Tressel in at OSU
Updated: Wednesday January 17, 2001 8:47 PM
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) -- Ohio State has a new coach -- Jim Tressel -- and it didn't have to travel far to find him.
Tressel, who guided Youngstown State to four I-AA national championships in 15 seasons, will be introduced Thursday as the Buckeyes' new coach.
The 48-year-old Tressel accepted the job Wednesday, said two members of the advisory council set up to help in the search for a new coach.
Athletic director Andy Geiger called a 4 p.m. news conference for Thursday to introduce the new coach, although he would not confirm it was Tressel.
Earlier, WTVN-AM, WBNS-TV and The Columbus Dispatch's Web site reported that Tressel would replace John Cooper, who was fired Jan. 2.
Tressel and his wife, Ellen, were in Columbus on Tuesday to tour the Ohio State campus. Tressel met with the school's advisory committee and also spent 90 minutes with Ohio State president William Kirwan.
At a first-day-of-the-semester meeting with his team Wednesday at 7 a.m., Tressel told his players he was interested in the job just 145 miles away. By late afternoon, Tressel had left and a school spokesman said he did not know where the coach was headed.
Tressel was 135-57-2 but has never been a head coach in I-A. In an interview with The Associated Press a few hours before he was hired, he said he needed to prove himself all over again.
"I had never coached a day as a head coach until I came here," he said. He added that until he actually coached at a major program with the resources of Ohio State, "I don't think anyone knows for sure."
Ohio State's other finalist was Minnesota's Glen Mason, a former Ohio State player and a member of the same Buckeyes coaching staff as Tressel for two years. Mason interviewed earlier Wednesday. Before flying back to Minnesota, he told reporters that his visit went well.
Geiger told Jeff Logan, a member of the advisory committee, that Mason was "devastated" when told that Tressel would be the new coach.
Tressel was expected to sign a multiyear contract paying him in excess of $1 million a year. His Youngstown State contract, which was to run out in June, gave him a base salary of $88,500 and a $20,000 annual stipend to also serve as athletics director. For winning a national championship, Tressel received an extra $5,000.
Others who either interviewed or spoke with Ohio State officials about the job included Oakland Raiders coach Jon Gruden, Oregon coach Mike Bellotti, current Buckeyes assistant head coach Fred Pagac, former Ohio State and NFL linebacker Chris Spielman and Stanford head coach Tyrone Willingham.
Cooper was fired Jan. 2 after Ohio State lost 24-7 to South Carolina in the Outback Bowl. Cooper was 111-43-4, shared three Big Ten titles and played in bowls in 11 of his 13 seasons.
But he was 3-8 in those bowl games and just 2-10-1 against Ohio State's chief rival, Michigan. And in Columbus, the annual showdown with the Wolverines is called "The Game."
After Cooper's firing, Geiger also cited poor academic performance, on-the-field taunting and off the field skirmishes with the law by the Buckeyes players.
"Whether they're from the academic side, boosters or the guys who played here before who are embarrassed by our record against Michigan and embarrassed by the behavior of the players on the field, Jim Tressel is the kind of guy who can heal whatever wounds are out there right now," said Logan, president of the school's Varsity "O" organization and a former Ohio State player.
Tressel's Youngstown State teams won national titles in 1991, 1993, 1994 and 1997 -- the most for a coach in I-AA history -- and had 12 winning seasons.
Tressel took over the Penguins program in 1986. After suffering through a 2-9 season, Tressel guided the Penguins to their first I-AA playoff appearance with an 8-4 mark the next season and won their first Ohio Valley Conference title.
Tressel is the son of Dr. Lee Tressel, who compiled a 155-52-6 record as football coach at Baldwin-Wallace College. He lettered four years as a quarterback for his father.
The Berea native served as an assistant coach at Akron, Miami University and Syracuse before handling quarterbacks and receivers for three years at Ohio State.
After taking over at Youngstown State, he kept an eye on Ohio State but didn't waste any time dreaming about following in Woody Hayes' footsteps.
"I've learned some good things growing up in this profession," Tressel said. "Woody said in his book that one cardinal rule is you never apply for a job that is not open. The Ohio State job has not been open for 13 years and I've been awfully busy trying to get things done."
He was among the finalists for the job when Butch Davis was hired as the head coach at the University of Miami six years ago.
Asked last week what he thought of the Ohio State job, he said, "There is no question in my mind it would be a lot of fun and I think it would be a tremendous opportunity."