The Jim Tressel years at Ohio State, from a Michigan fan's perspective, as told through all Rolling Stones U.S. studio album titles (though the albums are not in chronological order)*:
*-warning: some reaches are shoulder-separating in nature
England's Newest Hitmaker: OK, Ohio's. Only variation here. With the Ohio State football fortunes reeling in January 2001, head coach John Cooper is finally fired after 13 seasons of disappointments, great expectations and ultimately false promise. Enter Jim Tressel.
Beggars Banquet: The night of his hiring, he attends an OSU basketball game and promises the crowd they'll all be proud of their Buckeyes in the classroom, in the tattoo parlors and, most especially, at the auto dealerships. Or something like that.
Between the Buttons: Woody Hayes' trademark game-day fashion statement was short-sleeve shirts — no matter the month, no matter the weather. Tressel decides his will be a sweatervest.
Emotional Rescue: Tressel comes through with a huge upset win in Ann Arbor in his first game against Michigan in 2001. It is Ohio State's first win at Michigan in 14 years, and denies Michigan a Big Ten championship and BCS berth. Buckeye Nation rejoices.
A Bigger Bang: What could Tressel do for an encore? Only go 14-0 and win the national championship.
Out of Our Heads: The 2002 Michigan at Ohio State football game. UM fans escape with their lives, some barely, after the worst treatment ever accorded visiting fans at a Big Ten football game. Before and after, thousands of piss-drunk wrist-draggers unleash waves of vandalism, violence and urine along the Olentangy, as Columbus police pepper-spray the unruly mobs. Oddly, the Columbus Chamber of Commerce does not brag about this day in its brochures.
Bridges to Babylon: Even before the title game against Miami, Tressel's star player — freshman running back Maurice Clarett — starts coming unhinged. Then in the off-season it comes out that Clarett was on the take from boosters, for thousands of dollars, as OSU would later reveal. Tressel pleads ignorance throughout. In retrospect, this is where he began selling his soul, as he'd done at Youngstown State. Clarett gets suspended, then eventually kicked out of school, after which he tries to sell out the school and AD, but Tressel's teflon is brand new and works magnificently. Nothing to see here, move along.
Sticky Fingers: In an October 2003 night game at Wisconsin, after the whistle blows on a non-descript play, OSU linebacker Robert Reynolds just can't seem to pry his Spock death-grip off the throat of Badgers QB Jim Sorgi, injuring his trachea, rendering him unable to speak and struggling to breathe. Sorgi can't play the rest of the way but Wisconsin wins anyway.
Their Satanic Majesties Request: The entire Michigan team and its entourage, without any advance notice, are detained entrance at the gates of Ohio Stadium before the 2004 game. The buses empty, while security personnel and bomb- and drug-sniffing dogs look slowly and intently for Osama Bin Laden, as Michigan's young team is left surrounded by the venomous wrist-draggers.
Undercover: Less than a month after coming out of nowhere on the OSU roster to beat Michigan in that 2004 game, QB Troy Smith is found to have taken money from a booster. He is suspended for the bowl game, and Tressel (who claimed to know nothing about it) doesn't start him early in 2005.
Goat's Head Soup: In the 2006 #1 vs #2 showdown game, Michigan trails only 35-31 when eventual Heisman Trophy winner Troy Smith runs out of bounds near midfield, far short of a first down on a 3rd-and-long. But Michigan's Shawn Crable plays the goat, hitting Smith in the head as he goes out of bound — either hard enough to warrant a penalty or not, depending on your maize-and-blue glasses. that puts Michigan in the soup after the 15-yard walkoff. OSU wins 42-39.
Black and Blue: Michigan's senior offensive stars, QB Chad Henne and RB Mike Hart, are black and blue and barely able to play in the 2007 Big Ten title showdown at Ann Arbor. Ohio State cruises to a 14-3 win, Lloyd Carr's final game at the Big House. But for the second straight season, the Buckeyes are beaten black and blue by an SEC team in the BCS title game, last year Florida, this year LSU.
