|Years at YSU:||1986-2001|
Without Jim Tressel it’s hard to envision what Youngstown State would be like today.
Walk into the football office lobby in Stambaugh Stadium and see the four National Championship trophies. The trophies are also on display for everyone to appreciate in Kilcawley Center.
Now whenever you run into a YSU student-athlete during his tenure, they rave about the positive impact he had on their lives. And there are hundreds.
When he returns to campus, or the Mahoning Valley, people flock to be around him. And that respect has been returned in-kind for many, many years.
Tressel brought a winning attitude to the Mahoning Valley when he took charge of the Penguin football program in the mid-1980s. He gave the people something to rally around in a time of need and helped keep the spirits of everyone in the community high.
He came to Youngstown in 1986 and within two seasons the Penguins were in the NCAA Playoffs. The playoffs, once a dream, became common place for YSU. In his tenure, Youngstown State appeared in the playoffs 10 times and won four national championships.
The first national title came in 1991 and began a run of four straight title-game appearances. The march to the crown in 1991 was magical as the Penguins won eight straight to end the season. YSU won at Georgia Southern on Nov. 2 and was never to lose again that season. In the playoffs, the Penguins beat Villanova, Nevada-Reno and Samford before beating Marshall in the title game.
After losing in the title game to Marshall in 1992, the Penguins were back in 1993 to finish 13-2 and beat the Thundering Herd 17-5 in the title game. This year marks the 20th anniversary of that season.
In 1994, the Penguins were unbeaten in 15 games and finished 14-0-1. YSU tied Stephen F. Austin in the season opener and then won a school-record 14 consecutive games to earn a repeat championship. In the playoffs, the Penguins beat Alcorn State, Eastern Kentucky and Montana en route to the title game. YSU beat Boise State 28-14 to earn its third national title.
In 1997, the Penguins were back in the national title hunt. In the playoffs, YSU beat Hampton, Villanova and Eastern Washington to advance to the title game. In a tight defensive game, YSU beat McNeese State 10-9 to earn Tressel’s fourth title.
En route to the 1999 title game, YSU set an NCAA FCS record with 15 consecutive playoff wins after beating Montana, North Carolina A&T and Florida A&M in the preliminary rounds. In the championship game, YSU lost to Georgia Southern.
In his final year in 2000, YSU finished 9-3 and qualified for the playoffs for the 10th time.
Tressel spent 15 years as the head coach at Youngstown State and six as the Executive Director of Intercollegiate Athletics before being named the head football coach at The Ohio State University in January 2001.
In his tenure at YSU, Tressel was 135-57-2 for a .702 winning percentage. He won 24 playoff games and guided the Guins to 12 winning seasons.
Tressel was named the Chevrolet National Coach of the Year in 1997, 1994 and 1993 and received the Eddie Robinson Coach-of-the-Year Award in 1994. A four-time Regional Coach of the Year, he was the AFCA’s FCS National Coach of the Year in 1994 and 1991. Additionally, he was recognized as the Ohio College Coach of the Year in 1999, 1997, 1994, 1991, 1990 and 1989 while with YSU. He was the Ohio Valley Conference’s Coach of the Year during his second year at Youngstown State in 1987. That season the Penguins were 8-4 and reached the FCS Playoffs for the first-time in school history.
On July 1, 1994, he was named the Executive Director of Intercollegiate Athletics and served in that capacity until January 2001. One of his final duties as Athletics Director was to spearhead the department’s move into the Horizon League.
When he left Youngstown State to take over the football program at Ohio State, Penguins fans knew what lied ahead for the Buckeyes: Winning and championships.
And he did plenty of that. From 2001-10 he was the head coach of the Buckeyes and guided the program to the 2002 National Championship, six Big Ten Championships, nine bowl appearances, seven 10-win seasons and an 8-1 record against Michigan. His record at Ohio State was a stellar 94-21.
In 2002, Ohio State came from out of nowhere to capture the Big Ten’s first consensus national title since 1968, posting a 13-0 regular-season record and upsetting top-ranked Miami in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl in a 31-24 double-overtime thriller, becoming the first FBS school to record a 14-0 campaign. For his efforts during the year, he was named the AFCA and Eddie Robinson Coach of the Year on the FBS level.
In 2006, Ohio State opened the season at No. 1 in the polls and held that ranking throughout the course of the regular season, the first team to go wire-to-wire at the top spot. Posting a 12-0 record during the regular season, Ohio State recorded wins over Texas and Michigan, both of which were ranked No. 2 at the time they played the Buckeyes, and played Florida in the BCS championship game in Arizona.
Tressel amassed an overall record of 229-79-2 after 24 years as a collegiate head coach and won five National Championships.
His commitment to YSU continues today through his vision of making the Watson and Tressel Training Site a reality. The facility, first announced by Tressel and Watson families in July 2007, has transformed the campus landscape. In its two-plus years of service, the facility is one of the most impressive in the FCS. The families also endow scholarships and still provide for student-athletes at Youngstown State and Baldwin-Wallace.
A graduate of Berea High School, Tressel played for his father, Lee, at Baldwin-Wallace, earning four letters at quarterback and winning all-conference honors as a senior in 1974. He graduated cum laude in 1975 with a degree in education. He received his master’s in education from Akron in 1977.
He embarked upon his coaching career in 1975 as a graduate assistant at Akron, where he remained through 1978. He served in a full-time capacity his last three seasons as coach of the quarterbacks, receivers and running backs.
Tressel is currently the Vice President for Strategic Engagement for the University of Akron.
Jim is married to the former Ellen Watson. They are the proud parents of four accomplished adults: Zak, Carlee, Eric and Whitney.