WESTLAKE, Ohio – The new Ohio State coach picked up an award from the old Ohio State coach on Tuesday night.
Though Urban Meyer accepting the Lee Tressel Award from Lee’s son, Jim, grabs attention, theirs was a quick transaction made between smiling parties at the Northeastern Ohio Chapter of the National Football Foundation’s Scholar-Athlete Awards banquet.
Afterwards, Jim Tressel said it was anything but awkward.
“I’ve known Urban for a long, long time,” Tressel said. “When was a young guy coming up, I was leaving Ohio State just as he was coming in as a graduate assistant. When he was at Bowling Green, I’d see him. When he was at Florida we’d bump into one another whether it was at a convention or recruiting.
“No, there’s nothing uncomfortable there. I’m still a Buckeye. I’m always rooting for the Buckeyes.”
Like Tressel, Meyer is a Northeast Ohio native, raised in Ashtabula. The late Lee Tressel coached his son at Baldwin-Wallace College in Berea the 1970s.
Tressel said in his introduction speech Tuesday night: “We’ve always said that winners win, and Urban Meyer has been a winner everywhere he’s ever been.”
Meyer’s acceptance remarks were short. He said the Buckeyes 2012 seniors were “arugably the most unselfish group of young men I’ve ever been around” and said he proudly accepted the award “but it would not have been possible without the sacrifices those seniors made…the best group of seniors I’ve ever been around.”
He thanked Tressel for recruiting those players to Ohio State and said they join a special club of only five teams every to have completed an undefeated season at Ohio State. Tressel’s 2002 Buckeyes went unbeaten and won the national championship. Last year’s team was serving a bowl ban as part of the fallout from the scandal that ended Tressel’s 10-year tenure.
The Lee Tressel Award goes to a Div. I coach and a coach from a smaller division school each year. Larry Kehres of Mount Union was also honored — on the dais, Kehres sat between Meyer and Tressel — and then on Wednesday morning announced his retirement with a career record of 332-24-3 and 11 Div. III national championships.
Jim Tressel stuck around for more than 30 minutes after the banquet signing autographs and posing for pictures.
“This is one I look forward to,” Tressel said. “I put it on my calendar 10 months in advance. Northeast Ohio is important to me. I’m a Browns guy, I’m a Buckeye — Youngstown State, Baldwin-Wallace, Akron, I’m all of those now. It’s fun to be around a bunch of people I’ve known for years that I don’t get to see very often.”
Ohio State forced Tressel out in May 2011, and Meyer took over two days after the end of the 2011 regular season. Tressel has spent the last year and one week as the University of Akron’s vice president of strategic engagement, where he works closely with students and administrators on a variety of issues.
The 60-year-old Tressel said he’s enjoying his new life and doesn’t have the itch to return to coaching.
“I’ve been so busy that I haven’t been yearning to coach,” he said. “I always say that I used to have 100 young people to worry about and now I have 28,000. About the only time I get an itch to coach is when I’m watching a game and I get up off the couch and yell, ‘No! We shouldn’t do that!’
“Outside of that, though, no. What I loved about what I did for 38 years is working with kids. And the good news is I get to work with kids every day. It’s fun.”