Ohio State football coach: Coleman’s one-game suspension ‘yesterday’s news’

COLUMBUS – A day after he criticized the Big Ten’s one-game suspension of safety Kurt Coleman for a late hit, Ohio State coach Jim Tressel didn’t want to talk about it.

‘Well, our directive was to make sure that it’s yesterday’s news and not comment further,’ Tressel said yesterday when asked whether he thought Coleman was guilty of a late hit.

Coleman, a starter and the Buckeyes’ second-leading tackler, was flagged with less than a minute left and No. 9 Ohio State leading Illinois 30-0 on Saturday.

The Buckeyes’ starting offense had passed for a touchdown with 1:18 remaining. Two plays after the kickoff, Illini backup quarterback Eddie McGee ran for 4 yards up the middle. As he was stacked up, immobile with his arms down, Coleman, a team captain and the defense’s most decorated player, hit McGee helmet to helmet, snapping McGee’s head back.

A personal foul was called and 15 yards were stepped off. Coleman left the game and McGee continued to play as the Illini ran out the clock.

Ohio State defensive lineman Doug Worthington said yesterday he spoke with Coleman when he came off the field.

‘He knew it was late. He kind of felt bad about the situation,’ Worthington said. ‘I was, like, ‘Kurt, you can’t do that.’ He said, ‘I know. It was kind of in the moment.”

Worthington said he initially did not think Coleman would be suspended.

‘No, not really, until I saw it on film. It was like an eye-opener because the guy’s head went back a little bit,’ he said. ‘It was kind of head to head.’

On Monday, the Big Ten – acting under a new NCAA rule mandating video review by conference offices of all flagrant personal fouls – suspended Coleman for one game. He will sit out the game at Indiana on Saturday night.

After the conference’s announcement, Tressel and athletic director Gene Smith issued a joint statement in which they strongly disagreed with the suspension and accused the Big Ten of ‘poor judgment.’ While agreeing that Coleman’s hit was late, they said it did not warrant punishment beyond the 15-yard penalty and being ‘removed from the game by his coaches.’

‘The decision to suspend (Coleman) points to the conference office’s feeling as if there was poor judgment by the game officials for their decision not to eject at the time,’ the response said. ‘In our estimation, the final ‘poor judgment’ is in levying a one-game suspension.’

Tressel was asked yesterday how Coleman reacted to the suspension.

‘We talked about that a little bit yesterday and kind of that was yesterday’s news and so he took it like a man and we’ll go forward,’ he said.

Asked if he believed the hit was late, Tressel repeated that it was ‘yesterday’s news.’

The Big Ten has previously suspended players from Purdue and Michigan a game each this season for unsportsmanlike play. Tressel said late last week that he and his staff frequently speak to the Buckeyes to warn them that if they did not do anything dirty or illegal then they wouldn’t have anything to worry about from a conference video review.

Tressel said the team has discussed the penalties this week for tackling with the crown of your helmet.

‘Oh, yeah, we’ve been talking about that and it’s … we don’t want to violate the rules or have anything happen from an injury standpoint or a penalty standpoint. Selfishly we don’t want to lose 15 yards and those kinds of things,’ he said. ‘We talk about it constantly and like I said, we’re going to move forward and get better and talk about it no less, that’s for sure.’

It was not the first time that an Ohio State defender has been suspended.

In a game in October 2003, Buckeyes linebacker Rob Reynolds appeared to choke Wisconsin quarterback Jim Sorgi during a pileup, bruising Sorgi’s vocal cords. Sorgi had to leave the game.

Tressel was asked why Coleman was still on the field last week in a 30-0 game.

‘You know what? I can’t answer that question,’ he said. ‘Probably because he was told to (play).’

Tressel said his first-team offense played to the finish because he was worried that Illinois could still recover two onside kicks and win a game the Buckeyes led 23-0 at the time of the final touchdown pass.

Anderson Russell most likely will step into Coleman’s safety position. When a reporter asked if Tressel and Smith had issued the joint statement on Monday because they thought the matter had been handled properly by game officials, Tressel said, ‘You’re killing me. I made my comments yesterday on that subject.’