James (Jim) Tressel was born on December 5, 1952, in Mentor, Ohio. He was the son of legendary college coach Lee Tressel and played for his father at Baldwin-Wallace College. He graduated from Baldwin-Wallace in 1975 with an education degree.
In 1975, Tressel had his first on-field coaching experience, serving as a graduate assistant at the University of Akron. From 1976 to 1978, Tressel coached the quarterbacks, the running backs, and wide receivers. Following his stint at Akron, Tressel was an assistant coach at Miami University, in Oxford, Ohio, and at Syracuse University. In 1983, he came to The Ohio State University, where he eventually would coach the quarterbacks, the running backs, and wide receivers.
In 1985, Tressel left Ohio State to accept the head coaching position at Youngstown State University. Tressel struggled his first season at Youngstown State, winning only two games, but he quickly built a national powerhouse in Division I-AA football. During the 1990s, Youngstown State won 103 games, lost twenty-seven, and tied two. Tressel teams also won four national championships. Tressel's father had also won a national championship while at Baldwin-Wallace. The Tressels are the only father and son combination to coach college teams to national championships.
In 2001, Tressel became the head coach of The Ohio State Buckeyes. His teams excelled on the field, winning the national championship in only Tressel's second season with the team. Since coming to Ohio State, Tressel has won forty games and lost only eleven.