BELLVILLE – For a coaching nomad like Joe Tresey, it’s a question he expects to hear every time he interviews for a new job.
“I get asked, ‘How do we know you’re not going to leave in two years? How do we know so-and-so isn’t going to call you and ask you to be the defensive backs coach?’ ” Tresey said.
“I’m going to stay in touch with people, but it will take a million dollars for me to do that again.”
“That” is getting back on the college football coaching carrousel that took Tresey on a wild ride, spinning him off at UCLA and Cincinnati and South Florida as well as eight other schools. In between college gigs, he even spent a year as coach of the Omaha Nighthawks of the United Football League.
After 16 moves in 29 years of marriage to his wife, Patty, Tresey sounds ready to sit on the other side of the desk and be the guy asking the questions and overseeing staff as the new athletic director at Clear Fork High School.
“I was looking to transition from college football back to high school and I wanted to be an athletic director,” Tresey said. “I thought my skill set was built for that.”
This fall will mark the first time in 36 years Tresey will not be wearing a headset and living up to his reputation as a fiery and emotional coach, known to, as his hometown newspaper in Warren put it: “race down the sideline or scream at the top of his lungs.”
He’s not going to lie: Part of him is going to miss it. He began coaching at the high school level while he was still an undergraduate at Ohio State, working with the varsity wide receivers and calling the junior varsity offense at Grandview Heights before becoming the defensive coordinator at Olentangy under former Ohio State linebacker Rick Middleton.
Tresey’s first head coaching job was at Mechanicsburg, followed by similar stints at Fredericktown, New Philadelphia and Middletown, which served as a springboard to the college ranks.
“Oh, man, I’ll tell you what I’ll miss; I’ll miss the weekly process of seeing kids get better, scheming, figuring out adjustments and being in the meetings and working through things with the kids,” said Tresey, 56.
Some fans in the Clear Fork Valley will remember when Tresey was at Fredericktown. He was there from 1987-99, leading the Freddies to a 12-1 mark his final year before losing to his alma mater, Warren JFK, in the state semifinals. The following summer, he coached in the area all-star football game at Mansfield Senior.
It was even more of a homecoming when the Warren native took a job next door at Youngstown State in 2012 and presided over a defense that finished 11th in the Football Championship Subdivision in total defense.
But that post lasted only two years, and Tresey spent last fall as a volunteer assistant at the University of Cincinnati, where he had previously coached under now-Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly. Under Tresey’s tutelage, the Bearcats led the nation in turnovers and interceptions in 2007. They finished 17th in the nation in 2007 and 2008 and won the Big East Conference for the first time in school history.
Tresey’s name was mentioned among the leading candidates for the Massillon vacancy last winter, but he said he was never serious about pursuing that job. At this point in his life, though, it was clear a high school job appealed to him.
“The problem with college football now, and I can say it because I’m out and I’ve been in it so long, is that the money has changed the entire landscape,” Tresey said. “That has caused people to take jobs to move on the next job as fast as they can for more money, or they get there, don’t do well, and get fired.
“In my time, it was all about coaching, being around kids, recruiting, trying to be the best coach you can be at the highest level. I think we’ve lost that. It’s a shame. I got tired of dealing with testosterone and egos.
“Look at the facility wars, how the fans have changed because they’re paying a lot more for tickets. Everything’s on the Internet, all the expectations are different. It’s a different animal now, man. Money has changed it all. And (college) presidents sat back and didn’t say anything.”
Getting a chance to be a defensive coordinator at Bowl Championship Subdivision schools such as UCLA, South Florida and Cincinnati — he also was the defensive coordinator at Akron under Lee Owens — speaks volumes about the respect peers in the profession have for Tresey. One of the highlights of his career was getting to coach with his son, Patrick, at UCLA on Rick Neuheisel’s staff a few years ago.
Patrick, now the offensive coordinator at Kenyon College, was an offensive intern for the Bruins.
“I’ll always cherish it, always, but you’re working, man,” Tresey said. “You’ll pass each other in the hallway and you might give each other a hug, but you’re going 100 miles per hour.”
It’s probably safe to say Clear Fork has hired an AD who won’t be outworked.
In an ESPN.com feature about the Treseys and the father-son dynamic at UCLA, senior writer Ramona Shelburne asked whether Joe and Patrick made time to meet over lunch.
“I don’t do lunch,” Joe Tresey said with a straight face. “I’ll go and I’ll find candy or a donut laying around, but lunch? No, I don’t do lunch. I work. I’m conditioned like this.”
Now that he’ll be making out schedules instead of game plans, maybe father and son can meet halfway between Bellville and the Knox County town of Gambier, where Kenyon is located, for a meal.