CARDINGTON — He apologized. Again.
Jim Tressel, the much maligned head football coach of the Ohio State Buckeyes, spoke before hundreds of fans and community members Tuesday at Cardington-Lincoln High School.
The central message of the event was “Live Life to the Fullest — Family, Faith, Fitness, Football.” Four things in which Tressel could be considered an expert.
Tressel was recently suspended by The Ohio State University for two games and fined $250,000 for admitting he failed to notify the school regarding the selling of merchandise by two players.
The NCAA is still investigating the matter, and may impose additional sanctions.
In his 35-minute keynote address, he spoke of the controversy surrounding the football program — in two sentences.
“I’ve made a mistake that I’m very sorry for,” Tressel said. “And we’ve had some young people who’ve made mistakes that they’re very sorry for.”
Aside from that one statement, he focused on the central theme. Actually, he altered it slightly, changing the last word, “Football” to “Country.”
“You people already know all about football,” Tressel said to the audience, “and you all know that I don’t.”
Tressel did delve into football a bit. He related a story about his father, who practiced with the Buckeyes as a freshman to fulfill his dream of playing football for Ohio State. Instead of joining the team, he enlisted in the military.
“Our country needed him,” Tressel said of his father. “They needed him more than Ohio State needed him.”
Most of the speech related to the military, and to dealing with adversity. Tressel referred to American troops in all parts of the world, including Iraq, where they’re providing food and supplies, and Japan, where they’re helping with relief efforts from the tsunami.
“It’s become obvious to me at how blessed we are to have the people that serve in our military,” Tressel said. “I traveled around the world and met thousands of young men and women who were serving our country. And I’ve seen how extraordinary they were and how extraordinary their sacrifice is.
“You have to have an attitude of gratitude,” Tressel continued. “All you have to do is turn on the TV and see the challenges we face from all over the world. If I adopt that attitude of gratitude, and consciously think about things that I’m grateful for, then it becomes a much better day.”
In his brief visit to Morrow County, Tressel met with leaders from the Morrow County YMCA and Hospice of Morrow County. Tressel said he was impressed with their dedication and commitment.
“I can tell you right now, Morrow County is blessed to have people who care about one another,” Tressel said, “To be around folks who deeply care about one another and who care about the services within their community, believe me, it’s a blessing.”
A planned question-and-answer session was scratched before the event. Instead, Tressel accepted a gift basket from event organizers, then was whisked to his car without saying a word.
Mindy Drayer, a newsanchor for NBC-4, was the emcee. She admitted she had been anxious to meet with Tressel to do community functions for years.
“I remember her when I was at Youngstown State,” Tressel recalled. “Back then, we didn’t get much attention, being a much smaller school.”
“I remember telling him way back in the day, ‘We need you at Ohio State,’” Drayer said.
Aaron Masterson, vice-president of Dennis Hyundai, introduced Tressel to the crowd, who promptly gave a standing ovation. It was much like the ovations Tressel has received in the days since the suspension was handed down.
“We’re really proud to be a part of this,” Masterson said. “I’m glad (Tressel) was able to come to spread his message.”
Special recognition was given to Gilead Christian school, for selling the most tickets to the event.