May 30, 2011

The Pryor Problem: When the Wrong Guy is Ousted

Jim Tressel cared too much about his players that cared too little.
That costed him his job.

John asked me write this little guest piece about the problem at The Ohio State University to give some student perspective and I really did not know where to start at first.  To many of us here at tOSU it was one of the shittier things we can wake up to.  It is truly one of those distracting/ depressing things that make everyone forget about their homework and check all their Buckeyes blogs and put up a status on facebook.  While most of Big Tweleventwelve country is licking their chops at the prospect of maybe beating the buckeyes more than twice in a decade, the scarlet and gray faithful are trying to comprehend the end of a major chapter in football history. 

James Patrick Tressel is truly his own institution at OSU, and has become so ingrained in athletics in the state of Ohio that many will find it strange to see a team step out on the field without him.  I want to be clear about this: NO ONE I know at Ohio State wanted the Senator gone.  Feelings range from what happened isn’t wrong and should be allowed (look at other scandals over the course of the year that are worse being the go to argument along with crack-baby basketball references), up to severe disappointment in his actions.  The common theme is that everyone here realizes the value he brings to the university and that everyone here is worse off without him.  The buckeyes football team received its highest ever academic ratings during his tenure, he makes sure his players graduate, he donates massive amounts of money to OSU, does speaking engagements for any student group that asks, spends time with troops overseas, and revived respect for OSU traditions as soon as he set foot on campus.  His performance as a coach is not to be overlooked (even though many rip his play calling), and he develops 3 star recruits into all Americans and NFL draftees.  Jim was also the only active FBS coach to teach a class (a tough one at that).  He was all scarlet and gray all the time, and that was why everyone will always support him.
Many people here think the vest got the short end of the stick, and he might have.  There is no denying that would he did was not acceptable, the NCAA hates lying more than the actual act, and most coaches in his place are let go.  The fact of the matter was that outside public opinion wanted him gone, while buckeye nation tended to be in full support.  The university threw him under the bus to satisfy the media storm and to appease the infractions committee, but they are essentially hurting tOSU and the players by getting rid of a great coach to save face.  In fact, I have actually witnessed girls yell at Pryor or Posey at the bar for what they did and the possibility of losing JT, and that speaks to how important he is to everyone here.  There really wasn’t another move to be made, but at least the Pat Fordes of the world are happy, while much is left to be desired in a very stunned Columbus that really didn’t even seriously consider the possibility of this departure regardless of the fact that it was a real possibility.
Speaking of the Tat Five, I cannot emphasize the amount of dislike collecting in haze-like fashion for these guys.  Alumni and students are fed up with Pryor and Posey especially, and many are quite loud with the opinion that they can’t wait for them to go underachieve in the NFL.  These are guys that took a deuce on Ohio State tradition by selling their rings and gold pants, which could be forgiven if it was an isolated incident.  The problem lies with the fact that I see them doing dumb shit with my own eyes all the time.  Walking by the stadium?  Well there’s TP getting out of a land rover.  Out at the bar?  There he is getting free shots.  Whether the car or shots where improper is not the problem.  These guys do not toe the line though.  Schools under investigation can’t have suspended players running around in shiny new expensive cars, acting like an idiot at bars with free booze, or fighting arbitrarily with students.  It’s obvious that to all but the most casual supporters that these guys never fit the culture here in Columbus, and it’s a shame they couldn’t grow up.  I know a bunch of guys who do things the right way, or at the very least take gifts quietly when they actually desperately need them.  With this SI article that came out a few minutes ago, we learned about some of the QB's buddies taking benefits, which surprises no one in particular.  Pryor and Posey are great talents, but they will forever be remembered as the guys who took down a coach with unwavering loyalty to his players that eventually came back to bite him.  If the university would be able to end its involvement with guys like this it would send a message that behavior like this will not be tolerated, especially from blue chip recruits.

Going forward, the Buckeyes have a great coach in waiting who now gets to take the helm.  Fickell is apparently the biggest contributor to strong recruiting, and the boss at practices and in the locker room.  Part of me likes having a guy with a bit of fire in his belly, and can’t wait to see what this true OSU guy can put together.  Additionally, the silver bullets should be able to lure in a top notch coach if they decide to go that route, and most talk about Urban Meyer.  Personally, I don’t want Urban because of issues with player discipline.  There is a difference between NCAA violations and crimes or being kicked out of school.  He does have OSU connections though, and did talk about crying his first time on the sidelines at Ohio Stadium, so you do have to love his passion.  I think the attractive pick would be to steal away everyone’s favorite heart attack victim up in East Lansing, but Urban obviously gets the most support.  Bo Pellini is also mentioned quite often and could work into the mix after this season.  The program doesn’t have to worry about getting great talent, and maybe they’ll even find the next JT at a small school somewhere.
 This is the strangest day I’ve ever had in Columbus, and it will be even stranger to come back home to Ohio State and see my Buckeyes take the field of Sept. 2nd without the guy who has been coaching my team ever since I watched my first Buckeyes game.  The show must go on, and I can take solace in the fact that I get to actually watch my bucks play in just over 3 months.

When it comes to the SI article, I have to be honest in saying that I thought we would be looking at a pay to play or point shaving scheme of some type.  While there is more to investigate here, the article really had little of substance besides the new names to add to the tatoo scandal.  There really isn't any evidence in regards to rigging raffles at football camps in the 80's, and all the Youngstown State stuff has already been run through.  While the tone is scathing and more players will be put under the magnifying glass, it doesn't seem to be anything as nearly bad as anyone here thought.

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