He and his assistant coaches had just put their 2004 recruiting class to bed on national signing day. He appeared before the media to discuss the class. But reporters were lying in wait to query the coach about any number of other topics, including allegations by ESPN.com that Maurice Clarett has ties to a known gambler, the revocation of scholarships to at least two potential recruits and the fact OSU failed to sign any of the highly sought players it was still after on signing day.
During the course of his 40-minute press conference, reporters ignored pleas by Tressel and a school spokesman to keep their questions to just the recruiting class. The coach responded to some of them and completely stonewalled others.
Before getting into his comments about the recruiting class, here were some of Tressel's comments on some of these controversial topics:
* Regarding Clarett, ESPN.com reported late Wednesday afternoon that Bobby Dellimuti, the Warren-area caterer who provided illegal extra benefits to the star tailback, made telephone calls to offshore gambling outfits. It is unclear what impact these allegations may have on Clarett's bid to return to OSU in 2004, provided he fails in his bid to enter the NFL draft.
Tressel was asked if he would use such an episode as a teaching tool in the future.
"We use everything we can get our hands on, things close to home and those that aren't so close to home," Tressel said. "I feel good about the amount of time we spend talking about simply doing what's right. It's all encompassing."
Tressel was then asked if he had ever been questioned by the NCAA or FBI regarding Clarett's ties to a known gambler. Tressel deferred comment to a school spokesman, who proffered a brief statement from athletic director Andy Geiger.
When asked if he had no comment regarding that question, Tressel replied, "Recruiting."
Geiger's statement read as follows: "We have read ESPN.com's story and are obviously concerned with the issues it raises. We cannot emphasize strongly enough our belief that gambling on intercollegiate athletics is a very serious issue. Rest assured, we will look into this matter and will support and cooperate with any and all investigations on this subject. We will have no further comment at this time."
* Tressel also successfully dodged most, if not all questions regarding the scholarship offers to wide receivers Miles Williams and DaJuan Morgan. He was asked, for instance, if Morgan‘s involvement in the November incident outside Morrill Tower factored in OSU‘s decision to revoke his scholarship.
"We are not allowed to address anyone at our press conference other than the guys that signed with us," Tressel said.
But a short while later, the coach was asked about whether these two episodes would cause OSU to revisit its policies on extending scholarship offers.
"I think that's why NCAA rules are such that they (offers) weren't documented, at least not from anyone here and whenever we talked to guys we talked about, `Here's what we foresee and now we've got to get these things done,' " Tressel said. "Just like the players tell us, `I'm interested in looking at you guys, but here's what I need to see at your school.' Some guys come here and it isn't what they see at our school. It wasn't what they needed.
"Obviously, it's a two-way street. I'm sure that's why the NCAA has the policy they do. They put a date in place for the benefit of both the student-athlete and … we need to know definitively when we have to come off the road and put scholarship tenders in the mail.
"I don't know any college coaches in the country who would consider the discussion that goes on about recruiting as documentation. It is interest and it is something people enjoy having their sport talked about all the time. But I'm not sure anybody would say it was documentation."
Tressel was asked if OSU retracted scholarships to those players.
"I think you have to take a hard look at what retract means," Tressel said. "We've talked to a lot of guys about the various parameters you have to meet to enjoy a scholarship at Ohio State. When all is said and done and all the visits are made and all the evaluations are done, that's when the scholarships are offered. When a national letter and a Big Ten tender are signed and mailed, that's the only two times it's official."
Now, About Recruiting
The coach was successful in keeping most of the discussion on his incoming recruits. OSU's signing day press release contained 23 names, including 22 2004 high school graduates as well as enrolled grayshirt Todd Boeckman. Two players who figure to enroll in March, running back Antonio Pittman and punter A.J. Trapasso, were not included in the release due to NCAA rules. At the same time, grayshirt candidates Joe Bauserman, a quarterback, and Aaron Pettrey, a kicker, who each figure to enroll in January 2005, were also excluded from the release.
All controversies aside -- as well as the signing day heartbreak of seeing Wisconsin defensive end Rhyan Anderson sign with Miami (Fla.) and New Jersey wide receiver Dwayne Jarrett, who had verbaled to OSU privately, instead sign with USC -- Tressel was happy with his recruiting effort.
"This is a very diverse group," Tressel said. "We have 14 players in the group that signed from the state of Ohio. We had four from Pennsylvania. Two from Florida and five or six from individual states. The position breakdown was solid with 12 on offense and 11 on defense. We felt we addressed the needs we felt we had. It is an extraordinary group of young men.
"The one thing that is impressive to me is we have guys who have chosen Ohio State who truly have a passion to be here. They want to get their college degree and play championship football."
Tressel liked the way his staff locked up most of Ohio's top prospects as well as four of Pennsylvania's top 10 prospects.
"I felt we did an outstanding job in the state of Ohio," he said. "We have a couple more coming from the state of Ohio (Pittman and Trapasso) in March. Plus, it was good to see the impact we made in Pennsylvania. We work hard in all of the contiguous states. But Joe Daniels recruits the Pennsylvania area and I thought he did an extraordinary job. He has worked hard there for four recruiting seasons and now he is seeing the fruits of those labors. We have signed four outstanding players from the Keystone state."
Here were some of Tressel's comments on individual players:
* Ted Ginn Jr. -- "Ted Ginn Jr. is an extraordinary football player. He is an extraordinary young man. He will be a guy who will continue to do great things in the track arena. He has won multiple state championships. He has tremendous speed and is a tremendous talent. He feels he can come in and compete for playing time. Coach Mel Tucker did a great job recruiting Teddy."
*The offensive line -- "We feel real good about the guys we got up front. Steve Rehring will be in here for the spring. Kyle Mitchum was a great catch from Erie, Pa. Jon Skinner comes from Mount Carmel, Pa. He comes from a good program. They won the state championship when he was a junior. Ben Person just loves football. You'll see him stop by practices. Those guys seem to have a little camaraderie of their own."
* Erik Haw -- "The first chance most of us had to meet him, we enjoyed meeting him personally. He had a glow about him. Then, he ran at our camp and was a blur. His track times show he has legit speed."
* Todd Boeckman -- "Number one, he is highly competitive. Number two, there is no question he bleeds scarlet and gray. He loves to compete. He doesn't care who it is as long as he is wearing the scarlet and gray, he wants to do it. He has paid attention and done everything we have asked of him. He is anxious to now be a full blown member of the group and go out this spring and compete and see where he fits in."
* Wide receivers Devon Lyons and Albert Dukes -- "We brought in a couple of outstanding guys in Albert Dukes and Devon Lyons. Those guys are special. Devon Lyons is 17 years old. On the video Joe Daniels brought back, he's a 6-4 guy doing back handsprings and doing a dunk. Albert Dukes is rated in the top 10 percent of his class. They say at his school he is ahead at this stage of where Santonio Holmes was."
* Chad Hoobler -- "Bill Conley and Luke Fickell will decide (what position he will play). After spring practice, they will probably look at the tight end situation and the linebacker situation. We know he will add to the special teams scene. He has good speed and enjoys contact."
* Vernon Gholston -- "Vernon Gholston is an extraordinary young man. He loves the game of football. He is a special guy. If you can get a special guy from Detroit, which is close by, then that is significant. He could be a great player. Coach Tucker did a good job of going up there and fighting against the schools up there to get him."
* Early enrollees Marcus Freeman, Steve Rehring and Todd Boeckman met with the media as well. (We hope to have articles on them in the hours and days ahead.)
* Tressel told reporters he hopes to hire two new assistants -- one for running backs and the other for receivers -- within the next 10 days.