Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Well paint me purple and gold...

Never thought we’d say this, but thanks to Les Miles and LSU! Yesterday in a ruling that nobody knew was coming on violations that nobody knew occurred deemed LSU worthy of one year probation and a loss of two scholarships. What did they do? It’ll sound familiar...

Here’s the skinny: ex-assistant coach D.J. McCarthy improperly arranged for transportation and housing for former defensive lineman Akiem Hicks in 2009, then later tried to cover up those actions. McCarthy resigned in December 09, Hicks never played a down for the Tigers. Guess what violation LSU was charged with? If you said 10.1, you’re a winner!

Does 10.1 sound familiar? It should, that’s what Ohio State is charged with in the Tressel email-tattoo violations. Let me correct that. Ohio State is charged with one count of violating rule 10.1 while LSU was charged with violating it twice in the McCarthy-Hicks saga. The NCAA committee on infractions labeled the violations “major” and a coach lost his job. Any of this sounding remotely familiar? (please catch my sarcasm, I know you know what I’m talking about).

LSU imposed self sanctions, as Ohio State did. Their self imposed penalties are a reduction of two scholarships for 2010-11 academic year, 10% reduction in official recruiting visits and calls, and one year probation. No vacated games. No bowl games that now supposedly didn’t happen. No forfeiting of conference championships. And these terms, for all intents and purposes, were accepted by the NCAA, who only added that the 10% recruiting reductions have the 2011-12 academic year added to it. I’m sure Les Miles was very upset by that...

What played the biggest part in LSU escaping any major penalties was their compliance and self reporting. This is something that, as mentioned last week, USC fans and Ohio State haters don’t seem to be able to wrap their heads around. When you self report, turn yourself in, provide all the information asked along with your own findings, assist the NCAA in their investigation, cooperate in general, they have a lot more leniency toward the situation and realize that you’re admitting fault and trying to work towards fixing the problem and eliminating it in the future. NCAA Committee on Infractions chairman Dennis Thomas stated "The committee really felt that the LSU compliance staff and institution did an excellent job, and that they assisted the (NCAA) enforcement staff in the investigation regarding these violations. That was critical. If that had not been done, the institution could have really been under more severe and serious penalties as well." Ohio State has been just as compliant from day one.

Ok, so what did LSU really do? That’s the question that keeps being thrown at me. Like their violations were petty compared to scandalous Ohio State and their prostitution ring and drug cartel. LSU was found have made 3,600 recruiting calls from three “noncoaching” staff members. Can’t do that. McCarthy was found to have improperly arranged a visit for Hicks, paid for his transportation, and then later tried to cover it up.

Cut away the fat on whether you decide in your opinion that trading memorabilia for tattoo’s is worse or better morally than a coach paying for a recruit’s visit. Remove the action and the cover up remains in both cases, thus violating article 10.1. Both coaches lost their jobs, and I would say that Jim Tressel’s departure from Ohio State will have much more of a negative impact than McCarthy leaving LSU. Both cases saw the Athletic Department offices and compliance offices do everything in their power to make it right and assist the NCAA once the cover up by the individuals was revealed. and let’s not forget, LSU was found to have violated the dreaded 10.1 twice. Tressel and Ohio State only once.

When you remove the action it’s as simples as a “major” violation is a “major” violation and violating article 10.1 is violating 10.1. The self imposed penalties Ohio State put on itself certainly reflect the magnitude of their situation and the involvement of a lot more than just one player. But taken into context with what we have just seen in Baton Rouge, I think they seem more than fair.

Where are the hounds?

My biggest question regarding the LSU situation: Who knew? Because the national media didn’t pick up on this story until the ruling was released... yesterday. Yes, we heard about the coach getting fired (or resigning) and that LSU had committed some sort of violation and that they’d eventually have to go the principals office. However, where were the Yahoo’s and ESPN’s of the world to crush LSU when they receive their letter of investigation? It was never reported, by anyone, when they received their letter of allegations citing violation of article 10.1. We were made to believe that a violation of article 10.1 could result in the death penalty it was so severe. Yet LSU gets handed two allegations of the same violation and nobody even bothers to report on it? Where is ESPN’s lawsuit with LSU demanding more information and emails?

