With things not looking good at Notre Dame at the moment, the rumors of Brian Kelly getting fired at some point are already making their rounds, with names of replacements being thrown up in the air. One name is particularly interesting: Jim Tressel, the current president at Youngstown State.
Why Tressel? Well, his contract as president is up in 2017, just when his suspension from coaching is up (December 19, 2016). Everyone assumes that the Fighting Irish won’t fire Kelly this year, but one more bad season (this one is going to end badly, with 5 losses already through the first 7 games) and he’s out. So why is Tressel such a hot name all of a sudden, besides the comfortable years fitting the narrative?
Well, Tressel was an extremely successful coach at every level. He won four championships with the Penguins during the 1990’s before moving on to the Buckeyes. He won the BCS championship in 2002, and won the Big Ten six consecutive times from 2005 to 2010, although everything from 2010 has been erased. Overall, he was 106-22 as the head coach of Ohio State and 66-14 in the Big Ten, including losing no more than one game in each of his final six seasons there, if we ignore the NCAA sanctions.
Taking over Notre Dame would keep Tressel close to Ohio (he has always indicated he has no intention of moving away from the Midwest) and in a recruiting ground he’s comfortable with. And while there would be those that say Tressel shouldn’t be hired again for covering up for players, the fact of the matters is most people view the Ohio State punishment as more of the NCAA flexing its muscles and over indulging itself in power than something that actually made that huge of a difference. It was players selling memorabilia in exchange for tattoos.
But there are a number of things suggesting this is nothing more than a juicy rumor. Tressel has said he’ll need time to keep up with the changes in the game during his absence (he hasn’t coached since 2010), and it might already be too late for him to catch up. He has also indicated he doesn’t want to coach well into his 70’s like Joe Paterno, and would like to retire from coaching at around 65. He’ll be turning 64 in this December, which means his coaching days are likely done.
Besides, he’s reportedly doing what he always wanted at Youngstown State, at the place he’s always wanted to work at. Obviously, there has to be a part of him that can’t help but be drawn to offers from a school like Notre Dame, but whether or not Kelly is going to be fired anytime soon, Tressel is one of the least likely coaches to replace him, even if adding the two names together makes for one heck of an intriguing speculation.