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Whitney Tressel will be skipping class Jan. 8 to attend a football game.
There isn’t anyplace else Tressel, a huge football fan, would rather
be than in Glendale, Ariz., when Ohio State lines up against the University of Florida for the national championship.
Whitney Tressel is the daughter of Jim Tressel, the head coach of The Ohio State University Buckeyes. However, she had no desire to attend Ohio State—or any other football school for that matter.
She was drawn to RIT because of its top-notch photography program. But there was another reason as well. After living 18 years in the football-crazed state of Ohio, football-less Brick City offered the perfect haven in which Whitney could escape from all of the attention that had been heaped on her family—especially in the aftermath of her father coaching the Buckeyes to the 2002 national championship.
“RIT is probably the safest place in the country for me to be,” says Tressel. “We don’t even have a football team, so I don’t have to worry about a hundred guys bugging me about it.”
In fact, Tressel was able to make it through an entire football season during her first quarter at RIT before anybody connected her to her famous father.
But eventually, the clues were too obvious to ignore. Not only were Ohio State’s red and gray colors splashed throughout her room, but the coach’s photo was on display as well.
“I kept it quiet mostly because I know how it is when it’s not quiet. I didn’t want my life to be tied to my dad’s. I wanted my own life and my own name in a different city. But sometimes you just can’t get around it,” she says. “People were noticing my room, and then they would hear his name on television. They started putting two and two together.”
Even now that the “secret” is out, Tressel enjoys being in an environment where football isn’t king.
“All my friends and professors know, and it’s not a big deal,” says Tressel, a third-year advertising photography major. “My professors are great. When I go home I shoot games for my dad and when I come back, I share the shots with my professors.”
Had she chosen to attend Ohio State, life would be quite different.
“New York is not a big college football area—not nearly as much as Ohio,” she says. “Ohio State fans are great, but it’s up and down. It’d be very intense going there. At times, when we win, it felt like the fans worshipped me. Other times, when we lose, they could get pretty nasty.”
Tressel fully admits being the daughter of one of the top college football coaches in the country has its perks, however. Not everybody gets to dance the cha-cha with future pro football Hall-of-Famer Jerry Rice, who was asked to participate in the coin toss that preceded the kickoff of last year’s Fiesta Bowl.
Tressel, who took up ballroom dancing during her second year at RIT, was much more enamored with Rice’s participation in ABC’s Dancing with the Stars than the dozens of times his name appears in the National Football League’s record book. Within moments of being introduced to him, the two began to dance—with the Ohio State football team practicing in the background.
When the attention gets to be too much, however, she can now retreat into the other life she has established for herself at RIT.
While Tressel says her father would have preferred she attended Ohio State, so that she was closer to him, she also says that he has embraced RIT. Jim Tressel even occasionally sheds his trademark sweater vest in order to incorporate some RIT garb into his wardrobe.
“I gave him one of the ‘RIT Football: Undefeated since 1978’ shirts and he wears it all the time,” she says. “He says it’s the only other college shirt he can wear because we don’t have a team!”