I wrote this on twitter (@ScriptOhio) yesterday, and I’ll say it again here: Buckeye fans should be outraged! Of course, if you listen to LeCharles Bentley’s comments on WKNR last week, you know what this is all about and why it is what it is.

To summarize: LeCharles Bentley was doing his spot on WKNR when he told the story of ESPN and the Big Ten. Short version, in 2004 ESPN top executives approached Big Ten commissioner Jim Delaney about working out a new tv deal that would tie the Big Ten to ESPN for a long long time. Apparently, according to LeCharles, ESPN decided to lowball Delaney. When Delaney told ESPN that if they didn’t offer a better deal, one more commensurate with that if the other conferences (namely the SEC) and ESPN, he would start his own network and ESPN would rue the day. They called his bluff and in 2006 the announcement came that their would be a new Big Ten television network, what we all know now as the Big Ten Network. Oh, and it’s partnered with FOX, something ESPN really had to not be happy about. (Nice shot Jim!)

Even more upsetting to ESPN, it’s successful and turning a profit. Naturally, when you have a rival, what do you do? You go after it’s biggest asset (in this case Ohio State) and you try and destroy it. You rip apart the Big Ten’s top dog and devalue the product. All those negative reports on ESPN, senseless investigating, reporters calling former players and asking if they wanted to talk about “you now, anything” the all-out smear campaign ESPN analysts have put on Ohio State since this whole tattoo situation started, is it starting to make a lot more sense now? I would kill to be a fly on the wall when negotiations for a new Big Ten tv contract with ESPN/ABC come up at the expiration of the current deal in 2016. Things may be a little tense at the tables!

Maybe move on?

Don’t the Big Ten and ESPN need each other? Not really. Let me explain. According estimates based on the current deals with the SEC and PAC-12, the Big Ten deal with ESPN in 2016 would range anywhere from 8-10 billion dollars. That is a lot of money for ESPN to be losing out on, as clearly they feel they’d make double that in profit or they wouldn’t offer it. But now that deal, and possibly any major deal, with the network and the Big Ten could be in jeopardy. The Big Ten Network is turning a profit. It’s getting into the right homes and the conference has just added Nebraska which expands strong interest to the St. Louis market all the way west to potentially as far as Colorado and Wyoming. In short, it works. FOX Sports has already outbid “the worldwide leader” for the rights to the Big Ten title game and the PAC-12 title game. The significance in that winning bid is that it shows FOX is willing to spend money to cut into ESPN’s chokehold in the lucrative college football money market. You don’t think ESPN put all its cards on the table to get those two championship games, especially after just signing a new deal with the PAC-12? You bet it they did! And they lost!

Back to the whole “need” thing. I think the Big Ten can survive without a major deal with ESPN. Thinking out loud and outside what some may see as possible, but really follow me here, what if Delaney brings the Big Ten to FOX in five years? What’s to stop them from signing a deal that would put the Big Ten on FOX nationally every Saturday afternoon and prime time? Couldn’t you see a FOX “Big Ten game of the week” at 8 after regional matchups at 3:30 or noon? FOX also has the Fox Sports Net affiliates to broadcast regional games so that the people in southern Indiana can see the Hoosiers take on Illinois on their FSN affiliate while the national broadcast shows Michigan v Penn State. And don’t forget the Big Ten Network, which is part owned by FOX. This now puts real games on the BTN in prime slots. We could a Saturday prime time lineup featuring Ohio State v Wisconsin on FOX national and Nebraska v Michigan State on the BTN both at 8:00.

As for the “mother ship” over in Bristol, they’ll be fine. They’ll just dump more money into the SEC, PAC-12 and their new University of Texas Network. They’ll continue to slam Ohio State when they can and likely even when it’s not warranted.

The bigger question may be, with all the laughing and finger pointing being done our conference rivals (I’m talking to you scUM) how will they respond when they reach a level of success and ESPN comes after them? Because if you think this thing exclusively applies to Ohio State, oh fan of the stinky fanged rat, you are gravely mistaken! go ahead and win a Big Ten title or two, get into some BCS games regularly and watch the hounds at ESPN start invading your campus digging for anything they can find. You’re no exception. Nobody in the Big Ten should let their guard down to ESPN. They want to ruin Ohio State first, but they’ll take you as soon as they can get it.

