Former Youngstown State head football coach and Director of Athletics Jim Tressel left a major mark not only on the Athletic Department and YSU campus, but on the entire Mahoning Valley community.
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. He led the Ohio State Buckeyes to a 14-0 record and a National Championship in 2002.
Tressel brought a winning attitude to the Mahoning Valley when he took charge of the Penguin football program in the mid-1980's. 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 Division I-AA 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 after a 4-3 start. YSU won at Georgia Southern on Nov. 2 and was never to lose again that season. In the playoffs, the Penguins beat Villanova and Nevada-Reno in the final seconds and defeated Samford and Marshall.
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.
In 1994, the Penguins were unbeaten in 15 games finishing 14-0-1. YSU tied Stephen F. Austin in the season opener and then 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 championship game. YSU beat Boise State 28-14 to earn its third national title in four seasons.
In 1997, the Penguins were back in the national title hunt again. In the preliminary rounds of the playoffs, YSU beat Hampton, Villanova and Eastern Washington to advance to the title game. In a tight defensive battle, YSU beat McNeese State 10-9 to earn the fourth of Tressel's national titles.
En route to the 1999 National Championship Game, YSU set an NCAA Division I-AA record winning 15 consecutive playoff games after beating Montana, North Carolina A&T and Florida A&M in the preliminary rounds. In the championship game, YSU lost to Georgia Southern ending its streak.
In his final year in 2000, YSU finished 9-3 and qualified for the playoffs for the 10th time.
Tressel left his mark on every one of his players and coaches who served at YSU during his tenure. He helped turn a program from a school that hoped to win every game and season to one that was expected to win every game and make the playoffs every year.
Chevrolet National Coach of the Year
1997, 1994, 1993
Eddie Robinson Coach of the Year
AFCA National Coach of the Year
AFCA Regional Coach of the Year
Ohio College Coach of the Year
1999, 1997, 1994, 1991, 1990, 1989
OVC Coach of the Year