Spring football practice has started for Ohio State, with lots of questions to be answered - not the least of which is who is going to replace the Tattoogate five, suspended for the first five games of the 2011 season.
Of course, Buckeye head coach Jim Tressel is in the same boat -a five-game suspension in addition to a $250,000 fine -- for knowing about his players' involvement in the sale of memorabilia, but apparently not letting anyone in authority at OSU know about it.
But around here, no one knows Tressel any better than Parkersburg's own Allan Johnson, who served as Tressel's head strength and conditioning coach for his first years on the job, from 2001 through 2005.
So Johnson, currently serving as the Wood County middle school athletic coordinator, has a little bit of a different take than most on Tressel's tenuous situation in Columbus.
And Johnson even now says unequivocably that his "attitude, respect and loyalty" to Tressel "has never wavered. And through this whole thing, you know what, I'm sure he's taken the brunt of everything in all the allegations.
"But I know what he stands for and I know what he's about. So when I first heard about this, the first thing that entered my mind with this whole thing was that (OSU) president (Gordon) Gee and (athletic director) Gene Smith knew from Day 1, because Tressel is that type of person. He's very honest, very sincere and very loyal."
In fact, Johnson said "in the five years I worked with Jim Tressel, there's no gray area. There's no question about, 'Should we be doing this or doing that?' If there's any way that it teeters on breaking NCAA rules at all, that's not even an option for him. It's a no-brainer.
"So when all this came out, I'll tell you what, he didn't do anything. I mean sure, maybe did he protect his players and protect the program, etc. and etc.?
"But going in, I guarantee you he knew this was coming. He's the kind of person who will, first of all, do what's right, and also he will protect his university, his players and his coaches." So much so, noted Johnson, that Tressel "will take all the punishment, all the negativity and all the criticism.
"This is a classic example, in my opinion, with Tressel being the type of person he is -- being extremely loyal -- of him taking the fall."
Johnson related he's "talked to a couple people up there (at OSU) in the athletic department with football, and Tressel's taking all the bullets. He's standing up front with a cape. He's the face, the picture of the program."
But will Tressel's loyalty cost him his job? "Yes, it could," said Johnson. "But what you see is what you get from him every day of his life; I've never been around a person like him in terms of what he represents. Is he perfect? Heck, no. But he's loyal to a fault. He will do what's best not for himself, but what's best for Ohio State and what's best for the program."
Johnson thinks too, especially with the FBI involved in the investigation, "there's no question there are some things with this that we will never know about," recalling "when I was there (at OSU) during the (Maurice) Clarett years. There's things now that I can't tell you that involved decisions and happenings that I know for a fact took place regarding the Clarett saga that will never be told."
Contact Steve Hemmelgarn at firstname.lastname@example.org