COLUMBUS, Ohio, Jan. 18 -- Jim Tressel, who guided Youngstown State to four Division I-AA titles, made a huge career leap Thursday when he was named coach of the storied program at Ohio State.
Tressel, 48, has spent the last 15 years at Youngstown State, located about 170 miles from the Ohio State campus. He has compiled a 135-57-2 record with the Penguins, including national titles in 1991, 1993, 1994 and 1997. But he never has been a head coach at the I-A level.
"I'm humbled to stand before you," Tressel said at the news conference announcing his hiring. "Having been born in state of Ohio and idolizing the likes of Paul Brown, I'm excited to be here."
Tressel becomes the 22nd coach in school history and replaces John Cooper, who was fired following a 24-7 loss to South Carolina in the Outback Bowl on New Year's Day.
According to the Columbus Dispatch, Tressel was chosen over Minnesota coach Glen Mason, who was said to be "crestfallen" after receiving the news.
Oakland Raiders coach Jon Gruden and Oregon's Mike Bellotti reportedly spurned Ohio State's advances. Others contacted about the job were Ohio State assistant head coach Fred Pagac, former Buckeyes All-America linebacker Chris Spielman and Stanford coach Tyrone Willingham.
"I believe the process has been exemplary," university president William E. Kirwan said. "We left no stone unturned in hiring the coach who fit our high expectations and we did it in two weeks."
It is believed that that many ex-players and alumni wanted someone with a connection to Ohio State and Tressel was a receivers and quarterbacks coach for the Buckeyes from 1983-1985 before going to Youngstown.
Mason was believed to be a strong candidate because he played for Woody Hayes at Ohio State and was an assistant there for eight years.
Financial terms were not immediately available, but Tressel likely can expect a huge raise from the base salary of $88,500 and $20,000 annual stipend for his role of athletics director at Youngstown State.
But it will come with some extra headaches and expectations. Despite going 111-43-4 in 13 seasons in Columbus, Cooper, who came from Arizona State, never endeared himself to Ohio State's fans.
"I understand that there is a responsibility," Tressel said. "I have to uphold the great traditions and to build a new tradition. I understand the responsibility and the accountability that comes with it."
Tressel has had 12 winning seasons and 10 playoff appearances at Youngstown State. A 1977 graduate of Akron, he also served as an assistant at Miami of Ohio (1979-80) and Akron (1975-78) as well as Syracuse. He is the son of Dr. Lee Tressel, who compiled a 155-52-6 record as coach at Baldwin-Wallace College.
Cooper was just 2-10-1 against Michigan and 3-8 in bowl games. His team finished a season with consecutive losses to Michigan and in a bowl game six times.
Tressel has a no-nonsense reputation and will take over a team that at times was undisciplined. But he will have to work fast since the Buckeyes have games at UCLA, Penn State, Minnesota and Michigan next season.
"We undertand there is a lot of work, but there is nothing that we can't do," Tressel said.
Despite its reputation as an elite program, Ohio State has not won a national title since 1968.