Having led the Ohio State University Buckeyes to one Division I national championship and the Youngstown State University Penguins to four Division I-AA national championships, former football coach Jim Tressel has earned athletic clout.
YSU head coach Eric Wolford — who has not made a playoff appearance during his four-year tenure — must now head the football team while working under a legendary former coach, who will take over as university president on July 1.
“When you were an assistant coach, the one position that you didn’t want to be the coach of was the one that the head coach used to coach because he always thought that he knew more about that than you did.” Tressel said. “So, I’m sure if I were [Wolford], it would be a little bit different than having a Ph.D. biochemist who might not even notice if the team isn’t doing what they should do.”
Though Tressel possesses football expertise, he said he does not want his presence to place undue pressure on Wolford.
“What’s really important to me, and I’ll make sure that he knows that, is that I just want us to have a first class football team,” he said. “Treat people right, become the best that you can be, represent us with class and reach your potential, and that’s what we want for everyone.”
Despite Tressel’s impressive coaching career, Wolford said Tressel’s homecoming has not placed additive pressure upon him.
“Coach Tressel obviously knows me, and I do things the right way; he knows that,” Wolford said. “We recruit hard; we have a good coaching staff here; we have good players; we have good kids — they do the right things. We’re building a program.”
Tressel indicated that as university president he will oversee all campus departments — not just the football program, and he expects all departments to work toward forwarding student success.
“I really won’t have any direct involvement with the football team, just like I probably won’t with the chemistry department,” Tressel said. “I hope that the football department and the chemistry department have the same vision that we have, which is student success is number one.”
Wolford expressed confidence in Tressel’s ability to reach this goal and bolster student success.
“I think coach Tressel coming back here will be great for our community; it’ll be great for our valley,” Wolford said. “I know that coach Tressel is a positive guy. He’s always been a positive guy. He’s a definite asset to our community and our university.”
Wolford also said that Tressel’s experience as a football coach has helped prepare him to lead a university. Both a coach and a university president, he said, demand one to manage a staff, recruit students and publicly represent an institution.
“He’s a great guy. It doesn’t take very long when you sit down and visit him to see that he’s very well polished, very well spoken. He’s a leader, and that’s been proven. I think in time, we’ll see him do the same thing that he’s done everywhere else he’s been, and that’s lead this university,” Wolford said.