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Tuesday, December 20, 2011
Long road back to college for Jim Tressel

By Brian Bennett

Jim Tressel turned 59 earlier this month. If he wants to coach college football again, he almost certainly will have to wait until at least Dec. 17, 2016, when he would be 64.

The NCAA delivered, if not a fatal blow, then a serious setback to the idea that Tressel will ever step foot on a college sideline again by issuing him a five-year "show-cause" penalty. The disgraced Ohio State coach had been mentioned for the Akron job and other openings, although it was never clear whether that talk was very serious. Now, he is basically radioactive to any school that might want to hire him.

While the show-cause doesn't specifically prevent a team from hiring a coach, it does effectively serve as a ban in practice. Any school that employs Tressel must go before the NCAA infractions committee as to why it should be allowed to do so, and it could face its own sanctions as a result. The school also would have to issue a report to the committee every two months during the show-cause period detailing how it is monitoring the coach. Any additional violations committed by the coach during that time could really bring the NCAA hammer down on that school. And suffice it to say that most athletic programs don't want to spend any more time than absolutely necessary talking to the infractions people.

No Division I team has ever hired a coach saddled with an ongoing show-cause penalty. Some coaches whose college careers were essentially ended by the show-cause include former Ohio State basketball coach Jim O'Brien, ex-Indiana basketball coach Kelvin Sampson and former Kentucky recruiting coordinator Claude Bassett.

Tressel has other options. He has served as a consultant for the Indianapolis Colts this season. He could easily find employment in the NFL as an assistant, much like the way Sampson did in the NBA. If after five years in the pros he wanted to come back to college, there might be some opportunities for him. I can't see a major program ever wanting to hire a 64-year-old head coach with that kind of baggage, but a team from the MAC or an athletic director looking to make a splash might be willing to roll the dice. Or Tressel could try his hand at being an assistant at a bigger program.

For now, "The Vest" is sidelined as a college coach. He has 229 wins, including 94 at Ohio State. Those numbers would be higher if last season's 11 victories weren't wiped clean by the NCAA. It will be at least five years before he can add any more.