On this anniversary of James Patrick Tressel’s last day at work, several of the folks from tBBC are joining others in the BBN to talk about the impact that The Vest had on the program.

Coach Jim Tressel’s public persona has taken a beating over the past thirteen months, and understandably so. His transgressions deserved to be punished, and they were.

It’s still my contention that much of the animus and vitriol that’s been aimed at Jim Tressel and the Ohio State program, though, is due not to the magnitude of the infractions, but instead because the “fallen from grace” narrative is one that is attractive. It makes us feel better about ourselves, “Look at that hypocrite… see, I’m not so bad!” and provides an easy way to gain ratings and readers in our 24-7 media frenzy.

No one reads stories about “Guy did what he was supposed to do, and was consistently a good person”. Hard to sell advertising that way.

So, the backlash that Buckeye Nation has felt since December 2010 (not to mention the Tressel family) is, in many ways, magnified by the joy that people have at seeing someone dragged off of their high horse. Particularly when, as may be the case here, that persona was so carefully crafted by the man himself.

He wasn’t called the “Senator” for nothing.

Prior to “The Unfortunate Business”, the national perception of Jim Tressel was similar to the national perception of the “flyover states”- nice people, kind of boring. And some of that was accurate- from his seeming lack of offensive creativity to his efforts on behalf of his faith to the incredibly frustrating (for the media) press conference filibusters, Tress was bland, according to most. Mashed potatoes, Butter optional. Still played smoochie-pants with his wife… just like your mom and dad did, and it made you feel just as awkward.

But the fact of the matter is that, underneath the sweatervest was a man of passion and fire. While it would be hard to tell watching “Dave” crash over and over and over and over into the line, Jim Tressel had a fire that only occasionally would leak out to the public.  Luckily for me, though, I was present during two of these incidents.

The first time I ever saw The Senator act in a way that surprised me was in Seattle Washington on September 15, 2007, where Todd Boeckman and the 2-0 Buckeyes hosted Jake Locker and the 2-0 Huskies. While the highlights of the game are relatively unremarkable, the highlight for me, from the upper reaches of one of the best college football venues in America, came early in the third quarter.

Down 7-3 after the half, Washington had driven to field goal range. The attempt was blocked, and what happened quickly thereafter was a flash of passion and energy and enthusiasm from the normally buttoned down coach. Even from my seats in the upper deck, you could see that Jim Tressel was fired up for his team- seeking to spark emotion from a squad that was playing very lethargically throughout the game to that point.

His response was so significantly different to what we’d seen from him and from the team to that point, that I commented to my UW fan friends “Tress needs to be careful or he may get flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct.” Heck, it was so outside of the norm for his “persona”, that the four letter network even used it as part of their “bumper” advertisements highlighting the energy and excitement of college football. How quickly things changed, no?

The second flash of fire that I was privileged to witness was in the waning moments of a glorious night in Pasadena. With Ohio State up nine and little over two minutes to play in the game, Terrelle Pry0r had just turned a second and long into a third and one.  Drawing deep from the well of offensive fortitude, Coach Tressel… ah, who am I kidding? Tress called “Dave”, and Piqua’s Brandon Saine gave Ohio State a first down as Oregon used their last time out of the game.

At the end of that clip, though, you can see the focus and intensity that Jim Tressel brought to the moment. Criticized throughout his career for not having his teams “finish” opponents because of his conservative playcalling, this was a contest that Tressel wanted. After three consecutive BCS game failures, after hearing all week that the Buckeyes would be unable to keep up with the flash and speed of Oregon’s “blur” offense, this one meant something. As an Ohio native, he surely understood the significance of winning “The Grand-daddy” of them all; his predecessor even figured that out, the one redeeming quality in many fans’ minds regarding John Cooper was a victory over Arizona State in Pasadena.

So, I’m confident that it was more than just the promise from his wife that he could finally get his convertible which encouraged his outburst. It was his desire to see his team accomplish something that would send his seniors out on a high note and etch their place in Columbus history. And his focus was obvious not just to the team in the white jerseys, but to those of us seated in the stadium on that warm and glorious January night.

James Patrick Tressel’s career will be remembered in numerous ways in the years to come. Like Coach Hayes, the situation involving the end of his tenure will be all that stick with some people, and all that others will be interested in discussing.  However, his team’s win/loss record against That School Up North and in BCS games, his ability to graduate players and see the team’s APR and numbers on the B1G Academic All-Conference roles, and the ways that he worked to touch the lives of even the people on the edges of Ohio State sports should also be weighed in the balance of his life.

And those things do not happen if he’s merely a polite, bland gentleman with a penchant for sleeveless attire

Be sure to check out other articles from the Buckeye Bloggers Network that look at Jim Tressel’s career and legacy at Ohio State: