, do you believe that? Do you not believe it? Well, when you get out on the field, you will see it and have to adjust to that. Again, I think that this could be a mature football team. We will see. You don't know your maturity level until you have to handle some of those tough things, but I would like to think that this is a group that can handle it.
Q: Can you comment on the Sports Illustrated preseason magazine? There were several pages on Craig Krenzel, Maurice Clarett, several preseason All-Americans. That is a lot coverage at this point in the season from a national publication.
A: That is one of the things I am sure most of our guys came to Ohio State for - that kind of attention. That is why we have a picture day with this amount of people here. Despite whatever adversities you are going through, we always have great exposure. 99% of the people here are here because we are defending national champions and I think that is why a lot of our guys came here. I think they are anxious for the challenge. Will it be difficult? Absolutely. I don't know that there has been anyone that has handled it all the way to winning it all back to back since the early 90's maybe. I think our guys like that. I don't know that they sit around and read about themselves a lot. Maybe they do. We have kept them pretty busy. I don't know when they would do that.
Q: Can you talk about Craig Krenzel and the consummate student athlete and the image portrayed in the article (SI)?
A: Well, I don't know exactly what image was… wanting to be portrayed. I don't think anyone here would deny that we have a team full of human beings, and they are not all exactly alike. Some are at different stages than others. I don't know exactly how it was portrayed, but I think there is no question about it as I know Craig Krenzel - he takes on a tremendous academic challenge and takes a football challenge and does a great job. I don't know exactly how they portrayed him, but he is a guy…
Q: Did it hurt you before when the portrayal was more negative (with the New York Times, etc.)?
A: Sure. You never like to be portrayed with individual situations that portray the group, but that is the team sport we play. That is just the reality of it. You live with that. We live with disappointment certainly. We try to get better. I think any of us that have been in the game a long time have learned that there are going to be times when you feel really good about how things are going and how you are portrayed, and there are going to be other times when you don't feel great about how things are going and how you are portrayed. But, you keep working to get better and our guys are doing that. I think there is no doubt about it, when you think about a guy like Craig Krenzel - that is a neat portrayal of Ohio State collegiate athletics, the game of football, and the whole thing.
Q: Can you talk about the schedule a bit with key games?
A: We have a lot of key games everywhere when you play the schedule we are getting ready to play. Washington is going to be one of the top teams in the Pac Ten - everyone says so. San Diego State is going to be in the second year of a coaching staff, and they are going to be dramatically better because that is what happens after you have been together a little while. Obviously North Carolina State is one of the best teams in the country. Bowling Green is picked to win their league, and that does not even mention the Big Ten. We go into the Big Ten where you all know that every single game in the Big Ten is a battle. It does not matter who you play. We do have four tough ball games in the Big Ten at home and four tough games on the road with very, very good teams. Our challenges are great. We know that. The challenges are greater with the size of the bulls-eye, we know that. That is why I think that our guys came to work in pretty good shape, enthused with the understanding of how good we are going to have to be.
Q: Will your number of seniors help you get through this adversity time?
A: I think people that have had more experiences can do a good job of leading the young people that have not had quite as many. If you look at our 24 seniors and add 2 more seniors, Ivan and Richard, who can't play that is a group of 26 guys who have had some adversities. Whether they be personal ones or team ones - they have had some great heights of course, and I would like to think they have learned a lot from that. We have a coaching staff of people who we have all been around some grand times, and we have all been around some times that were not as grand and had to take care of things as they come. Handling adversity is what life is all about.
Q: What do you want to get done this early stage of preseason?
