An Angry And Embarrassed Buckeye Nation

Columbus is one of those places where you can tell how the local college team is doing just by walking down the street.  Ohio State’s win-loss record has a direct, visceral connection with the emotional makeup of the city’s residents.  When the Buckeyes are winning, Columbus is the happiest place this side of Disney World.  When the Buckeyes were routinely gagging to Michigan in the ’90s, dank, evil clouds of gloom hung over the city, leaving everyone grim, ashen-faced, and trying to avoid the fistfights that routinely broke out whenever someone mentioned the “big game” record of the Coach Who Shall Not Be Named.

The dark times are back, my friend!  Make no mistake about it.  Every day seems to bring a humiliatingly inept offensive performance, or another drip in the water torture that is an ongoing NCAA investigation.  Conversations that begin calmly, with protestations that there really isn’t anything to talk about, quickly morph into neck-vein-bulging diatribes at ever-increasing decibel levels until the worked-up Buckeyes fan suddenly realizes that he has coated the listener’s face with a fine coating of righteously spewed Buckeye spittle.

“Well, we knew this would be a tough year.  But who would have thought that the athletes recruited by Ohio State would have trouble scoring a single touchdown?  Seriously, what are the coaches doing?  It’s an embarrassment!  We’d be competitive with the suspended players, but how in the hell could those kids have gotten into trouble?  How could they be so stupid?  And when is the NCAA going to finally finish with us? MY GOD, WHAT IS GOING TO HAPPEN WHEN WE PLAY WISCONSIN?!?!  IT COULD BE THE WORST LOSS IN THE STORIED HISTORY OF OHIO STATE FOOTBALL!!!!”

The sanity of Columbus is hanging by a thread.

The Fresno State Food Stamp Fraudsters

Technically, it is the Fresno State Bulldogs.  In view of recent news stories, however, perhaps the team name should be changed to the Food Stamp Fraudsters — which has a nice bit of alliteration to it.

According to reports, as many as two dozen Fresno State players are embroiled in a welfare fraud investigation involving a county Department of Social Services eligibility specialist.  The government worker apparently improperly obtained Electronic Benefit Transfer cards — formerly known as food stamps.  Although the names of the athletes haven’t been released and it’s not entirely clearly what they received, a statement from the University confirms that student-athletes did obtain some benefits from the process.

Presumably getting special benefits from an outsider is an NCAA violation — but the NCAA may be the least of the players’ concerns.  Given that the government worker is being charged with multiple felonies, any misguided player who knowingly participated in the fraudulent scheme to improperly obtain government benefits may end up having more to worry about than just their eligibility to play in a college football game.


Suspension Fatigue

Ohio State has self-reported more NCAA infractions and suspended three more players for the opening game against Akron.  The players are running back Jordan Hall and defensive backs Travis Howard and Corey Brown.  They reported that they received less than $300 in “impermissible benefits” while attending a charitable event earlier this year.  Ohio State has suspended them but seeks their reinstatement for the rest of the year.

There is no confirmed information that I have seen as to what the benefits were — and given that the benefits were conferred at a charitable event you have to wonder.  Was it food?  Free drink?  A leg up in bidding for an unpopular silent auction item?  And how much less than $300 were the benefits, anyway?

I don’t mean to belittle whatever it was the players did, but the fact is that right now Ohio State will be reporting every purported violation, no matter how trivial it may be, to demonstrate to the NCAA that the University is serious about compliance.  Given that reality, I’ve developed “suspension fatigue.”  Until I hear what these players actually did, and learn what possibly obscure rule they allegedly violated, I’m not going to rip them or tear my hair out at this latest apparent transgression.

Can this season please actually get started as soon as possible?

On Pins And Needles In Columbus

Tonight there is a profound sense of unease in Columbus.  Republican and Democrat, old and young, Deadhead or Justin Bieber fan — it makes no difference.  We all fret about what will happen tomorrow when the Ohio State University goes before the NCAA Committee on Infractions to address the issues with the football program.

The feeling of grim foreboding hangs over the city like a rancid fart in an elevator.  The brooding paranoia has been stoked by our friends at ESPN — boy, they love the Buckeyes, don’t they? — who have issued a weird report about a second letter from the NCAA concerning potential additional areas to investigate.  And so, people are wondering:  what else could have happened?  Were some of the Buckeye football players actually mutant genetic products created by crazed researchers in the Ohio State School of Biology?  Did Terrelle Pryor secretly maintain a fleet of untaxed corporate jets in a locked hangar at Don Scott Field?  Was Jim Tressel’s sweater vest actually made in Taiwan?