Let it Bleed: Tressel's Buckeyes pulverize Rich Rodriguez's Wolverines in 2008 and 2010, and even though in 2009 the Wolverines play over their heads, they still turn it over five times in a 21-10 loss. After the win in 2010, Tressel's winning streak vs Michigan increases to 7, and his record against the Wolverines improves to 9-1.
December's Children: In the last month of 2010, the FBI tips off Ohio State (conveniently, eight months later and only a couple weeks after the football season) that five Ohio State players have sold trinkets and other items in exchange for tattoos at a notorious Columbus tattoo parlor. With the lobbying help of Big Ten commissioner Jim Delaney, the five players are allowed to still play in the Sugar Bowl against Arkansas, and will instead serve five-game suspensions to start 2011.
12x5: Against Arkansas, 12 points total are scored by the Tat Five, and Ohio State wins the Sugar Bowl, 31-26.
Dirty Work: In March 2011, Yahoo.com learns that an internal audit of emails by Ohio State lawyers — as part of their self-examination to satisfy NCAA investigators — has revealed that Jim Tressel knew of the Tat Five incident back in April 2010, yet did not inform anyone at the university, then lied in September and again in December about having been aware the whole time. This deceit thus allows the Tat FIve to play every game in 2010.
Some Girls: Before Yahoo can post its report, Ohio State beats them to the punch by conducting the Worst. Bad Announcement. Press Conference. Ever. Bar. None. In an incomprehensibly incompetent display of contrition, accountability, honesty, intelligence, PR savvy and masculinity — the likes of which might never be seen again — OSU president Gordon Gee, AD Gene Smith and Tressel put on tutus and slippers, assume first position, stare into the mirrors and dance around everything.
It's Only Rock and Roll: The media can't let this go now— they all are salivating at the chance to uncover what these bozos at the press conference were clearly trying to gloss over. Investigations are rockin' and rollin' come April. And we like it. Even the (news desk of the) Columbus Dispatch gets into the FOI game. Tressel is found to have lied at the news conference when it is learned he forwarded the April 2010 tipoff email about the Tat Five to QB Terrelle Pryor's 'handler' back in Pennsylvania.
Tattoo You: And you, and you, and you, and you. In May 2011, Sports Illustrated sends to Columbus a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist, an expert in college sports corruption. He discovers, among other things, that many more OSU football players, going back many more years, have been trading trinkets and even loads of their football equipment at two local tattoo parlors, in exchange for tattoos and even pot.
Voodoo Lounge: The current tattoo parlor du jour is described by SI sources to be a favorite hangout of many Ohio State football players, where they go to lounge around, play video games and who knows what-all.
Exile on Main St.: The damning SI article is the tipping point. Ohio State cuts Tressel loose.
Steel Wheels: With a suspended driver's license, Terrelle Pryor drives to the team meeting at which Tressel informs his charges he has resigned. It is the fourth or fifth known loaner car, or bargain car, Pryor has driven while in Columbus, the worst kept secret in town. Many other Ohio State players and their families have been getting ridiculously good deals at a couple of local car dealerships for years, as former OSU WR Ray Small bragged in the days before Tressel's canning. And OSU compliance doesn't know anything about it, only they do because the salesman in question says he has spoken with OSU's head of compliance in great detail about it all on the phone some 50 times.
Aftermath: Tressel's name is mud, permanently. And in something only Dickens could dream up, a Luke Fickell is the new head football coach at Ohio State. Well, interim head coach.
Now: As the NCAA investigators recomb Columbus, sure to find more, the Michigan fanbase can repair its heart of stone. Ten years of pain and 19 nervous breakdowns later, we have got our Satisfaction. He couldn't hear the NCAA knocking, but no sympathy for this devil. Best of all, they'll never make a saint of him.