Jim Tressel, you dirty handed Machiavellian Prince

November 30, 2011

Dirty Hands


I thought it would be an appropriate time to talk about Ohio State University, and the scandal that has probed there school for the past year. For those of you who do not know what happened, I will briefly explain the true (and accused) allegations that were charged against the Ohio State football program. (IF YOU DO KNOW SKIP TO NEXT PARAGRAPH) In December of 2010 five Ohio State football players were accused of selling memorabilia and awards for improper benefits, and tattoos. These five players, including the star quarterback were suspended for 5 games beginning the 2011-12 season, although they were able to compete in the BCS Sugar Bowl game in January 2011. Soon after the suspensions, it was discovered through email history that OSU coach Jim Tressel was aware of the improper benefits being given to his players nearly eight months (!) before they were suspended, and chose not to report these major violations to the NCAA. Once these violations hit the media, many former players and boosters admitted to benefits they received while playing under Coach Tressel showing the public that this was not an isolated incident. With the dark cloud forming over the Ohio State Football program and the pile up of allegations, Coach Jim Tressel was forced to resign. Now remember, this is just a very brief explanation on all of the things that happened and are happening at Ohio State, and if you would like to know more, here is a more thorough summary.  http://aol.sportingnews.com/ncaa-football/story/2011-07-08/ohio-states-scandal-a-timeline

Now how does all of this apply to Political Science 101? The answer is very easy, and is well represented by Martin Hollis’ “Dirty Hands” and Machiavelli’s “The Prince”. This is a perfect modern example for both of these theories. Lets first look at Hollis’ theory of dirty hands. In general Hollis explains the theory of dirty hands being when a leader takes part in an act or makes a decision that is wrong, but the consequences of that action are good. In Ohio State’s case, this could not be a better example. Tressel knew of players getting improper benefits for years, and he did not stop it or report it (and may have even supported it). This action is wrong, and breaks many NCAA rules. This is cheating, and NOBODY likes a cheater. The outcomes of these actions by Tressel, however, were very positive for almost his whole ten-year career until the allegations in late 2010. These improper benefits, lured big recruits, and helped OSU recruit very well in the Midwest, and even nationally. Tressel compiled a top 25 recruiting (per ESPN) class in all but one year during his tenure at OSU. These decisions also translated to a lot of wins on the field. So for most of his career Jim Tressel was relishing with his dirty hands. The fan base LOVED him, the national media (outside of Michigan) LOVED him. Everybody who did not play him seemed to like Jim Tressel, and he was getting compared to some of the best college football coaches to ever live.

Tressel’s dirty hands directly tie into Machiavelli’s “Prince”. Jim Tressel was a proven dirty coach, and made wrong decisions in order to get wins on the field. He however did not appear to be a dirty coach. He made sure that the public perception of him was just an ultra conservative, straight laced, Christian man. He wore a sweater vest, with a comb over to every game. He was always very calm and polite when around the media. He did not publicly yell at players or get red in the face during games. He was a “good man”. He followed Machiavelli’s guideline for a prince so perfectly, it makes you think that he read it. Especially this part: “A Prince should therefore be very careful that nothing ever escapes his lips which is not replete with the five qualities, so that to see and hear him, one would think him the embodiment of mercy, good faith, integrity, kindliness, and religion. (…) Because men in general judge rather by the eye than by the hand, for all can see but few can touch. Every one sees what you seem, but few know what you are” (The Prince, 129). Jim Tressel did exactly this, if he needed to dirty his hands in order to achieve greatness, he was not afraid too, however, he made sure that the  public perceived him as a good man and upstanding citizen. Jim Tressel is a true modern Machiavellian Prince.

What do you think? Do you agree Tressel dirtied his hands? Do you think he was a Machiavellian Prince while coaching at that school in Ohio?

Regardless, GO BLUE!

Advertisements

Subscribe

Subscribe to our RSS feed and social profiles to receive updates.

7 Comments on “Jim Tressel, you dirty handed Machiavellian Prince”

  1. alexwillard Says:

    I think you made very reasonable comparison with Tressel and Machiavelli’s “The Prince”, as well as with the issue of dirty hands. To answer your question I definitely think that Tressel dirtied his hands by not admitting his players were receiving improper benefits. He was looking out for his universities football team, and while he had the choice to turn them in, it would have been detrimental to the football program. So he decided to do the wrong thing and not turn them in, for the greater goal of having his players and winning games. I also think that you made an interesting point with the Machiavellian prince and Tressel’s appearance on the sideline. Every time you saw Tressel he looked exactly as the model coach should and always spoke as the model coach should have, while simultaneously cheating. He even went as far to publish a book about how to be a model person in life. So answer to your question I think that he did play the part of Machiavelli’s prince.

