YOUNGSTOWN — Like everything else with the times, college football has seen its fair share of changes since Jim Tressel commanded the sidelines at Ohio State and Youngstown State.
In addition to implementing a four-team playoff since YSU’s outgoing president left coaching in 2011, college football has also changed its transfer rules and is now allowing athletes to earn their share of the revenue pie by taking advantage of the their name, likeness and likeness (NIL ).
Prior to the creation of the transfer portal in 2018, student-athletes in income sports such as football and basketball would have had to sit out a year if they transferred to another school in the same level, unless the NCAA approved a waiver to play immediately at the new school. If they moved, from FBS to FCS or from Division I to Division II, they could play right away, or if they were a graduate transfer, they could play right away.
“I saw quite a change in Division I-AA at that point,” Tressel said of the transfer rules during his time as YSU’s coach. “We’ve had a number of transfers come in and sit a year and stand up academically. They spent time learning about the culture of our show and then had really great careers as they went along. But I noticed that when they moved and were immediately eligible, the transfer success rate wasn’t as good.
However, in recent years, the waiver has become somewhat of a formality, and the transfer portal has almost become a kind of free agency in college athletics. Tressel said he disagrees with new rules that allow athletes to become eligible immediately.
“Part of the discussion was, how come a coach can leave and not have to sit down? So I understand all the arguments and discussions” said Tressel. “I think for the long-term benefit of the student, the best thing is to have to sit a year, get into your new academic curriculum, your new academic structure and your new program. Pay dues, if you want. I think college athletics, high school athletics have become a little bit more professional than before. But it’s reality, it’s the world we live in.”
However, even with the new rules, the changes continue to be implemented. For example, in August, the NCAA adopted the creation of specific transfer windows for each football season, while also adopting new, more specific standards for immediate eligibility waivers.
An unintended consequence of the new transfer rules has been the effects it has on high school athletes. With college coaches now able to fill a roster spot with another college athlete who may or may not already have college experience instead of a high school player, there are fewer and fewer opportunities available for high school recruits.
Tressel said he understands there will be fewer opportunities for high school athletes, but adds that they can still try to make the most of their college experience by going to play at a lower level and then, if they do well, transfer to the higher level. .
“We know this is a changed world. How do we make it the best we can?” said Tressel. “The difficult part is that the NCAA has to balance legally and on the other hand what is best for the student and collegiate programs. I think they are working hard to try and figure that out.
NIL is something Tressel didn’t have to deal with during his time as a college coach.
On July 1, 2021, the NCAA’s new policy allowing college athletes to profit from their name, image and likeness went into effect following a unanimous Supreme Court ruling in the NCAA against Alston.
Basically, NIL means that college athletes now have the ability to make money by doing endorsements, appearances, social media posts, writing books, hosting camps, giving classes, selling memorabilia, and various other business ventures, all without violating NCAA rules. .
“Like most things, it changes to inches” said Tressel. “When I started coaching 45-50 years ago, college athletics wasn’t big business. I think where we are now with NIL, because when it was changing, the student athlete wasn’t given some of that change, we’re now at a point where instead of coming up with some clever stuff, like maybe some annuities — stuff that really could’ve benefited the students who played college and made that money long term – now it’s going to be about what can i get now?
Tressel’s coaching career ended when he resigned from Ohio State in May 2011 after multiple NCAA violations were revealed within the Buckeyes’ schedule.
Several players were reported to have traded memorabilia for services rendered with a Columbus tattoo parlor. An investigation found that Tressel learned of this in March 2010, but did not report it to university officials and continued to field players he knew were ineligible.
Today, something like this would probably have been corrected in today’s climate with NIL rules. Also, the same players who broke NCAA rules then, likely would have had NIL agreements of their own now, especially in a program like Ohio State, thus obliterating the need to sell memorabilia for cash or services rendered.
Despite that, Tressel said looking back that he has no qualms about how his time with the Buckeyes ended up.
“I think that whenever you are part of something, you are part of it the moment you are part of it” said Tressel. “The rules are what the rules are at the moment, the rules are like this. The rules are different now. But then the rules were no different. So, I never look back and say I was treated wrong or anything. I’ve always seen it from a teacher’s point of view, not from a business point of view. So you make decisions, people around you make decisions, and sometimes you are influenced by those decisions.
“I’ve always believed that whatever the consequences, whatever situation you face, you learn your lessons from it.”
Currently, in the case of Ohio State, as of last summer, according to Front Office Sports, the Buckeyes were No. 1 nationally in total NIL compensation among all of its student athletes and in total number of student-athletes with at least one NIL contract.
For example, per On3, star Buckeyes quarterback CJ Stroud has an estimated NIL rating of $2.7 million, while star receiver Marvin Harrison Jr.’s rating is around $1.4 million. This is on the high end though. For most other football players, the valuation number ranged from $30,000 to 100,000.
However, with the amount of money starting to roll out, Tressel said it’s a “little fear” about where things might go with NIL. He said that he is mostly concerned about the student’s long-term future.
“I think there are a lot of good people trying to sit down and talk about how we can make the best of the situation, and I guess my feeling is that we should always come back to what is best for the student that will impact the their long- range future,” said Tressel. “Now it runs like, well, what’s the best thing I can do for this student so I can get him to play on my team. It’s hard. I hope we can work this out, but I don’t think you will have a hard time and hard lessons to learn. But that’s what life is.