Tressel back on campus as Akron vice president
AKRON, Ohio – Through it all, Jim Tressel never lost his charm.
As he worked the room the way he did for a decade as Ohio State's coach, delighting students and faculty members, school trustees and Akron's president with stories of past successes and plans for the future, Tressel felt like he had come back home.
"This," he said, "is a second chance."
Tressel is back on campus. He's starting over where he began.
Tressel, forced to resign in disgrace last May amid a cash-for-tattoos scandal at Ohio State that toppled the football powerhouse, was introduced Thursday as Akron's new vice president of strategic engagement, — a position created just for him.
Tressel, who started his coaching career as an undergraduate assistant for the Zips in 1975, will earn a base salary of $200,000 per year, more than $3 million less than he made during the last of 10 years guiding the Buckeyes. Tressel will begin his new job on May 1.
"I feel fortunate that I got this opportunity," Tressel said following a packed news conference on campus unlike any in the school's history. "It's going to be a fun one."
In his new position, Tressel, who said he has no interest in coaching in the NFL, will work with Akron's students, alumni and community organizations on a variety of issues. Although he's not officially on the clock, Tressel met with student leaders before the news conference, telling them he was committed to using his Northeast Ohio connections to build relationships between the school and community.
"The first thing I've got to do is listen and learn," said Tressel, who helped Akron in its search for a new football coach. "I'm just on the team."
Tressel, 59, is not permitted to have any direct involvement with the school's athletic department, one of the conditions of the five-year, show-cause sanction he was given by the NCAA following its investigation into the Ohio State mess.
NCAA spokesperson Stacey Osburn confirmed Tressel will not be allowed to have contact with recruits if he is not a "countable coach."
However, Tressel's name alone is sure to give Akron, with an enrollment of 29,000 and plans to grow to 40,000 students, a major boost in name recognition and his presence will certainly help in recruiting athletes and other students.
"It's exciting," Dan Cooper, a 20-year-old senior from Wadsworth, Ohio said as he browsed his Twitter and Facebook accounts while taking a break in the student union. "He's a big famous name and I think he's going to bring a lot of positive attention to Akron despite all the negative things that happened the last few months at Ohio State.
"Everyone is excited around campus right now."
Tressel earned his master's degree at the school in 1977.
"Life is about who you are and who you are with," he said. "It's always important where you can come back to the place that gave you your first chance."
Akron president Luis M. Proenza said he had no misgiving about his decision to hire Tressel, who remains popular in his home state.
"Look at the man. Look at what he has done," Proenza said. "Look at the thousands of lives he has impacted. We knew that was the asset. The opportunity. And we wanted that to be available. There was no question in my mind that for the university, for the community, for Northeast Ohio, for the 30,000 students at Akron, this will make a difference."
Proenza said Tressel was very helpful in the school's coaching search, which resulted in the Zips hiring former Auburn coach Terry Bowden.
Since then, Tressel and Proenza remained in contact, discussing the possibility of joining forces.
"Our vision for student success was exceptionally aligned," Proenza said.
Accompanied to the news conference by his wife, Ellen, Tressel wore a navy blue blazer and gold tie — Akron's colors — with a logo of Zippy, the school's Kangaroo mascot. Tressel was typically smooth as he answered direct questions regarding his role in Ohio State's fall.
Tressel said he has no regrets, but he did acknowledge wishing he had handled some things differently.
He has admitted to lying to NCAA investigators about his knowledge of Ohio State players receiving improper benefits. The scandal led to the Buckeyes, who are now coached by Urban Meyer, to a one-year bowl ban and a reduction in scholarships.
"I think you always go back, whether it was a game you coached or a series of things that occurred and you always go back and say here's what I could have done better," he said. "In this type thing, working with young people, you can use your experience. Just like we did talking about special teams. If the right guard didn't block the guy and we had the punt blocked, we wouldn't have lost the championship.
"You always go back and you probably learn more and can teach better from some of your shortcomings."
Tressel said since leaving Ohio State that he has finished reading 30 of 100 books he pledged to finish. He also joked that his wife was anxious for him to return to work.
"Ellen wanted me to get out of the house," he cracked. "I mean, how often can you cut the grass?"
Tressel served as a replay consultant last season for the Indianapolis Colts. He twice met with team owner Jim Irsay about the team's head coaching position but didn't get the job, and added that he has no current plans to coach again.
For now, he is committed to Akron.
"I don't really have any interest in coaching in the NFL," Tressel said. "The commitment I've made to any place I've gone is that I was going to work every day like I was going to be there forever. I'll be coaching students every day. I'm an educator.
"I'm going to work as if this is the last place I'm ever going to work. I'm excited about being a Zip."
AP Sports Writer Rusty Miller in Columbus, Ohio, contributed to this report.