  2. bbarocas Says:

    This is a great post about a football program led by a man who certainly served as a “Prince” with “dirty hands”. Jim Tressel could not have appeared as a better man, coach, and leader not only at Ohio State, but across college athletics. He was every coache’s model of what you should be like, who you should aspire to be, and how you should act. If he was not the prince Machiavelli was writing about, then I don’t know who is. The entire state of Ohio could not have been more confident in or had more appreciation for their glorious leader. He was beating Michigan, competing for national championships, and appeared to do it all the right way. This all made it such a shock when the scandal broke, and really will leave a mark on his legacy. Moving on to the issue of dirty hands, Coach Tressel certainly did dirty his hands. He knew that his football team was breaking the rules, and completely turned his back to it. As the leader of the program, he made the wrong decision to let this go on, and eventually paid the ultimate price by losing his job. For Jim Tressel the rewards of cheating apparently outweighed the risks of being caught, consistent with Hollis’ theory. Like you said though, “Regardless, GO BLUE!” We’ve got our guy Brady Hoke, and I am confident that his hands are, and will always be, clean.

  3. benjishanus Says:

    I think this is a very intelligent, insightful post. Tressel absolutely dirtied his hands in order to win over a fan base and more importantly a locker room, which translated to enormous success on the field. He also took on the form of a Machiavellian Prince as you indicated through not only his decision to win at all costs, but to then sugar coat it by putting forth such a gracious cover page of himself.

    However, I would like to point out that what Jim Tressel did was a complete disgrace, as I think this post was a bit two lenient towards him. He spat on the integrity of collegiate athletics and Ohio State University (pity). He undeniably covered up very serious actions of his players for an extended period of time. The bottom line is that he cheated and although he achieved tremendous success during his tenure as head coach, I think people need to seriously reconsider their perception of him. In my eyes, everything he accomplished has been overshadowed by the fact that he is a complete scumbag.

  4. elmatts25 Says:

    This is a GREAT example of dirty hands. I agree that Tressel dirtied his hands by allowing recruits to receive free “gifts” knowing full well that it was against NCAA rules. What I find interesting is the tie you made between Tressel’s public image and Machiavelli’s guideline for a prince. Being a seemingly “good man” was not discussed much in class but I think it is an imperative aspect of the problem of dirty hands. If the nation (except Michigan) were to think poorly of Tressel, this controversy would have been less of a shock — and probably barely even a controversy. When someone presents themselves publicly as a “good man” but makes dirty decisions privately, it becomes clear that they too know they are making dirtying their hands. Tressel knows what is right but chose to do something wrong. It is unfortunate that the past is the past and all of those wins and amazing recruiting seasons cannot be revoked… but at least we beat them this year!

  5. ceabee Says:

    I agree that Jim Tressel dirtied his hands. However, I think that he didn’t do this purposefully, and was put in an unfortunate situation. I highly doubt that Tressel knew of his players intentions to sell their memorabilia, and was simply put in an unfortunate situation once he learned of what his players had done under his watch. The fact that he didn’t report the violation is an example of a way that Tressel dirtied his hands. Tressel demonstrated that he was a Machiavellian Prince while at Ohio State because he deemed it more important to protect his reputation and to avoid possible penalties than to report the violations and face the punishment.

  6. bbarocas Says:

    This is a great post about a football program led by a man who certainly served as a “Prince” with “dirty hands”. Jim Tressel could not have appeared as a better man, coach, and leader not only at Ohio State, but across college athletics. He was every coache’s model of what you should be like, who you should aspire to be, and how you should act. If he was not the prince Machiavelli was writing about, then I don’t know who is. The entire state of Ohio could not have been more confident in or had more appreciation for their glorious leader. He was beating Michigan, competing for national championships, and appeared to do it all the right way. This all made it such a shock when the scandal broke, and really will leave a mark on his legacy. Moving on to the issue of dirty hands, Coach Tressel certainly did dirty his hands. He knew that his football team was breaking the rules, and completely turned his back to it. As the leader of the program, he made the wrong decision to let this go on, and eventually paid the ultimate price by losing his job. For Jim Tressel the rewards of cheating apparently outweighed the risks of being caught, consistent with Hollis’ theory. Like you said though, “Regardless, GO BLUE!” We’ve got our guy Brady Hoke, and I am confident that his hands are, and will always be, clean.

  7. jrsmyth177 Says:

    There is no doubt that Tressel dirtied his hands. I believe that his players dirtied his hands for him. They went out and did all of the immoral things by breaking NCAA rules. When Tressel heard of the news he was forced to make a decision, report the sanctions or keep his mouth shut. If he would have reported the sanctions he would still be coaching at Ohio. Instead he chose to keep his mouth shut. With his hands dirtied from his players’ actions, Tressel was forced to keep the immoral actions on the down low in order to protect his team. The rewards of National Titles and Big Ten Championships were more important than the integrity of his team; that is why his hands were dirty. As long as the team was winning and nobody knew of the allegations, everything was fine according to Tressel.

    I like how you incorporated Machiavelli into this. Tressel looked like a great guy. A small white guy with a come over and sweater vest, I mean come on what is better than that. Every coach wanted to be as successful as Tressel, and every coach wanted to have the same public figure as Tressel. Fans loved him. They showed their support for him by wearing sweater vests or painting his name across their chest. Everyone thought this guy was perfect, but only Tressel knew of the allegations. Great post!

%d bloggers like this: