Good reads recommended to Genoa’s Cruickshank

Harold Hamilton

Former Ohio State football coach and current Youngstown State University president Jim Tressel recommended some good books to Genoa senior Caitlin Cruickshank.

In part because of the coronavirus pandemic, Genoa middle school and high school students were invited to join Tressel in on a Zoom video conference. Using their school furnished Chromebooks, they had more than an hour of casual conversation and a question and answer session over the internet.

Cruickshank asked Tressel, “Who inspired you in life?” 

Tressel answered, “I was lucky in life in that I had wonderful parents. Nothing compares with having great parents. Father was a great role model and showed a good work ethic. My mom was the greatest server I have ever seen. Every day of her life she spent serving someone else. I grew up seeing that and its impact. I also had a lot of great sports coaches. They did not just teach me the sport but why it was valuable. It taught me to work hard, handle adversity and to understand the values of that.”

Tressel starts out telling Cruickshank about a favorite book, If It Ain’t Broke…Break It by Robert J. Kriegel and Louis Patler. It is about “conventional wisdom in an ever-changing business world,” which is part of the book’s subtitle, and then Tressel begins some other good reads.

“What are some of your favorite books? I believe that you are what you read. Every year at YSU and OSU we read a book together.  After winning the national championships we always would go back and read the same book, If It Ain’t Broke…Break It. Find a better way. Because the danger you get into is that after you have done something great everyone thinks you’re wonderful, you have it figured out and they tell you just keep doing it the way you have been doing it. That is one of the worst traps we could ever have. Even after a great success we must keep working to get better.

“Another book is The Travelers Gift (by Andy Andrews). It is about the seven decisions everyone must make in their life to have the best opportunity to reach their potential. It is a short, easy read. 

“This tragic COVID-19 problem we are having is giving us an opportunity to do some reading. If you read The Traveler’s Gift, I promise you that when you do, it will make you a better person.” 

Genoa seventh grader Brock Mathews asked Tressel about how many “gold pants” has he collected. Every time OSU defeated Michigan everyone associated with the OSU football team gets a gold lapel pin resembling a pair of football pants. 

The tradition started back in the 1930s. By 1933 the Buckeyes had only won six of the previous 30 games against Michigan. In 1934 Francis Schmidt was hired as head coach. The local media was quick to ask him if he was afraid of Michigan and Schmidt quickly replied that he was not. 

Schmidt said, “They put their pants on one leg at a time, just like the rest of us.” 

This comment spurred two local businessmen and strong OSU supporters to form the “Gold Pants Club”. 

Tressel says he has 10 gold pants lapel pins. One he received as an assistant at Ohio State and nine as head coach. Tressel responded to Mathew’s question.

“What is it like to coach in that game? Growing up in Ohio I knew the importance of that game and in my first game, as an assistant coach, I was totally consumed by it. My eyeballs were popping out. We used to say that in that game one yard was worth two because of the difficulty of it. You had better understand how good you must play because that means the world to them and they are going to play better than they really are and you better as well.”


Being committed, respectful

Another student asked Tressel, “What do college coaches look for when they are recruiting young athletes?” 

Tressel said that first his staff reviews videos to evaluate the skill levels of the player. Next, they look at their transcript in depth. Questions that had to be answered included “How many absences did they have and were they often tardy?” and “Did they challenge themselves by taking tough courses or just try to slide by?” 

He would also visit the school and talk to cafeteria workers and assistant principals to see how respectful the student was to others. 

“College sports are tough, and you need to be committed, respectful and hard-working and a team player,” Tressel said.

The coach defined what he looks for in a real leader. 

“A leader is not the person that is necessarily the best athlete or the president of a company. A leader is a person who serves others. Everyone on a team needs to be a leader in some area to help motivate others so the team will be successful,” Tressel said. 

Another question for the coach was “How do you define success?”

Tressel admitted that part of his definition of success was taken from several areas including from the legendary basketball coach John Wooden — “Success is the inner self-satisfaction in knowing you did your best to become the best that you are capable of becoming.” 


About Jim Tressel. 

It is difficult to believe that there is anyone out there who does not know of Tressel’s accomplishments, but here are a few of the highlights.

Tressel played quarterback for his father at Baldwin-Wallace College and won league honors. He had a 35-year career coaching football as a position coach or head coach. 

Most notable, Tressel was head coach at Youngstown State where his teams won four NCAA Division I-AA (now D-I FCS) national championships in 15 years. 

He also was head coach at Ohio State for 10 years where his teams played in three national championship games, winning the title in 2002. The 2002 team achieved the first 14-0 season record at a major college in over 100 years (1897 Pennsylvania). 

Tressel’s teams won six Big Ten conference championships and they went 8-1 against archrival Michigan. The only OSU coach to win more than eight games against Michigan was Woody Hayes who coached 28 years and won 16 games against the Wolverines. No OSU coach has won seven consecutive games against the team up north except for Tressel. 

Tressel has spent 45 years in higher education and has been the president of Youngstown State University since 2014.

Harold Hamilton is a freelance photographer who lives in Northwood. He can be reached at or visit







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