Hall of Fame: Can Pete Rose Get Some of That Jim Tressel Teflon?


Sep 28, 2014; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Former Cincinnati Reds great Pete Rose is acknowledged by the crowd during a game with the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Cincinnati Reds at Great American Ball Park. The Reds won 4-1. Mandatory Credit: David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports

To celebrate Hall of Fame election season, let’s play a little game:  can you identify the following sports luminaries?

More from Cincinnati Reds

  • Big Shot A: An Ohio legend; led his teams to championships; among the best in the biz; loved by millions; hated by millions; disgraced by scandal
  • Big Shot B: An Ohio legend; led his teams to championships; among the best in the biz; loved by millions; hated by millions; disgraced by scandal

Got it?  OK, so there’s not much to differentiate there.  How about if we add these tidbits?

  • Big Shot A: Newly-elected Hall of Famer
  • Big Shot B: Ineligible for the Hall of Fame

Aha!  That clears things up, right?

Big Shot B is Pete Rose, the Cincinnati Reds legend serving a permanent ban from baseball for betting violations that (retroactively) made him ineligible even for consideration by Hall of Fame voters.

Big Shot A is former Ohio State Buckeyes head coach Jim Tressel, who is subject to a show-cause penalty until the end of 2016 for what the NCAA termed “unethical conduct.”   Despite Tressel’s status as a college football outsider, Tressel was elected today to the College Football Hall of Fame, according to Paul Myerberg at USA Today.

No, Tressel did not bet on football, or even on baseball, as far as we know.  What he did do was allow players to take the field even though they had received impermissible benefits, and even though the coach knew about those benefits.

No, Tressel is not technically banned from coaching a college football team, but any school hiring him would face an automatic penalty unless they could “show” some compelling reason why they shouldn’t be tagged.

Clearly, the Rose and Tressel situations are not identical.

Just as clearly, though, Tressel has essentially skated by for his transgressions, while Rose is still a fairly sad figure 26 years after the fact.  Tressel got fired from Ohio State, but he now sits as the President of Youngstown State University, and he commands a lot of respect in football circles.

You get the feeling that there just might be an opening for him in the fall of 2017 should he choose to come back to the coaching ranks.

Rose, meanwhile, attends autograph signings and the occasional Reds game, and did have that run on reality TV.

The glaring difference between Rose and Tressel in January of 2015, though, is the sanctimony of their respective Halls of Fame.  The CFB shrine allows football practitioners to be considered for their on-field contributions, while Cooperstown wants to impose something more on its prospective members.

Call it the “Pete Rose Rule” if you like, but keep in mind that the baseball Hall only decided that baseball’s banned players were also ineligible for HOF election AFTER Pete fell into disgrace.

So Tressel is in, Rose it out.

It all seems to slide off of the former and stick to the latter.