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Published: Saturday, 1/15/2011

Tressel is reason we should wait to judge Michigan's choice

The date was Jan. 18, 2001. Did Ohio State fans feel as if the big ones got away? Did the athletic director botch the search? Was this a huge mistake? Did the Buckeyes merely settle?

It was the day OSU hired Jim Tressel as head football coach.

A lot of folks were reminded of that day just this past week as Michigan named Brady Hoke to the same job.

I was mildly critical, more of the process than the man, and I heard about it from readers turned e-mailers.

I would like to see your column from January, 2001, the day after the Jim Tressel hire. None of the Buckeye fans I know were supportive of the hire. You can look it up. Walt Harris of Pitt, Mike Bellotti of Oregon, and Jon Gruden of the NFL turned down the OSU job prior to the Tressel hire. – Russ.

OK, I looked it up. Russ forgot a few names, including the other finalist, Glen Mason, the one-time OSU player and assistant who had made Kent State, Kansas, and Minnesota respectable. Bob Stoops of Oklahoma, Tyrone Willingham of Stanford, ex-Buckeye great Chris Spielman, and longtime OSU assistant Fred Pagac were other names bandied about.

Only Andy Geiger, then the Ohio State athletic director, knows for sure which were serious candidates, which weren't; who got interviews and who did not. Pitt did not grant permission for Harris to interview. There is little evidence that Stoops and Gruden were involved beyond media speculation. The rest, with the exception of Mason, withdrew in one manner or another before Tressel was hired.

Hoke said he would have walked from San Diego for the Michigan job. Mason would have done the same from Minneapolis to Columbus. Tressel's walk was far shorter from Youngstown, where he won 135 games and four I-AA national titles in 15 seasons.

Perhaps you've forgotten, or have just chosen to ignore, that the Michigan hire looks extremely similar to what Ohio State did 10 years ago. A little-known coach out of Youngstown State has certainly made his mark in Columbus. – John.

Tressel is 106-22 with the Buckeyes and has a national championship, a handful of BCS bowl wins, and even more Big Ten titles to his credit. Yes, he's surely left his mark.

I would debate the little-known part, though. He had been an assistant at Ohio State under Earle Bruce, the successor to Woody Hayes. His father was a legendary Ohio college coach. What he had done in Youngstown, and what his program there meant to a depressed city with the steel industry reeling, was well known. In 1994, years before OSU fired John Cooper, Tressel was reportedly on the verge of getting the Miami (Fla.) job before withdrawing for family reasons. Only then did the Hurricanes turn their full attention to Butch Davis.

Regardless of how OSU fans felt about Tressel's hire during the daylight hours on Jan. 18, 2001, most were onboard after his "310 days from now in Ann Arbor" speech that night. Hoke made it equally clear what the Michigan-OSU game means to him.

I think [Hoke] is a strong hire, regardless of name recognition. This guy can coach. – Don, who pointed out Hoke's accomplishments at Ball State and San Diego State.

If so, and if Hoke even approaches what Tressel has done at Ohio State, including any similar mastery in the rivalry, whoever is writing in this space 10 years from now may well forget that Jim Harbaugh and Les Miles even existed in January, 2011.

Contact Blade sports columnist Dave Hackenberg at: dhack@theblade.com or 419-724-6398.



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