How long will the tattoos that marked Jim Tressel’s players also stain him?

The statute of limitations on his college coaching ban still has two years to go. The Browns never gave the former Ohio State coach the time of day when they embarked on their last coaching search and wound up with Mike Pettine.

Tressel’s return to coaching in either the college ranks or the NFL is becoming less and less of an option. He has now applied for the position of president of the University of Akron, at which he has worked as an administrator for two years.

It is not that long ago that the illegal benefits scandal exposed Tressel’s hypocrisy at Ohio State. A coach who preached living by the rules and heeding moral imperatives instead circumvented and ignored them and lied about doing so.

It bears repeating that that was the critical part.

It is a frequent, almost willful, distortion of the facts by Tressel’s fans that he was forced out as coach at Ohio State because some players got tats and cash for signing memorabilia. Their suspensions were simply the result of the NCAA, an organization that seems to have no sense of proportion, going all jihadist on unpaid college athletes.

The big penalty was handed out because Tressel knowingly played ineligible players. Covering that up was worse than the original crime, a fact clearly spelled out in the NCAA rulebook.

There had been other incidents that produced a great deal of smoke, but no fire, involving two of Tressel’s best players, Maurice Clarett at OSU and Ray Isaac at Youngstown State. It was at the latter that Tressel won three championships in the second division of NCAA football, a record that led to his hiring at Ohio State.

So should the scandal at Ohio State automatically disqualify Tressel at Akron? It does if you think Tressel got off easy in walking away with plenty of money, when in fact he lost his dream job in the occupation at which he was clearly one of the best.

It does if you overlook how well-liked and respected Tressel still is in Northeast Ohio. Of course a big reason for that was that he won with the state’s most popular team. It would be silly to say otherwise.

But there is more to it than that.

If you think the rules trimming defined Tressel completely, and that good works and a generous spirit count for nothing, then let us all reduce each other to the low state of our worst moments.

Tressel has a long history for helping people without any thought of recompense or any desire for publicity. That includes players like Clarett and tattoo scandal principal Terrelle Pryor, who brought their coach plenty of trouble along with the championships.

This country was built on second chances. Who among us should not have a chance to do better next time?