Metallica track of the week
"Orion" no lyrics neccessary, just pure power and melody. If you've never listened to this masterpiece, you truly don't know what you're missing!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Who says you can't go home?

Friday morning The Ohio State University athletic department released copies of its response to NCAA allegations brought forth in March of this year. Self imposed sanctions were put into place as a means to punish the football program for the violations they truly were guilty of in the investigation. The response also brought to light the culmination of an interesting "behind the scenes" discussion answering the question was Jim Tressel pressured to resign or did he do it on his own free-will? As it would be revealed, he indeed was asked to step down.

Many believe Tressel should still be in place acting as head coach of the program. Others feel he should not have been given the opportunity to resign (or as it turns out, he actually retired from the head coaching position) rather he should have been ceremoniously fired and then immediately tarred and feathered in his front yard and drug through the streets of Upper Arlington right to Bruce Hooley's front door where... Sorry, I got a little carried away! Where was I? Tressel retired, that's it... Look, I'm not saying Tressel did the right thing as it pertains to the emails and the tattoo shop on goings. He should have reported what was happening immediately and sat those players the first five games of 2010. That would have been the right thing to do. As a matter of fact, forget about it being right, it was his responsibility. Nobody with an ounce of common sense denies that fact. But you can understand why he didn't it, just look at 2010's 12-1 record for proof. With those guys on the field, short of an ambush they should have been better prepared for in Madison, this team would have been unbeaten. And Tressel knew what he had. Ultimately, not forwarding those emails to Gene Smith and suspending those players immediately would be his undoing.

However you stand on the morality of the reporting of the emails issue, you can't deny that Jim Tressel fell on the sword for Ohio State's football program in the form of the response letter. When you read it, you can almost see Gene Smith standing next to Tressel with his arm extended and finger pointed directly at him, jumping up and down like the kid on the playground at recess who couldn't wait to tell the teacher exactly whom it was that slipped and said the "s word" when he fell and skinned his knee (damn you Scott Blakely!) on the blacktop. Gene was none too upset about pinning everything on JT, though he did his best to make it look like it. And for the most part he did it rightfully so. But where was his own accountability? Instead of saying "I wish he'd have told me" why didn't he go find out? How is someone in that position in charge of this football program at this university not watching Tressel and the players like a hawk? I understand basketball is a big sport at Ohio State. The kids who do the balance beam are important too. But Gene, this school, this state revolves around THE OHIO STATE UNIVERSITY FOOTBALL PROGRAM.

Enough about Gene and Jim, let's talk sanctions

The athletic department imposed its own punishment in the vacating of all wins in 2010, the 2011 Sugar Bowl victory, two years of probation and the forcing out/firing of a legendary head coach. Given what went on, the facts, losing a coach like Tressel on top of the penalty is pretty harsh stuff. Yes, I said it, it's a pretty harsh penalty, but fitting.

The 2010 wins had to be vacated, they played what would have been ineligible players in said games. Despite everyone being cleared to play by the NCAA, they threw in vacating the Sugar Bowl for good measure. They also put the athletic department, now mind you this is the entire athletic department, not just the football program, on two years of probation. So if that dude mentioned above who excels at the balance beam gets out of line, they all get whacked!

Naturally, the national media was appalled and threw a fit at the response. "Who does Ohio State think they are?!" I read "Nice try Ohio State, but you've got a real whopper coming!" And my favorite "The audacity of this program!" I'll be the first to admit, we may see scholarship reductions for the next three years. I don't know why, maybe the history of these type rulings in cases like Ohio State's that I've been reading on websites from writers like Tony Gerdemann at The O-Zone and Doug Lesmerises of The Cleveland Plain Dealer, I think we'll see a scholarship reduction. If for no other reason, so the NCAA can play the bully and add something on. Probably another year of probation as well. However, I feel it's highly unlikely, we still may see a one year bowl ban for the 2011 season. But folks, that's it. I'm sorry Joe Schad. Tough luck Bruce Hooley. I feel for you Sports By Brooks. But unfortunately for all of you, that's the max it will be.

