OSU Wins, At All Costs
Waking up this morning in a world where Ohio State is a dominant, juggernaut-like national champion left me with a few thoughts…. For one, they’re scary. They ran the same basic power RB move to the weak side against Oregon over and over and over and the Ducks were helpless to stop it. It’s possible that the Oregon D wasn’t well-prepared or not talented enough, but those both seem unlikely. More likely is that Zeke Elliott is just a manbeast. 246 yards and four TDs. Oh and hey, he’s a sophomore. And of course you already know their third-stringer QB story. (Incidentally, Cardale Jones should go pro now – he’ll never be more of a folk hero in Columbus than he is right now. He’ll then flame out in the pros and will be a color analyst on Buckeyes games within five years.) The Buckeyes, as some have mentioned, were kind of built to win the national title in 2015, so they’re a year ahead of schedule. And they should be just as good next season. Fun.
But more than all that, I was thinking about the NCAA basking in the afterglow of their billions of dollars as they held a game in Jerry Jones’ monument to personal insecurity in the late hours of a Monday night (or early hours of a Tuesday morning) in mid-January… and I was thinking about their toothlessness. So now for a very special episode of Where Are They Now?
Remember just 3 ½ years ago, when Jim Tressel was forced out and Terrelle Pryor went pro as Ohio State was “hit” with sanctions for covering up a free-tattoos-for-memorabilia “scandal”? (By the way, there are many who simplify it as though that’s all that was going on under Tressel’s watch. The facts are that there were dozens of high-end cars being driven by players and their families that were all sketchy and that Pryor was also implicated in a Manziel-like autographing-for-dollars situation. And that’s what it’s easy to know about. But I digress.)
Tressel stepped away, but remains a folk hero in Columbus. Luke Fickell stuck around and assumed the mantle of “head coach” for one, single 6-6 season (boo hoo) before Urban Meyer rode into town. Fickell remained on staff and went back to defense, while Meyer assembled a program that has now lost one Big Ten game in his tenure – last year’s Big Ten title game, which doesn’t really even go down as a “conference loss” since it’s a postseason game. So Meyer now is 38-3 in his three years, including 24-0 in the Big Ten regular season. Clearly, the sanctions that Ohio State was hit with were devastating.
What that mini-scandal at OSU did was allow them to get Tressel out the door fairly neatly, while looking like they were “doing the right thing,” and then court the man they really wanted – and who wanted them – Mr. Meyer.
But what about Tressel? Well, as you no doubt know, he’s got a cushy job at Youngstown State currently, the place where he had already had a run-in with the NCAA and a “lack of institutional control,” before he moved on to the Buckeyes. And now? Well, if you paid attention last night, you saw him out there on the field for the coin toss and you heard he’s been selected for the College Football Hall of Fame. Sanctions with teeth, indeed.
Who lost out? Well, in a Pollyanna way, anyone who looks for “fairness” in college football, which doesn’t exist any more than a unicorn or a Purdue 10-win season. Also, Terrelle Pryor lost out a little bit. According to the internet, Pryor spent the preseason with the Seahawks and last week signed a one-year deal with the Chiefs, but hasn’t played an NFL game since 2013. He surely made some money and I don’t shed any tears for him, but one could very easily argue that he lost the most in this web of arrogance and deceit. He didn’t graduate, he left under a cloud, he’s a handy fall guy and his pro career has gone nowhere. Unlike Cardale and JT Barrett, he won’t be invited back with the same open arms.
That’s the problem when you’re a place like Ohio State – you get a lot of glory, but you need to show your pride while willfully ignoring the seedy underbelly and collateral damage. Yes, Ohio State earned the title this season and what they did was amazing to watch from a football standpoint – and I mean that, it was a thing of beauty. And without a doubt, Urban Meyer is an amazing football coach – to those who think he did well because of the resources of his programs, just look at his record at Utah or Bowling Green. But…..
The natural line to end a post like this is something about “at what cost?” It’s a nice, dramatic ending, intended to leave the reader thinking, yes, what’s the cost to Ohio State? How battered is their moral compass looking? But let’s be honest about this… seriously, what is the cost? That the alums and fans need to overlook some shady business? That they have to pretend that the barely-a-slap-on-the-wrist they got from the NCAA was actually somehow a real punishment rather than just a convenient setup to allow them to reload? Let me assure you, they have no problem making these leaps. There is no moral compass – or there is one, but it’s sitting on the magnet that is their own hero-worship and revisionist history.
No, the truth here is that this is today’s NCAA and today’s college football landscape. What incentive is there to behave and follow the rules – especially the ones most agree are a bit draconian with regard to player’s profiting off their own likenesses? The answer, as Ohio State proved early this morning, is that there is none. To the victor go the spoils – you’re just playing more than one game.