Amid the controversy surrounding Jim Tressel and the allegations of his NCAA violation, many Ohio State fans from across the country have pledged their support for Tressel and his signature sweater vest via Facebook.
Two separate events have spread through the Ohio State Facebook community. “Support Tressel: Wear your sweater vests for Jim Tressel!” and “Support Tressel: In the vest we trust” have garnered resounding support from the Buckeye faithful.
Tressel received a series of e-mails starting in April from former Buckeye football player and lawyer, Christopher T. Cicero, detailing possible NCAA violations his players committed. Tressel, who told Cicero he would look into the matter, failed to report the possible violations and has been fined $250,000 and suspended for the first two games of the regular season. The NCAA has yet to act on the matter, but could expand on these sanctions.
Both events called for a showing of Buckeye pride by wearing OSU apparel in the days following the scandal, but the “Wear your sweater vests” event doesn’t stop there. The event is scheduled for the date of OSU’s annual Spring Game as another example of support.
Zita Spoeneman, a second-year in sports and leisure studies, created the “Wear your sweater vests” page on Tuesday afternoon before the press conference.
“When I created it, I kind of had the thought in mind that he was going to be fired, so I kind of wanted to create it to get a support group out there for him,” Spoeneman said. “But when it became clear he was not going to be fired and just had the suspension, I figured we should just let it stick around and show him that we still support him. We still love him.”
People took notice. Spoeneman’s group has more than 5,000 attendees and the “In the vest we trust” group has more than 11,000.
While the groups are supportive of Tressel, they both explicitly acknowledge that he made a mistake. The pages’ information makes it clear that they are not endorsing Tressel’s violation of NCAA rules, but in the words of the “Wear your sweater vests” event’s information, the group is “supporting (Tressel) as a person, and a human being.”
Not everyone has the same view. Tony DelMonte, a fourth-year in consumer and family financial services, said while he still supports Tressel, he will never look at him the same way.
“I thought he was a follow-the-book coach who only made a few minor violations here and there,” DelMonte said. “Now I see that he will do almost anything to win.”
Others, however, have been a little more caustic. A few people have posted remarks calling Tressel a cheater and making jokes about the situation.
However, Gabe Henschen, a second-year in materials science engineering and creator of the “In the vest we trust” group, said he noticed something else. While at first, Henschen tried to delete negative remarks, he eventually noticed that OSU community members started policing the page themselves and coming to Tressel’s aid.
“As it got to grow larger and larger it turns out that the community would respond to the criticism,” Henschen said. “The positive comments are through the roof.”
But the people posting on Facebook aren’t the only ones who seem to be taking shots at Tressel and the program as a whole. The national perception of the recent violations has led to a lot of media backlash.
“The media is putting out a lot of negative speculation and with that comes a lot of negative comments,” Henschen said.
But the Facebook groups are trying to send those people a message.
“(The page) is to show them that even though he did make a mistake, you know, we’re not just going to throw (Tressel) under the bus and be like ‘forget you.'” Spoeneman said.
Many OSU students will stand by their coach through this admittedly dark time for the program.
“He’s going to take the consequences and stick with it, which says a lot about the person,” Henschen said. “Coaches like Lane Kiffin and Pete Carroll have skipped out on what could have happened to them. I’m proud that he’s standing in the line of fire and standing up for his decision.”