Jim Tressel’s resignation as Ohio State’s football coach on Memorial Day was more surprising in its timing than in its occurrence.
Even in football-crazed Columbus, it seemed that eventually Tressel was going to be forced out in the wake of his failure to ‘fess up to lying about his players’ transgressions.
The departure of 2002 national champion and perennial title contender Tressel leaves another big hole in the college football firmament that also recently lost , 1993/1999 champion Bobby Bowden and 1997 champion Lloyd Carr to retirement, 1998 champion Phillip Fulmer to a dismissal, 2008 champion Urban Meyer to a very premature exit and 2003/2004 champion Pete Carroll to the NFL.
Other than the SEC where Alabama’s Nick Saban (two, one at LSU before going to the NFL), South Carolina’s Steve Spurrier (at Florida before going to the NFL), LSU’s Les Miles and Auburn’s Gene Cizik have each won national titles, the only active coaches who have won it all are Penn State’s Joe Paterno (way back in 1982 and 1986), Arizona State’s Dennis Erickson (at Miami in 1989 and 1991 before going to the NFL), Oklahoma’s Bob Stoops (2000) and Texas’ Mack Brown (2005).
To put it another way, unless the coach is going to be on the sidelines in a serious SEC showdown or in the Red River Rivalry this fall, he hasn’t won a title since the Bush Administration. (ITALICS) The George H.W. Bush Administration (ITALICS).
Compare this paucity of big names in college football to college basketball in which the last nine championship teams and 12 of the last 13 are still being coached by the same men who cut down the nets (Connecticut’s Jim Calhoun, Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski, Kansas’ Bill Self, North Carolina’s Roy Williams, Florida’s Billy Donovan, Syracuse’s Jim Boeheim and Michigan State’s Tom Izzo). Gary Williams, who retired last month from the University of Maryland, is the lone exception of the winners dating to 1999.
What’s more, Steve Fisher, Rick Pitino and Tubby Smith, each of whom has won a title, are still coaching, albeit at different schools than the ones at which they won it all. And of all these hoops leaders, only Pitino has ever left college for the NBA.
Maybe Oregon’s Chip Kelly, Boise State’s Chris Petersen, TCU’s Gary Patterson or Notre Dame’s Brian Kelly will soon join Saban, Cizik and Miles in winning a national championship, but in 2011, the college football landscape seems pretty bare of giants save the 84-year-old guy in State College, Pa. with the thick glasses and the throwback outfit.
David Elfin has covered sports since he was a junior at Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School in 1975. He is the Washington representative on the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee and is the former President of the Pro Football Writers of America. A pre-game regular on 106.7-The Fan during the 2010 Redskins season, he returned to the station as its blogger in March.