Tressel in NCAA Governance Makes More Sense Than You Might Think

Jim Tressel, formerly of Ohio State’s football team and now a vice president at the University of Akron, may be in line to become a university president as Akron’s current leader has announced he will step down in June:

“He’s probably going to be a candidate, but that’s about all we can say at this point,” university trustee chairman Richard Pogue said in an interview with the Beacon Journal on Monday. “ We’re not in any rush.”

Land-Grant Holy Land explored the many facets of a university presidency and how Tressel would fit into them. Obviously the most tantalizing is the idea of Tressel interacting with NCAA governance at the highest levels:

Plus, there is the whole Tressel Lied Roll Tide segment of the population, which would either point to a Tressel presidency as being THE glaring example of misplaced university priorities on athletics (and now a football coach is running the university?!?), or point to his NCAA transgressions as proof that the man lacks the moral character needed to lead. Plus, the idea of President Tressel dealing with the NCAA could be, I dunno, a teensy bit awkward maybe?

There would be a strong opposition to both the idea of Jim Tressel as a university president generally and to the idea of him having a place on the Division I Board of Directors or NCAA Executive Committee specifically. But in the real world, it actually makes more than a little sense.

For starters, the MAC’s seat on the Board of Directors is currently held by Ohio University president Roderick McDavis. His term runs through August 2017. So by the time Tressel was even nominated for a spot on the Board of Directors, he will have had two or three years running Akron under his belt. His show-cause order will also be over, as it expires in December 2016. So in theory, his penalty will have been served and the sins of the past may be outweighed by how effective Tressel will have been as a president.

Presidential control of college athletics has been criticized recently as the job of university president has left them further out of touch with the athletics programs for which they are responsible. But having wrestled away power, presidents are unlikely to hand over control of the NCAA to their own employees. Maybe more day-to-day decisions are made by athletic directors, but final authority will likely wrest with a group of university presidents for the foreseeable future.

In that case, Jim Tressel is kind of perfect as a member of the Board of Directors or Executive Committee. He knows, from painful personal experience, the pressures and day-to-day ethical struggles of major college athletics. He has experience at both haves and have-nots. And that would be rounded out with experience dealing with the academic side of the university, since he will likely need to win over the Akron faculty.

If you want someone high up in NCAA governance that has first-hand knowledge of what big-time college athletics are really like, Jim Tressel is your best chance coming in maybe the next 15 years. Not to mention he would be the better part of a decade removed from the transgressions that cost him his coaching career when he started making decisions in the NCAA. Laugh now, but “Jim Tressel, chair of the Division I Board of Directors” might seem like a foregone conclusions in a few years.