Today the Buckeyes started their new era — an era without Jim Tressel and Terrelle Pryor — and beat Akron, 42-0. The win was, if anything, even more convincing than the one-sided score.
Defensively, the Buckeyes were dominant. They held the Zips to 90 yards, forced a turnover, and didn’t let Akron get within spitting distance of the end zone. Everybody contributed to a team effort that featured solid play by the defensive line, linebackers, and defensive backs.
Offensively, the game was a coming-out party for Joe Bauserman and Braxton Miller. Bauserman has been a cipher during the past few years; he didn’t see the field much and didn’t make much of an impression when he did. Today he played well, made some good decisions, and threw some fine passes. Miller, after an initial hiccup, displayed the run-pass abilities that will likely make him a dangerous offensive weapon. The offensive line got a good push, and the Buckeyes showed depth at running back and wide receiver. We also saw that fullback Zach Boren is a fierce lead blocker and tight end Jake Stoneburner poses huge match-up problems for defenses. (Let’s hope the 2011 Buckeyes continue to go to their tight end, unlike prior teams.)
Congratulations to new head coach Luke Fickell on the win. Now let’s all take a deep breath, remember that Akron is probably one of the worst teams in college football, and focus on the Toledo Rockets who will visit the Horseshoe next Saturday and provide a much stiffer challenge for the Buckeyes.
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.
So now, the guy who was the most heralded recruit Ohio State had landed in ages, and who was often touted as a Heisman Trophy candidate, has left the program in disgrace and, now, has been excommunicated. What’s next — declaring that no Ohio State player will ever again wear the forever tainted no. 2 jersey? How much has changed since Pryor led the Buckeyes to another victory over Michigan only 8 months ago!
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!
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.
The Columbus Dispatch story linked above quotes Coach Tressel as saying in a statement: “Throughout this entire situation my players and I have committed ourselves to facing our mistakes and growing from them; we can only successfully do that together. Like my players, I am very sorry for the mistakes I made. I request of the university that my sanctions now include five games so that the players and I can handle this adversity together.”
I’m not sure what to make of this latest development. Many in Buckeye Nation will see this as a noble gesture by Coach Tressel, who is standing in solidarity with his players and sharing in their punishment. In my view, however, this latest decision is strange on several levels. Why announce a two-game suspension of Coach Tressel only 10 days ago, endure a hailstorm of criticism from the national media, and then voluntarily increase the suspension to five games after the hubbub had died down? It makes it look like Ohio State’s earlier announcement was simply testing the waters. Are the players’ sins of commission and Coach Tressel’s apparent sin of omission really equivalent? And what about the players who didn’t violate the rules? Why should they be voluntarily deprived of their head coach for three games? Ironically, one of the reasons Ohio State cited in allowing the five suspended players to compete in the Sugar Bowl was that it would be unfair to punish the graduating seniors by depriving them of the chance to play in the bowl game as a complete team.
I remain convinced that we have not heard everything there is to hear about this story. Lingering questions remain to be answered.
I’ve posted before on the five Ohio State football players who violated NCAA rules by selling things they had received from the University and getting discounts on tattoos. Before the Sugar Bowl Coach Tressel told the media that the five players were allowed to make the trip for the bowl game only because they had promised that they would return to Ohio State next year and accept their punishment, rather than avoiding any penalties by leaving early for the pros.
At the time, some skeptics laughed at the quaint notion that the players had “given their word.” They said the pledges that Coach Tressel mentioned were just a fig leaf that would allow the players to participate in the bowl games but wouldn’t mean anything when the players had the opportunity to leave for the NFL draft. I’m happy to say that the skeptics were wrong. Each of the five players has kept his word; they all declined to declare for the NFL draft and will return to the Buckeyes next year. In fact, for the first time in years Ohio State did not have any juniors declare for the draft.
The five players — Terrelle Pryor, Boom Herron, DeVier Posey, Mike Adams, and Solomon Thomas — kept their part of the bargain, and now it is time for Buckeye Nation to hold up its end. It is time for us all to forgive these young men for their mistakes, applaud their mature adherence to their pledges, and give them our full support when they return after their suspensions next year.