COLUMBUS, Ohio - Jim Tressel, who guided Ohio State to its first national title in 34 years, resigned Monday amid NCAA violations from a tattoo-parlor scandal that sullied the image of one of the country's top football programs.
"After meeting with university officials, we agreed that it is in the best interest of Ohio State that I resign as head football coach," Tressel wrote in the resignation letter he submitted on Monday morning. "The recent situation has been a distraction for our great university and I make this decision for the greater good of the school."
Luke Fickell will be the coach for the 2011 season. He already had been selected to be the interim coach while Tressel served a five-game suspension.
Ohio State spokesman Jim Lynch said that Tressel met Sunday night with athletic director Gene Smith, who then met with staff. Tressel typed his resignation and submitted it to Smith, he said.
Under terms of Tressel's contract, which was worth about $3.5 million a year through the 2014 season, Ohio State is not required to pay him any money or provide any benefits upon his resignation.
There was more bad news for the Buckeyes on Monday. The Columbus Dispatch reported that the NCAA and Ohio State are looking into whether star quarterback Terrelle Pryor received several cars and other extra benefits.
Pryor, who will be a senior this fall, has already been interviewed at least once by investigators, the paper reported. The NCAA and Ohio State are also probing more than 50 car purchases by Buckeyes players, their families, and friends.
Smith said Tressel met with his players on Monday morning. "He did an eloquent job of explaining to the young men what transition really means and what they really needed to focus on," Smith said.
The resignation came nearly three months after Ohio State called a news conference to announce it had suspended Tressel for two games - later increasing the ban to five games - and fined him $250,000 for knowing his players had received improper benefits from a local tattoo-parlor owner.
Asked at that time if he considered firing Tressel, Ohio State president E. Gordon Gee said: "No, are you kidding? Let me just be very clear: I'm just hopeful the coach doesn't dismiss me."
Gee was not joking about the Tressel situation over the weekend. Ohio State released a letter from Gee to the university's board of trustees that said, "I have been actively reviewing the matter and have accepted Coach Tressel's resignation."
Tressel and Ohio State were to go before the NCAA's infractions committee Aug. 12 to answer questions about the player violations and why Tressel did not report them. He denied knowledge of improper benefits to players until confronted by investigators with e-mails that showed he had known since April 2010.
After several NCAA violations by him or his players over the years, Tressel's problems deepened after learning several players received cash or discounted tattoos. Contrary to NCAA bylaws - and his own contract - Tressel received e-mails from a former player about this and did not tell his athletic director, university president, compliance or legal departments, or the NCAA for more than nine months.
The 58-year-old Tressel had a record of 106-22 at Ohio State. He led the Buckeyes to eight Bowl Championship Series games in his 10 years. Combined with a 135-57-2 record in 15 years at Division I-AA Youngstown State, Tressel's career mark was 241-79-2.
Ohio State announced in December that it would suggest to the NCAA that five players, including Pryor, would sit out the first five games of the 2011 season after they admitted they had received improper benefits.
They had sold memorabilia such as championship rings; uniforms; and, in the case of Pryor, a Fiesta Bowl sportsmanship award for cash or discounted tattoos at a Columbus parlor.
Tressel at a Glance
Born: Dec. 5, 1952
Alma mater: Baldwin Wallace (1975).
Head coaching record: Youngstown State, 1986-2000 (135-57-2); Ohio State, 2001-2011 (106-22). Overall: 241-79-2.
Career highlights: Led Youngstown State to the 1991, 1993, 1994 and 1997 Division I-AA national championships. Led Ohio State to seven Big Ten Conference titles and to six bowl victories in 10 appearances, including 5-3 in BCS games. Won the 2002 national title game with a double-overtime victory over Miami.
- Associated Press