Tressel is coaching in the classroom

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Ross Jones

Ross Jones is an NFL Editor for FOXSports.com. He is a member of Pro Football Writers of America. Follow him on Twitter.


Jim Tressel is no longer on the sidelines. He is still teaching and coaching.

Daily tasks are much different than his days as head coach at Ohio State but his objectives at the University of Akron remain the same.

Instead of game planning for the next Big Ten team to come into the Horseshoe, Tressel, Akron’s vice president for student success, has a variety of duties, including teaching a three-credit course called the General Principles of Coaching.

Tressel, 60, alongside his mentor Jim Dennison, tag team the class that ranges from college students to recent retirees. Dennison, Akron’s all-time most winning coach from 1986-93, gave a 23-year-old Tressel his first job out of college in 1975 as a graduate assistant.

From a coaching family and playing quarterback for his father, Dr. Lee Tressel, at Baldwin-Wallace, Jim Tressel was prepared for life after his playing days. Tressel continues to credit Dennison for shaping many of the philosophies he coached with during his 36-year career.

“It wasn’t like it was brand new to me but anything different than the way my father did was totally brand new,” Tressel told FOXSports.com in a telephone interview. “It was life-changing being here with Jim and [nearly] 40 years later getting back with him has been a real blessing.

“I think when you have your first opportunity and you don’t have any experience that first opportunity does a lot to shape who you are and how you proceed.”

Tressel, of course, went on to coach major college football at Youngstown State and Ohio State and uses his experience as examples to his students.

The duo begins the semester with the fundamentals and by answering a basic question, “What is coaching?”

Gradually, the dialogue transitions into foundational beliefs and what gets the most out of players. The curriculum is designed to cover all avenues of the industry, including visualizing success, building a program from scratch and how to motivate the modern-day player. Football X’s and O’s aren’t a priority because the class welcomes students from all sports, which hosts guest speakers who are involved in other Akron athletic programs.

Tressel shares his timeless philosophy – ‘The Wheel of Life’ or ‘The Block O of Life’ – which is based on six pillars, and makes players define their purpose and set goals for themselves for life both during and after football.

Although Tressel eventually resigned following an Ohio State scandal in 2011, he continues to monitor his former players and the doings of college football.

Last week when a player-driven campaign was launched at multiple universities (Georgia, Georgia Tech and Northwestern) across the nation called APU, short for All Players United, Tressel offered his thoughts. Players wrote the acronym on their gear on nationally televised games, which support the following, per the National College Players Association:

-Demonstrate unity among college athletes and fans from different campuses seeking NCAA reform.
-Show support for the players who joined concussion lawsuits against the NCAA, which could force the NCAA to finally take meaningful steps to minimize brain trauma in contact sports and provide resources for current and former players suffering with brain injuries.

-Show support for the players who stepped up in the O’Bannon v. NCAA, EA Sports lawsuit regarding the use of players images/likeliness, which could unlock billions of dollars in resources for current, future, and former players.

-Stand behind individual players being harmed by NCAA rules.

-Direct a portion of over $1 billion in new TV revenue to guarantee basic protections:
• Guarantee scholarship renewals for permanently injured players
• Ensure injured players are not stuck with sports-related medical bills
• Increase scholarships $3-5k to cover the full cost of attendance
• Minimize brain trauma in contact sports
• Establish an educational lockbox (trust fund) to increase graduation rates

“I never really loved our guys putting things on their eye [black] or wristbands,” Tressel said. “We never really outlawed it unless it was outlawed. But that’s why we live in this country; they’re allowed to express themselves. But we always try to keep it in context because that’s why we call it a uniform.

“I think it’s an interesting discussion that you can have. Is the proper balance between the opportunities young people have in college athletics and the rights they have and what they’ve been able to take from it versus what they haven’t been able to take from it. I would have to say I would fall all over the place in agreeing with both sides of things many times because it’s a very interesting debate.”

Tressel continues to keep in touch on a weekly basis with his former quarterback and current Raiders starter Terrelle Pryor. Coming off a Week 3 loss against the Denver Broncos, Tressel called it “tough duty” going up against Peyton Manning in front of a national audience. While Tressel is in his second year of an NCAA five-year, show-cause penalty, which would make any school that hires him subject to sanctions, he’s more than happy with what he’s doing.

“Do I wake up in the morning thinking about taking over a football team, I really don’t,” he said. “I haven’t had that moment, but it doesn’t mean I won’t.

“I’m a young man but at this point I haven’t had that.”

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