"Is that right?" Jim Tressel said when asked Thursday about coaching his 300th game Saturday against Illinois.
The reporter then wondered if the big, round number stood out to the coach.
“Yeah,” he said, the sarcasm drawing laughter from everywhere in the room after his oblivious previous response.
"It's the biggest one of the 300, no doubt about it,” Tressel said. “I didn't know about it. That's a lot of games. Maybe that's why I'm so gray.”
He segued into the rest of the press conference from there - “As we prepared for this 300th game...” he said - but you can bet he will hear the figure again, and it might not be the only one, either.
Tressel, 56, enters play Saturday with an all-time college head coaching record of 220-77-2, including an 85-20 mark in eight-plus seasons at Ohio State. He is third on the school’s all-time wins list, trailing Woody Hayes (205) and John Cooper (111).
His brother, Dick, is an assistant on the Buckeye staff, but before coming to Columbus he spent 23 seasons as head coach at Hamline University in Minnesota, where he notched 124 wins, 102 losses and two ties.
Both Tressels have followed in the footsteps of their father, Lee, who was 155-52-6 as head coach at Baldwin-Wallace in northeastern Ohio from 1958-81, meaning the three have 499 wins combined.
Jim Tressel’s first game as a head coach came Sept. 6, 1986, when he led Youngstown State to a 34-19 loss to Nicholls State in Youngstown. The Penguins began the season 0-4 before Tressel picked up his first victory, a 30-6 triumph over visiting Tennessee Tech on Oct. 11 of that year.
Tressel’s first Penguin squad posted a record of just 2-9, finishing the season with a 40-39 win over Akron. The following year, they improved to 8-4 and qualified for the Division I-AA playoffs, and in 1991 came the first of Tressel’s five national championship teams. The Penguins also won the national title in 1991, ’93, ’94, and ’97. Tressel later coached Ohio State to the 2002 championship.
Tressel is a three-time American Football Coaches Association National Coach of the Year (1991, 94 and 2002) and has led Ohio State to five Big Ten championships.
During Tressel’s eight full seasons as head coach at Ohio State, the school has led the Big Ten in conference victories, conference championships, NFL draft picks and Academic All-Big Ten selections.