There was a Tressel back on the field at Ohio Stadium Sunday night, carrying around a football and Ohio State helmet. He smiled for the team picture, hugged DeVier Posey’s mother and made small talk with a few friends. But this has been a strange and even emotional summer for Dick Tressel, who remains as Ohio State’s running backs coach even though his brother is no longer in charge of the program. Jim Tressel hired his older brother prior to his first season in Columbus in 2001.
Now Jim is gone, but Dick remains.
“Jim was nice enough to hire me to help him, now they’ve decided he’s not the right guy to have around here and here I am,” Dick said during Ohio State’s media day on Sunday. “That’s strange. That’s very strange, because we’re just alike.”
Now Dick Tressel is left to carry on at the university his brother adored. Dick learned his brother was resigning only a few hours before the rest of the world. Jim called him after midnight on a Sunday night to tell him the next morning, Memorial Day, he was leaving, officially ending one of the most turbulent offseasons in Ohio State history.
Dick insists he knew nothing of the e-mail exchange between Jim and Columbus attorney Christopher Cicero that implicated a handful of current players for receiving free tattoos, nor did Jim ever share any other sordid details with his brother.
“A lot of people felt like I had the inside scoop and knew what was going on. That isn’t the case at all,” Dick said. “I don’t know if that’s good or bad.”
Dick said his wife, Connie, was shocked Jim didn’t seek his older brother for advice or simply a sympathetic ear during the ordeal, but looking back, Dick isn’t surprised his brother kept it all to himself.
“That’s his job, that’s not my job,” Dick said. “He’s got a plan to get it done and take care of business. I got this other thing I’m supposed to be doing, so it didn’t surprise me at all.”
Having a Tressel on staff and around the facility could be awkward or even a distraction for the players and other coaches. But interim coach Luke Fickell not only kept Tressel on staff, he added to his responsibilities, elevating him to special teams coordinator in addition to his duties as running backs coach.
For his part, Dick said he never considered leaving after his brother’s resignation, nor did he seek his brother’s advice on what to do. He already knew what Jim would say.
“Had I asked Jim if I should leave, he might have punched me,” Dick said. “For him, it’s about these kids. If he thought I was going to jump out, he’d say ‘Get your butt back in the boat baby.’ I never gave him the chance to punch me. I didn’t ask him.”
Jim Tressel has kept his distance from the program – and, at times, his brother – since his ouster. Jim visited Browns practice last week, but Dick said he hasn’t seen his brother in more than two weeks. They exchanged texts recently, at which point Dick mentioned something that had happened in practice that day. But Jim didn’t pursue the conversation and hasn’t asked for updates on players or practice.
“He knows we’ve got to do what we’ve got to do,” Dick said. “He cares a lot about it, but not so much that he feels like he needs to put his fingers in it.”