For some reason that I can't seem to figure out, all these pundits want to point at USC as the example of how our punishment should be brought down. What's sad is that if these guys did their jobs and read the NCAA allegations, if they read Ohio State's response and then look solely at the facts, they'd understand that the USC case is not even remotely comparable to what went on at Ohio State.

At USC you had a player receiving cash, cars and his family a house from boosters. That was proven as fact. At Ohio State you had players trading memorabilia for tattoo's, that was fact. The cars they were accused of getting "deals" on were proved to be all legit. You had a coach who turned a blind eye to the whole thing, never admitting what he truly knew or didn't know, and then escaped to the NFL without even attending the hearing. He wasn't forced out or fired, he quit and ran. And the biggest difference, USC fought their allegations tooth and nail, kicking and screaming the whole way. Ohio State self reported and has been apologetic and admitted their mistakes from the start. Self reporting is a big factor in the NCAA's eyes.

So when USC gets hammered with two years of no bowl games and x amount of scholarships lost per year and everything else that was dropped on them like a lead balloon, it's pretty deserving. Ohio State? Not so much. Make sure and set your dvr the day the NCAA announces its punishment based on the August 12th hearing. That will be must see tv when the national media folks heads achieve full combustion live on the air!

Kyle Kalis

Certainly you've heard the name Kyle Kalis recently. He is the top 20 nationally ranked offensive tackle from Lakewood St. Ed's who de-committed from Ohio State and then this past Sunday announced he had been hooked by Flounder (Brady Hoke, keep up with my nicknames!)and was going to take his talents to Ann Arbor next fall. You know what? Good for him. Enjoy life in the suck.

Here's what really angers me about Kalis and some of it isn't even his fault: recruiting services and magazines attacking this kid (and any other top rated recruits) with advice about what they should and shouldn't be doing. He should be worried about homecoming and getting ready for double sessions in August, instead he has "Joe Writer" from "Recruting Bedazzler America" website and magazine on his porch and blowing up his phone 24 hours a day. The fact is, he's a 17 year old kid in high school who's the big man on campus. He's getting more phone calls nightly than you can even begin to imagine from coaches, he doesn't need recruiting services trying to get scoop and filling his head with nonsense. So when Kyle Kalis announces back in April that he is staying with his commitment to Ohio State after talking with Luke Fickell, then announces he is re-opening his recruitment, then finally submits to the dark side and Darth Flounder, more or less it's really not his fault. I wouldn't be surprised if he changed his mind again and said he was going to Notre Lame.

What is his fault is the double talk. Don't say that you're re-opening your recruitment when things look bad and blame it on the uncertainty of things in Columbus, then two days after Ohio State responds to the NCAA allegations by imposing sanctions that will have no bearing on you and your time in Columbus, decide you want to go to Michigan because "I shouldn't be punished for something I had no part of." That's true, you shouldn't. And if you had stuck to your word that you would wait until after the NCAA made it's ruling (oh yeah big boy, I read that little column in Sporting News!) since signing day isn't until February anyways, you just may have found that the NCAA ruling had no impact on you as well.

Mike Vrabel

Maybe the worst kept secret of the past few weeks was finally announced officially today when former Buckeye defensive end and 3X Super Bowl winner Mike Vrabel was made linebackers coach at Ohio State. I don't know what kind of teacher he will be other than what I've heard from Bill Belichik and Teddy Brusci. Both stated that of all the players they coached and had as teammates, Vrabel was clearly the one to become a coach and be more than pretty good at it. That's high praise from some people who've reached pretty high places! The addition of Vrabel is a breath of fresh air on what has been a spring and summer the likes we will never forget, though we will try as hard as we can to remove the stain of this offseason as quickly as possible. Vrabel is the first step in the right direction toward becoming The once again.

Metallica track of the week
"Battery" Speed and thrash at its finest! "Smashing through the boundaries, lunacy has found me..."

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

So, what are you going to do now?

When I was young, I took great pride in representing my city and school by participating in youth football. Playing on those teams in grade school was a great time and a valuable learning experience. Despite the wins and trophies, the thing my friends and I really looked forward to was getting into high school and being able to play for the varsity. We wore our game jersey's to school on Fridays, then to the game that night. It was foreshadowing, seeing all our coaches at the games watching players they coached at our age who had moved on to the "big time", knowing one day it'd be us they were watching. There is something really special about those Friday nights when you're at that age.

