When it comes to the sort of writing people do about university sports, she is often at a loss. Here’s what she means. Here’s a post in Forbes – respectable magazine – about noisily pious Jim Tressel, the compleat coach-hypocrite. (Search my Tressel posts here. ) Tressel, as UD predicted, is now a university president. Let’s take it nice and slow through this piece about Tressel, written just before he took the presidency of Youngstown State.

What does it mean when arguably the most successful coach in the history at one of the most historically ideal football colleges would rather not ever coach again? It’s not like Jim Tressel has no tread on the coaching tire. His football engine has plenty of horsepower. Before being derailed by tattoo-gate at OSU, Tressel’s accomplishments were the envy of every one of the 100+ D-1 coaches in America, save maybe a few.

Okay so the writer’s going to explain to us why despite plentiful coaching opportunities Tressel’s not going to coach anymore. The writer’s going to tell us it’s because the conditions of university football coaching are so horrible these days. And that Tressel’s rejection of the position is… representative of a trend? And so we should… worry that we’re making university football coaching so horrible that we’re in danger of … running out of coaches?

Or wait. Is there any sign at all that coaching jobs are going begging? Why, no. That salaries are tanking? Or even doing anything other than escalating a mile a minute? No. Salaries are insane, and jobs are hotly contested. In fact, coaching is so high-profile and admired that a football coach – Jim Tressel – has just been given the presidency of an entire university.

True, he was “derailed” by a very bad scandal under his watch recently. But note the “derailed by.” This certainly wasn’t about (to pursue the author’s train metaphor) Tressel being asleep at the wheel… Or, even worse, looking the other way… No… It simply happened. To him.

The writer reviews Tressel’s many games won record and then wonders why he’s left coaching for administration.

It’s really no mystery. Because of the scandal that happened to him, he’s banned from coaching.

He probably would not have been in academic administration at all if the NCAA had not forced him out. He was officially and publicly banned from athletic-related positions as part of the OSU punishment, or as many allege, the over-punishment. Despite the lack of a lifetime ban, Tressel reportedly just said he has no plans to ever coach again.

The evil NCAA which despite a thing just having descended upon Tressel without his being at all involved has “forced” the man out – an “over-punishment,” many allege. But anyway it wasn’t a big deal at all because Tressel didn’t get a lifetime ban…

He could probably make millions annually as a head coach. He will likely make hundreds of thousands less if he becomes president at YSU. He probably loves football and the youth who play it far more than herding pompous professors and administrators.

Right, so he began by saying coaching is really shitty now; his headline calls present-day coaching “unattractive.” Yet Tressel’s salary as a coach would be in the millions, so that doesn’t sound unattractive. And the wonderful “youth” who populate bigtime university football (we’ve followed this splendid crew on this blog for years) are ever so much more attractive than “pompous” professors… Yet despite the great kids and the great money, Tressel isn’t coaching. Why, why, why? What’s wrong with present-day coaching?

You see why SOS has such trouble with this sort of writing? The reason Tressel’s not coaching is because he can’t. It’s like asking why oh why has Steven Cohen stopped managing investments the way he used to? He could make millions (billions) at it. There must be something really unpleasant about being a fund manager…

But the reason Cohen isn’t investing is that the SEC has banned him from managing outside money. Tressel’s not coaching because he can’t, and Cohen’s not investing because he can’t. What Tressel is doing right now is what we call slumming, pulling down a few hundred thou making speeches at a school until his ban ends. Tressel’s story tells us absolutely nothing about coaching, so one wonders what this writer thinks he is arguing.

Okay, so here’s the guy’s concluding paragraphs. This is where he nails his argument.

So why would he do something he loves less for far less money? Could it be the administration of big time college football takes all the fun out of the pure coaching of the athletes? Could it be that the media, alumni, and crazed fan pressures is so unsettling to his lifestyle that he would rather forfeit more money just to avoid it? Could it be heading a relatively small obscure school where he once coached, and is still loved, worth more than one of the premier coaching jobs in the country? Is part of the fallout from the NCAA’s decreasing stability and integrity and the increasingly sophisticated athlete pool make coaching less attractive?

Okay, big breath. One thing at a time. The concept here is “the pure coaching of the athletes.” The idea here is that something, again, happened to Tressel and the other purists – the guys who are doing it for the love of the game and seven million dollars a year plus free cars and country club memberships. The forces of evil – beyond the NCAA – are the media, alumni, and students. They happen to the purists, who are trying to protect their quietude from the masses.

Do coaches basically run the NCAA? Shh. Don’t tell the Forbes guy.

Do coaches and their staffs do everything but attach electric cattle prods to students to get them crazed about games? (Even Saban at Alabama has to do it.)

Is the increasingly sophisticated athlete pool a function of increasingly sophisticated coaches creating a system indistinguishable from the professional leagues?

So here’s the Forbes writer’s conclusion:

If all the answers to the above questions are “Yes”, then there is more than a canary in the coal mine. There may be more career college coaches leaving earlier. Perhaps current and prospective coaches alike view big-time football coaching as less desirable. No business or industry likes trending instability and insecurity, and resultant insomnia. Increasing comparisons between high coach salaries and low waged or no-waged players they exploit has a consequence, even if only raised in polite debate.