Sometime tomorrow people will appear before microphones at NCAA offices in headquarters and say that the hearing is over, and then we will wait.  We will wait to see whether the NCAA accepts the retirement of our outstanding coach and OSU’s self-imposed punishments as sufficient penalties for the Buckeyes’ transgressions.  Or, whether the NCAA cuts out our hearts, stomps on them, and then stuffs them down our throats by cutting scholarships, banning the Buckeyes from post-season play, or imposing other, even more draconian sanctions.  Now we know how Anne Boleyn must have felt as she waited in the Tower of London for the capricious decision of her King.

We care because this is Columbus, and this is who we are and what we do.

Terrelle Farewell?

The Cleveland Plain Dealer is reporting that Terrelle Pryor — who was already suspended from the first five games due to an NCAA violation — has decided to forego his senior season at Ohio State.

The story is based on an interview with Pryor’s attorney, who read a statement from the Ohio State quarterback.  The attorney quoted the statement as saying:  “In the best interest of my teammates, I have decided to forego my senior year of football at the Ohio State University.”  It is not clear at this point whether the University has confirmed Pryor’s decision.

If Pryor does in fact leave the Ohio State program, it will simply be the latest domino to topple in the memorabilia sales/tattoo scandal that has brought down Coach Jim Tressel and given the University a tremendous black eye.  Pryor would leave with a checkered career that began with his status as a much-heralded recruit, saw him lead Ohio State to victory over Michigan and to some other big wins, but also saw him unable to deliver the National Championship that some Ohio State fans thought might be won with Pryor under center.  His on-field successes, of course, will be forever tarred by his role in the ongoing scandal.

How the wheel of fate has turned since Ohio State fans celebrated Pryor’s decision to commit to Ohio State!


The Buckeye Gnome, Down And Out

Lately it has been very difficult living in Columbus, Ohio.  Since Jim Tressel’s surprise resignation on Memorial Day, we fans and graduates of The Ohio State University have seen the reputation of that much-loved institution besmirched and ridiculed in the national press.  It has been very hard to swallow, and many despairing Buckeye fans have struggled to deal with the news.

Still, I didn’t expect an Ohio State gnome to run off the rails in response to the news.  I am sorry to report, however, that that is exactly what has happened.  When I went outside to walk Penny this morning I was surprised to see our house gnome sprawled in the gutter after a bitter evening of trying to wash the bad thoughts about the football program, the NCAA, and the departed Coach Tressel out of his mind in a tidal wave of alcohol.  Yet I could tell, from the plaintive expression on his face, that the booze therapy was a failure.  The alcohol may have numbed the sharp pangs of embarrassment, but he remains depressed and perplexed.

He is thinking:  How could this have happened?  We were on top of the world only five months ago!  We laughed about the futility of Michigan football and the comical antics of Rich Rodriguez’s so-called defenses!  We finally got the SEC bowl game monkey off our backs!  And then, in an instant, it all turned to mud.

Buckeye Gnome, all of us in Buckeye Nation feel your pain, and share your angst.  But for God’s sake, have some self-respect.  This isn’t Ann Arbor, after all!

It was Inevitable

What happened earlier today with the Tressel resignation is really no surprise to me, except that it took as long as it did for him to resign. As I mentioned in a previous post back in March, Coach lost my support when he signed the NCAA document on December 8th saying that he knew nothing about the tattoo parlor incident when he in fact had received details the prior April.

I can understand that initially Coach Tressel’s thoughts were that he wanted to protect the players and that there might have been an issue with confidentiality, but when you forward the e-mail about the incident to Pryor’s confidante in Pennsylvania and not to the athletic director of Ohio State, that’s a HUGE mistake in my humble opinion. Tressel should have come clean during the March press conference and he didn’t.

I am also bothered about the way athletic director Gene Smith and school president Gordon Gee handled the situation once they knew about it. When Ohio State held the press conference Gene Smith should have said that the university was going to conduct a more broad and comprehensive investigation to determine if there were more rules infractions that took place. Maybe then the details of car deals and living arrangement benefits might have been uncovered.

For Gee to say to the media, I have no intention of firing Coach Tressel, I only hope he doesn’t fire me has to be one of the dumbest statements I have ever heard ! Has college athletics gotten so big that the president of a major university is afraid to reprimand his own coach ? I think that Gee was treating Tressel as if he was above the NCAA rules that every other school has to follow and I think this is inexcusable.

I hope I am wrong, but it wouldn’t surprise me if the NCAA decides to open up a second investigation into the new allegations that have recently come out. I wonder how Buckeye fans are going to react when we are slapped with NCAA sanctions of one, two or three years of probation not to mention the loss of numerous scholarships. I am as big a Buckeye fan as the next person, but the next few years are going to be very tough for Buckeye Nation.