Jim Tressel has resigned as football coach at Ohio State amid a spiraling scandal that began with several Buckeye players trading awards for tattoos.
Tressel, who won a national championship and posted a 106-22 record in ten seasons at one of the nation's most storied programs, stepped down before the NCAA levied an expected severe penalty against the program.
"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 said in a statement Monday morning. "The appreciation that [wife] Ellen and I have for the Buckeye Nation is immeasurable."
The school had stood by the embattled coach even as new developments continued to raise questions about what he knew and when about NCAA violations by players, including quarterback Terrelle Pryor. He had announced a self-imposed five-game suspension to begin next season.
Pryor, running back Daniel Herron and three other players already faced five-game suspensions for trading memorabilia, including the "golden pants" awards given to each player after a victory over arch-rival Michigan, for tattoos from a local artist ensnared in a federal drug investigation. The players were allowed to play in this year's Sugar Bowl, which Ohio State won over Arkansas.
But Tressel's forthrightness was called into question after he first said he knew nothing about the incidents, then said he kept quiet about it because he didn't want to "compromise" the federal investigation. As coach, he was required by his contract and NCAA bylaws to report any rules infraction he was aware of.
His departure leaves one of the nation's premier programs without a coach and facing potentially crippling NCAA sanctions. Assistant Coach Luke Fickell was named interim coach, and former University of Florida Coach Urban Meyer, who recently bought a home in Columbus, has been rumored to be Tressel's eventual replacement.