Recruiting never was a problem for former Ohio State football coach Jim Tressel. But with the face of the program gone and an impending NCAA ruling, recruiting becomes a big worry.
“(The resignation of Tressel) is a tremendous loss,” said Steve Helwagen, who covers OSU football recruiting for Bucknuts.com. “Recruits that we would interview over the years would say one of the reasons they chose Ohio State was the integrity and character of Jim Tressel, and he’s not there anymore.”
Luke Fickell will become the interim head coach, but, because his position isn’t permanent, the program is left with some uncertainty.
“With Luke Fickell being a interim coach, it basically puts the program in limbo,” Helwagen said. “I think for recruits who want to see the long-term stability of a program, Ohio State won’t be able to show anyone that until December or January at the earliest.”
The members of the 2011 recruiting class have already signed with OSU, making it difficult to switch schools. As of Monday evening, no players had announced intentions to transfer.
2011 signee and offensive lineman from Shaker Heights Antonio Underwood was quick to say he still planned to attend OSU.
“Yes, sir,” Underwood said of his intentions.
Others have followed suit.
Tight end Nick Vannett posted on his Twitter account, @N_Vannett81, “For all of those that have asked, I am and will remain part of the #buckeyenation #Noquestion.”
Bucknuts.com reported that defensive back Doran Grant also has voiced his intentions to stick with OSU.
While the 2011 class appears to remain intact, future classes might be the most affected by the recent scandals.
Underwood said Tressel’s resignation and the NCAA allegations would affect the way future recruits go about making decisions about OSU.
“I think some recruits would reopen their options,” he said. “You have to go back and recruit the kids even harder.”
Kevin Noon, managing editor of Buckeyegrove.com, said OSU still will be a very strong option for all recruits, especially those in Ohio.
“I don’t think the loss of Jim Tressel is going to be enough to cripple Ohio State’s recruiting within the state of Ohio,” Noon said. “A lot of these kids grow up as Ohio State fans regardless of who the coach is.”
Tressel had the support of Ohio high school coaches throughout the entirety of the NCAA allegations. On Saturday, the Ohio High School Football Coaches Association sent a letter of support to Tressel, university President E. Gordon Gee and athletic director Gene Smith.
“During the next few months, when some individuals may try to detract from the outstanding accomplishments that you and your staff have achieved, the OHSFCA wanted to go on record to show our loyalty and appreciation for you,” the letter said of Tressel. “You are without question the best thing to happen to Ohio Football in a long time, and we want you to know we hope you will continue to be here for a long time to come.”
Despite Tressel’s resignation two days later, Ohio high school coaches still support the university, even if Tressel is a part of it.
“It’s still the flagship program in the state of Ohio,” McKinley Senior High School football coach Ron Johnson said. “It’s one of the greatest programs in the country, and it’s not going to attract a low-quality coach. The program will carry on.”
Shaker Heights High School football coach Anthony Watkins agreed.
“It will not affect (the recruiting of) any of my student-athletes, in my perspective,” Watkins said. “It’s about his education, his playing career and all the people playing around him. And all the people I’ve ever dealt with at Ohio State have been outstanding people.”
But, Noon said, OSU’s biggest worry isn’t its relation with high school coaches, but the upcoming NCAA ruling Aug. 12.
“The truth of the matter is Ohio State will always have good coaches in place, but the kids want to be able to play for rings and championships,” Noon said. “If the NCAA comes down and mandates that the Buckeyes will not be in the postseason for a couple of years, that’s where the real trouble comes in.”