INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Jim Tressel is heading to the NFL.
The disgraced Ohio State head coach was hired Friday by the Indianapolis Colts as a game-day consultant to help determine when the team should challenge plays. Coach Jim Caldwell said it was a position he’s wanted to fill for the past couple of years.
"He’s a guy I have known for quite some time and have a good relationship with," Caldwell said during a conference call. "We have hired him as a game-day consultant. He was around last night and will be working with us next week."
Caldwell did not provide details on the friendship, but it’s likely the two crossed paths on the recruiting trail in the 1980s and early 1990s when both were coaching quarterbacks at big-time schools.
Tressel was an assistant at Syracuse in 1981 and 1982 before taking a similar post at Ohio State from 1983-85, then leaving to take the Youngstown State job in 1986. Caldwell coached quarterbacks at Penn State from 1987-92. He coached at Northwestern, Colorado and Louisville, too, before joining Joe Paterno’s staff.
The Colts are also familiar with Tressel because of their pre-draft scouting work. Indy vice chairman Bill Polian normally consults with a player’s college coach before drafting a player, and Indianapolis has had a handful of ex-Buckeyes come through the team’s complex over the past 10 years. The list includes safety Mike Doss, receivers Anthony Gonzalez and Roy Hall, tight end Ben Hartsock and defensive tackle Quinn Pitcock. Gonzalez is the only draft pick among that group still with the team.
Tressel had been actively seeking employment after resigning from Ohio State on May 30 amid a damaging NCAA scandal. He had been seen at practices in Cleveland and Indianapolis recently and attended the Colts’ preseason finale Thursday in Cincinnati.
But his job with the Colts, Caldwell said, will be limited exclusively to working game days from the coaches’ booth. Tressel did not respond immediately to a text message sent by The Associated Press.
"Like I said, he’ll work different aspects for me, more in particular as a replay consultant so the guys up in the box can concentrate strictly on their position," Caldwell said. "That’s where we’ll utilize him."
Tressel was 94-22 in 10 seasons with the Buckeyes and won the national title in 2002 — Ohio State’s first championship in 34 years.
But Tressel also was in charge during an embarrassing scandal that rocked one of America’s proudest programs.
Five of Ohio State’s top players, including quarterback Terrelle Pryor, were suspended in December for the first five games of the 2011 season for accepting cash and tattoos from the owner of a local tattoo parlor. Dozens of autographed items including jerseys and gloves, along with Big Ten championship rings and even Pryor’s Fiesta Bowl sportsmanship award, were discovered at the parlor during a raid by the U.S. Attorney’s office.
Pryor recently was taken by Oakland in the NFL’s supplemental draft and will face a five-game suspension in the NFL, too.
In the spring, Tressel admitted he had a part in the scandal because he failed to notify compliance department officials of possible transgressions when he first learned about them. That is a violation of NCAA rules.
Ohio State officials, who made their final monthly payment of $54,000 to Tressel in June, had little to say about the Colts’ newest hire.
"I wish Jim the best of luck in his new endeavor," Buckeyes athletic director Gene Smith said in an e-mail to The Associated Press.
Indy’s move comes just days before the Sept. 11 opener at Houston and is the latest twist in an unusually noisy start for the typically low-key Colts.
Four-time league MVP Peyton Manning didn’t practice until earlier this week after having offseason neck surgery, and there are still questions whether he’ll play in the opener.
Indy also broke with its tradition of looking internally for help. Instead, the Colts signed five unrestricted free agents, all former first-round picks: defensive linemen Jamaal Anderson, Tyler Braxton and Tommie Harris, linebacker Ernie Sims and quarterback Kerry Collins.
And now it has added Tressel.
AP Sports Writer Rusty Miller in Columbus, Ohio, contributed to this story.