This Saturday as the ESPN Gameday crew heads to Columbus, OH, for the Ohio State-Penn State matchup, they will air a segment on a class that head coach Jim Tressel teaches to students who attend The Ohio State University on the theory and practice of coaching football. I was able to read some of the finer points that ESPN will cover regarding the class via the Columbus Dispatch newspaper, whose headline article covered the very same topic. After having read the article, I walked away from it wishing I could audit the course on a pass/fail basis. Alas, as the course is taught Mondays and Wednesdays during the fall beginning at 7:30am, there is a conflict with my work schedule that would prevent me from taking this course. There is no doubt a lot to be learned from this course, I gather. But there was an even bigger question that was nagging me when I had finished the article. Coach Tressel no doubt passes along a sea of information to not only his students in this class, but also to his players on the field. However, I have often wondered what lessons does Coach Tressel learn from his players? From the media? And last, but not least, the fans, some of whom faithfully attend each home game, regardless of the Buckeyes record?
If I really wanted to know the answers to these questions, I guess someday I could rearrange my work schedule so I could attend his class. Then again, they don't call him the senator for nothing. Having worked two separate stints on Capitol Hill in Washington I am fully aware that public figures such as Tressel have to be careful what they say, regardless of the setting. Therefore, even if I attended the class, I may not get the answer I was looking for when I ask him "how do you respond to those critics who say your team's schedule could be tougher?". And of course if I push too much he might even kick me out of his class, as even attending The Ohio State University is a privilege, not a right. So much for getting a glimpse into the thought process of the man dubbed "The Senator" via direct inquiry in his class.
Of course I might be able to gain some insight as to his thought process by just attending his class, soaking up all the information he passes along, and applying that information to what I see every Saturday in the fall when his team enters the stadium to play. Ever since his first season as head coach, fans of Ohio State football have wondered why coach Tressel plays so conservatively, why he won't hire an offensive coordinator, and why The Ohio State University continues to schedule multiple nonconference games against significantly inferior opponents(many of whom reside in the state of Ohio). And to a point Tressel has answered his critics on two of those three questions, and the media in Columbus has often surmised at answers to the third question. But attending a class taught by the coach would not only be beneficial in that I would see how Tressel views the x's and o's of the football field, but maybe get a glimpse into how Tressel sees his team as compared to the rest of the nation.
All of this leads me to the next question, which is: Tressel teaches many, both on and off the field, but can he himself be taught? Can his players teach Tressel that running the same play over and over until it fails miserably might not be the best strategy? Can the media impart to Tressel that OSU is not only the standard bearer for the state of Ohio, but also for the midwest and the Big Ten Conference? And finally, can Buckeye Nation teach Jim Tressel that Woody Hayes was loved not just because he beat Michigan, but also because he led the Buckeyes to four National Titles? The answers to all of these questions remain to be seen. For starters, Tressel is adamant about reminding his fans and critics that life is bigger than the game of football. Indeed it is. Life will go on long after Ohio State football is a distant memory. That is not to say that Jim Tressel is happy when his team loses. Or that he intentionally calls plays "not to lose the game" rather than win the game. It's just to say that a loss doesn't mean the end of the world. Which, in the end, might be the biggest lesson that anyone could learn, even someone like him.