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The Tour Report

May 31 2011

2:45 PM

Nicklaus saddened by OSU situation

How/Getty Images
Jack Nicklaus, who played golf at Ohio State and dotted the i in script Ohio prior to a 2006 football game weighted in on the OSU football team's situation Tuesday..
By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM DUBLIN, Ohio -- Jack Nicklaus thought he'd get at least one question before the subject was raised. Only on Tuesday during his annual press conference at the Memorial Tournament presented by Nationwide Insurance, "the" subject wasn't Tiger Woods and his continuing pursuit of Nicklaus' record of 18 professional majors. No, the question on everyone's mind here in central Ohio was Jim Tressel and his stunning fall from grace as the Ohio State football coach. Tressel resigned under pressure on Monday as the fallout from an NCAA and university investigation intensified. The controversy dates back to December when six Buckeyes players were suspended by the NCAA for selling or trading uniforms and memorabilia to a Columbus tattoo-parlor owner. Tressel at first had said he didn't know anything about the players' activities. Later, though, a Columbus lawyer, who was a former walk-on football player at OSU, produced e-mails that showed Tressel actually was aware of the situation as much as eight months earlier. The resignation was front-page news in Ohio, as well as in USA Today. Tressel was a coach known for graduating players and running a competitive, clean program. So the fabric of half-truths and lies that unraveled over the last six months has taken on a life of its own in these parts. Nicklaus grew up and still lives in Columbus and he played collegiately at Ohio State, which is about 20 minutes from Muirfield Village. So his opinions in this area are highly-regarded -- heck, the Ohio State marching band was even at the course on Tuesday to help kick off the Memorial Tournament. "My take on it is that it was no different than a father trying to protect his son, and if I had one of my kids that did what I thought was a fairly insignificant thing, I'd probably say, you know, Hey, we're not going to worry too much about that.  We're going to try to just forget that," Nicklaus said. "Well, obviously the cover up was far worse than the act. And once you got the cover up, it became a situation where Jim had to say some things that turned out to be that weren't exactly truthful. And so that's where he got himself in trouble. … I feel very bad for Jim. He's a nice man." Nicklaus played golf at Ohio State when the legendary Woody Hayes was the football coach. He acknowledged that the media scrutiny the athletic program was under has changed dramatically in the last 50 years. "What would Woody have thought?" Nicklaus said, repeating the question. "I think Woody would have probably ended up doing exactly the same thing, but I think that maybe he wouldn't have had a news media that no matter what happens gets on the news. "I mean, when I was playing when Woody was coaching, we were not under a microscope. A little thing happened that passed. Today a little thing happens and it's all over the world. I mean, it's not an indictment of anybody, it's just what it is. "I think Woody would have protected his kids. He probably did protect his kids. Woody was a good man. I think Tressel is a good man."