On the rarest of occasions, for various reasons that may come to me in my sleep one night but currently elude my memory, a few of us would get the honor of going into the varsity locker room. Seeing the red lockers, the shiny red helmets above them with all the battle scars nicked into the plastic. The smell of Sports Cream, tape, deodorant and sweat all blended into a beautiful aroma. It was quite a scene! And of course we would have to retell, in detail, to those who didn't get to go. Amidst the painted mascot pictures, championship years were the sayings on the walls. Ones like "WILDCAT POWER" or "STRENGTH OF STRUTHERS" and the ubiquitous "T.OGETHER E.VERYONE. A.CHIEVES M.ORE" Amongst them was one that stuck with me, and I used to ponder on my own during those times when kids daydream. Near the door leading up the steps to the field was painted "So, what are you going to do now?"

At first the saying was met with a bit of comedy amongst foolish kids. "So, what are you going to do now?" Well, I'm going to get the hell out of here before someone sees us and realizes we shouldn't be here! "So, what are you going to do now?" I don't know, maybe a snow cone or some Starburst, too many options.

Then one day, away from my friends, alone with my thoughts, out of the blue it hit me and I realized the purpose for its having been painted. Just blew out your cross town rivals? "So, what are you going to do now?" Down by 6 at halftime? "So, what are you going to do now?" Coach just crushed you for missing an assignment? "So, what are you going to do now?" It was there to keep the players grounded and motivated. To keep them never too high from the spoils of victory. Never too low from the agony of defeat. It was also a challenge. Especially since I always read it in Mick from Rocky's voice in my head. I was never more upset as it would pertain to interior design than when they painted the locker room after my sophomore year and covered up that slogan.

I realized yesterday that we are nearly an exact month away from from players reporting for fall camp and college football season to begin. If given the opportunity, amidst the spring/summer of turmoil in Columbus, upon their arrival at the Blackwell Hotel I'd ask one question to coach Luke Fickell and the Ohio State Buckeyes: So, what are you going to do now?

Now that what people say won't matter and you'll be judged on what happens between the white lines, what are you going to do now? Because the haters and doubters will have a picnic discussing your downfall and how far this program will sink, what are you going to do now?

As Buckeye fans, it's this test of resiliency that we are waiting for. It's, hopefully, the positive results of such test that will allow us to say "we're going to be just fine". And I think our boys are up to it. It repeats what I've said before, if you take highly skilled, near professional level athletes, coached by some of the most experienced and best in the business, spend 10 months discussing how their program is a sham and they are the laughing stock of the sport, it can only lead to a few results once the whistle blows. One result is a wilt and die approach. Take the criticism, take the problems that have happened since December of 2010 and use them as an excuse to allow failure. Some may also refer to that as "the easy way". Or, you can train harder, study longer, rally together as brothers and use those past indiscretions, add in all the negative energy from the doubters and prognosticators as a fuel to drive the machine and roll over anything in its path.

Hey coach, hey Buckeyes, "So, what are you going to do now?"


Naturally, one of the big topics this fall will be who the next head coach at Ohio State will be. I've thought of trying to put a list together, but for some reason I can't get past about four guys and have solid reasons why all of them will, but most likely won't, be the new head coach. So, I'm going to throw out a darkhorse candidate that I think you all should pay very close attention to (especially since my source on Oregon mentioned his name more than once in conversation). Follow along, we're going to go through this quick...

My four on the "wish list" are pretty obvious: Bob Stoops, Urban Meyer, John Gruden and Bo Pelini. We can sit here all night and discuss why one guy will or won't take the job, and that's another blog on another day. Who do I want the most? Stoops. Who do I think would drop everything he's doing at his current gig and take it in a heartbeat? Pelini. Who do I think is a darkhorse and not on the "wish list" but someone you better know the name of? Dan Mullen, head coach at Mississippi State.

Metallica track of the week

"Broken Beat and Scarred" Pretty blunt, show your scars. Be proud of who you are and where your from. Whether positive or negative, take control and use those experiences to your advantage. Like Papa Het says "WHAT DON'T KILL YA, MAKE YA MORE STRONG!"