A: We are allowed to have five straight one a day sessions in which any walk-throughs you do count as part of your practice and then when you get through this one a day period, walk-throughs are considered like meetings so it is a whole different structure. So, we are trying to get as much of our offense and defense in as we can. Our trainers and strength coaches are starting something that is a little different that we have never done. They are having what they call "schools." We had a hamstring and ankle school. They are doing what Doug Callen calls ‘pre-hab.' Rather than waiting until we sprain our ankle - let's learn how to take care of our ankle prior to that. So, we have a little bit more time where we can't meet and can't be out there walking through - that type of that thing. So, we are having some strength and conditioning and treatment type schools, some film study - trying to get in as much as we can, trying to keep a handle on the natural progression of conditioning that happens from practicing twice a day just from being out there on your feet all that time - and we are not right now (out there all that time every day). We are trying to make sure we are staying up on what kind of condition we have to be in - it is all new for us, but it is all new for Washington and all new for everyone else. It is kinda fun. It is a little bit after the pro model I guess where they don't go consecutive two-a-days. They have 4 exhibition games which is a little different than what we have, so maybe we are borrowing (only) part of the pro model. We are all doing it. I like the way our coaches have prepared it.
Q: This is your third first day (at OSU). Was today different than the first two first days?
A: It was a little bit different in that normally we come in and they check you in and we do all the guidelines and compliance things and medical things, etc. Then the next day we do our fitness testing, etc. Then the next day we practice football. With this calendar you have to consolidate it all so today we had to do both our fitness testing and our first practice in the same morning, which was…I thought going to be a challenge because our fitness test is difficult. It is something they dread. There are guys who go to bed the night before and don't sleep a wink wondering if they were going to make it. The fact that they ran so well and then just went in and got a drink and came right back out because of the hour thing that you have to do with your one-a-days and came out - I thought practiced pretty well. I thought their carry over from the spring was good. I thought they did a nice job of helping the freshmen - here is where you are supposed to go, etc. Those freshmen had not had a practice yet, and boy they really had an eye-opener on the fitness test. But - yeah, it was different. It was I thought going to be a tremendous challenge, but it might have been a great thing. We look at it hindsight in that we get so sore with that fitness test, it is such a challenge but then we came back out and sweated again and got back lathered up and maybe moved forward from a soreness standpoint that if we had just run the fitness test and then waited until the next day to practice - that soreness - they don't even want to practice that next day. It was different, but I thought it was good.
Q: Two part question - can you talk a bit more about the offensive line. Last year did it in fact limit what plays you called and this year what plays will be more available to the offensive coaches with the shape they are in now?
A: What you do in the passing game I think is totally based on what your offensive line is capable of doing. I think that is key. Just watch teams that go against our defense. As our defense was getting better and better and tougher and tougher you saw limited to what they could do against us because of how good we were up front. We had a lot of guys that could really do some great things. The more you can do up front, the more capable you are up front. I think it does widen your package. We will find out soon just how good we are because we get to go against a lot of those same front guys that did a great job for our defense. That is the great think about preseason. I feel good about that offensive line and the way they have prepared. I think they want to be able to give us every chance to do all we can do on the offensive side.
Q: What have the last 8 months been like?
A: Well we have had that question asked quite a bit, ‘what the last 8 months have been like.' (Laughter). Great question though. A lot of these guys could answer it for you - I have given them reams about that. You know it has been exciting. It has been real. Earle used to tell us all the time that nothing is as good as it seems and nothing as bad. Some years you come off a season that was not so good, and you think the world is going to end but all of a sudden you go to work and things get better and maybe you improve, etc. The season ends and you are 14-0 and people are saying, ‘what else would you want out of life? Isn't this the greatest thing in the world?' You know it was great, the process was fun, the challenge was great. The excitement - just to see a group of people accomplish something that I don't know if anyone else has ever accomplished - that was awesome, but… the next 8 months plus there are still a number of other obligations. Coaches in general work quite a bit. You add a number of extra obligations on top of the work load you already have - and the inevitable adversities. One adversity is being 14-0. Another adversity is perhaps needing to talk about the integrity of your academic program or talk about NCAA situations, etc. But that is life. The last 8 months have been life. We are going to handle it and do the best we can and keep coaching our guys like crazy and keep working hard to do things as well as we possibly can do them. I happen to think we have made a lot of progress here with our young people and we are proud of them.
Steve Snapp: Thanks guys. We have media guides in the back.