Yes, Tressel is representative. Tressel is telling us that something is terribly wrong with coaching and if we’re not careful coaches will become university presidents. He warns us that other coaches will leave coaching early. But again, Tressel’s early departure was involuntary. He. Was. Banned. “Perhaps current and prospective coaches alike view big-time football coaching as less desirable.” Than what? Evidence for this? “Increasing comparisons between high coach salaries and low waged or no-waged players they exploit has a consequence, even if only raised in polite debate.” He basically ends with this. And what the fuck does it mean? Coaching is unattractive and coaches are leaving in droves because… they make so much relative to players? No. Because people are increasingly noting the disparity between their millions (there’s that moral purity again… the pure coaching of the athletes…) and the players’ nothings? And only raised in polite debate? SOS is sorry. She just doesn’t get it. She does not get what that means. Only raised in polite debate… What is that? What’s he saying? What’s his whole post saying??

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7 Responses to “Scathing Online Schoolmarm Says:”

  1. Greg Says:

    I always look forward, especially, to your SOSM persona. I’ve taken the liberty of breaking out “marm” and capitalizing it as a separate word for acronymal purposes.

    Just a free association inspired by the excerpt:

    The sports writer’s “arguably” reminds me of “alleged perpetrator,” as often used in the news media when no suspect has been identified.* “Arguably” often signals a similar, at least partial, failure of thought. One legal doctrine made real-world consequences turn on whether a rule is “arguably procedural” or, instead, is clearly substantive. Then the fun began: there’s not much closed to argument in this world? How about then “legitimate argument.” Good luck applying that distinction, though often there is agreement.

    I am weary of hearing academics who really want to assert x, hide behind “arguably x.” When we believe it, we should just make the damned argument, saying x. If, for now, you think that Rembrandt’s portrait of Jan Six is his best work, then just say it, for now. But as with most mistakes, I guess I’ve made that one both in writing and in class.

    *I suppose, in the few cases without a suspect and in which the very occurrence of a crime has been fabricated, one can sensibly to refer to an alleged perpetrator. In the vast remainder, one refers to a real perpetrator, but of course one so far identified, largely only as the one who committed a real crime.

  2. Jack/OH Says:

    Youngstown State is currently served by an interim who replaced the previous president, who served seven months of his three year contract. Local businessmen and pols rushed out of nowhere to support Jim Tressel, with no explanation for why a candidate without traditional credentials for the job ought to be strongly considered over those with. One dean with serious academic and organizational credibility was declared “not yet ready”, according to a published report.

    I wish Youngstown State well, but there’s something missing here that’s unexplainable.

  3. Jack/OH Says:

    The insider skinny is that trustees were doubly sandbagged by the earlier president’s sudden departure and the sudden bandwagon for Jim Tressel. The board wanted, and still wants, a pliant job cutter. With Tressel as prexy, trustees have someone who may enjoy more freedom of action than they’d like.

    That may explain why the faculty and other campus unions broke precedent to publicly endorse Tressel.

  4. charlie Says:

    Tresel has fulfilled none of the requirements in order to become a modern college pres, he hasn’t plagiarized a dissertation nor embezzled uni funds.

    So this is what it’s come down to, administrators hired based on Q ratings. If so, then why not Steven Spielberg as Cal State Long Beach Chancellor, after all, he did hang around that campus for a few semesters, or Matthew McConaughey as U of Texas Vice Provost For Some God Damn Thing. Most colleges no longer offer a rigorous academic schedule, who wants that? Get a former top D1 coach, and you’ll draw those that think his magic will rub off on their woeful FBS football team.

  5. Jack/OH Says:

    Greg, FWIW, I’ve used “arguably” too on rare occasions–and don’t like that I’ve used it.

    The “Forbes” article: ” . . . arguably the most successful coach . . .”. “Arguably” means exactly what? I don’t actually know if Tressel was the most successful coach? I was too lazy to check stats? I’m really an art historian out of my depth and want to cover my butt? I’m a genuine football expert who knows that there are actually schools of thought about what constitutes coaching success? Maybe “a very successful coach” would have done the job by dialing back the drama.

    Tip of the hat to SOS, Greg, and–indulge me a moment–Miss Macchione, my Latin and English teacher way back and Mr. Orwell. Greg, your comment took about 24 hours for me to “get it”. Thanks.

  6. Jack/OH Says:

    The board acted as its own search committee, without formal representation by faculty and others. Yep, there’s some unfounded speculation that the civic bandwagon for Tressel originated with a senior board member, a very influential local pol. If true, Tressel will be hemmed in more than I’d thought. There’re public expressions of genuine support from some faculty. Judging by comments in the area’s newspaper, local opinion is very mixed: Tressel boosters, wait ‘n’ see types, and a few anti-Tressel folks.

  7. Jack/OH Says:

    I’ve talked to a few of my buddies, who, as I am, are acquainted with the campus. One asked how JT will address, if at all, the patronage-and-kickback support departments? Political hacks who run those departments want to replace some employees with lower-paid P & K workers under the guise of cost-cutting, efficiency, all that.

    Another, a non-college guy recently back from vacation asked, “You mean Tressel’s president?” In context, that means he’s astonished a non-Ph. D. who’d been barred from coaching got the presidency.

    Thanks to UD and her faculty colleagues for lighting up some pretty dark areas of the academy.

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