The man who has taken Ohio State to the BCS title game three times was preparing to visit troops in Iraq with several other college coaches.
Dan Patrick: Did you recruit LeBron James (right) to play football at Ohio State?
Jim Tressel: I was in St. Vincent--St. Mary High one day after his junior year—we were recruiting another guy—and I felt this big pair of hands on the back of my neck. It was LeBron. He said, "I could play wideout for you." I said, "[Former basketball] Coach O'Brien and I would certainly love to have you for a year. I'm sure it wouldn't be much longer than that, but you've got a scholarship if you want it."
DP: Could he have been successful in college football and as a pro?
JT: Oh, absolutely. He's just so competitive and so physical. The speed at which he goes at 265 pounds, I don't know if there's anyone in the world at that size who moves like that. I remember watching his high school football film. It was frightening.
DP: You host USC on Sept. 12. Do your guys have that circled on their calendar?
JT: There's no doubt our guys have it in their minds. We were out there last year and didn't fare well [USC won 35--3], so they know the challenge we're up against.
DP: Don't you think not having a conference championship game hurts the Big Ten in terms of the BCS? A win in a championship game elevates a team in the eyes of the voters. Is there any chance we'll see the league expand from 11 to 12 teams and have a title game?