Jim Tressel confirmed in Toledo on Wednesday night that he has no plans to coach again.
"Ever is a long time," he said, "but right now, I don’t foresee it."
Then, Tressel smiled and nodded to the man at his right. It was Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio, who like his former boss, came to Forrester’s on the River wearing a Rose Bowl championship ring.
"I'll leave the sideline up to the guys who know how to win," Tressel said.
Speaking before a fundraiser for Kids Unlimited — an after-school mentoring program for inner-city children — the former Ohio State coach said his focus has shifted from beating Michigan to academia. He is a finalist to become president at the University of Akron and Youngstown State University.
At a public forum in Youngstown earlier this week, Tressel, 61, told a questioner, "On Saturdays or Sunday afternoons during playoff games, it is exciting and I may yell ‘Call a time out!’" But he added, "I have got more important things to do."
"I think working with kids is the most important thing," Tressel said. "That's why we're here tonight for Kids Unlimited. That's why all those years I coached the kids I did. Now, I'm coaching 26,000, so that's why I said it's more important, because it's more kids."
Not that he doesn’t fondly recall his football past, including Dantonio, the defensive coordinator of the Buckeyes’ 2002 national championship team.
Tressel made sure to note the friends’ championship bling. He wore the ring from Ohio State’s win over Oregon in the 2010 Rose Bowl, while Dantonio wore his from Michigan State’s takedown of Stanford in last season’s game.
"That’s the last two times the Big Ten has won," said Tressel, who was forced out from OSU in 2011 following a tattoos-for-memorabilia scandal. "I'm awful proud of him, and I'm awful proud of guys that played in [the 2010 Rose Bowl].
"What [Dantonio] put in place with all his hard work at Michigan State, to see him with that ring on, I'm like a proud father."
Incidentally, Tressel has watched Dantonio build Michigan State into the Buckeyes’ top conference challenger. Tressel’s teams were 106-22 at Ohio State in 10 years and won seven Big Ten championships although his final season (12-1) and title were vacated.
A year ago, the Spartans ended both Ohio State’s national title hopes and 24-game winning streak in in the league title game.
"When we went to Michigan State in 2006, we dreamed big and what we’ve been able to accomplish this past year was a result of that," Dantonio said. "It’s seven years of sacrifice and commitment and laying your plan out. So we're now at the top, and that's where Ohio State has been. A lot of that is thanks to coach Tressel here and the things that he's done. That's where they're at right now."
That’s where Dantonio hopes the Spartans will stay, with a strong nudge from his native state. The Spartans carried 23 Ohioans last year, including sophomore safety and Whitmer graduate Mark Meyers and sophomore kicker and Ottawa Hills graduate Michael Geiger.
Dantonio called Meyers an "outstanding player doing a tremendous job in the classroom" and Geiger, who made 15-of-16 field-goal attempts last year, "money" when it matters.
Tressel, meanwhile, said he looks forward to following the NFL draft, which begins today with the first round. One of his former players, former OSU left tackle and St. John’s Jesuit graduate, is expected to be selected in the second or third round.
"Jack Mewhort is a great kid," Tressel said. "Jack's going to be a good NFL player. He's shown he can play tackle, he can play center, he's smart, he's durable, and he's tough. I don't know about the first day. It will be close, but the second day for sure."