CHICAGO — There’s a feeling that Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith has been distancing himself from embattled football coach Jim Tressel in recent weeks.
But at the Big Ten spring meetings Wednesday, Smith — while declining to discuss any details of the ongoing NCAA investigation of Tressel — affirmed his support for the coach, who is entering his 11th season with the Buckeyes.
“Oh, definitely, no question,” Smith said. “I haven’t changed, I haven’t changed. But I’m not talking about the case beyond that.”
Smith noted last month in an interview with The Associated Press that Tressel should have apologized at the infamous March 8 news conference, where Tressel acknowledged he failed to notify Ohio State officials of emails he received about some of his players receiving improper benefits.
Smith also has talked about the high legal costs Ohio State is dealing with, calling the ongoing NCAA situation “a nightmare.”
Tressel has received support at the spring meetings from fellow coaches such as Michigan State’s Mark Dantonio and Northwestern’s Pat Fitzgerald, as well as from Nebraska athletic director Tom Osborne, a longtime friend.
“Coaches are great,” Tressel said. “They understand all the challenges everyone has. It’s good to be with them.”
Tressel also talked about new Michigan coach Brady Hoke and the fuel Hoke has added to the Ohio State-Michigan rivalry.
“Brady’s awesome,” Tressel said. “Anything that’s good for the Ohio State-Michigan game, I’m for it. And Brady’s good for it.”