Anyone who knows me (or Cleveland sports) knows that I am sick of hearing about LeBron. However, recent events involving Coach Jim Tressel and THE Ohio State University beg comparison to the events of last summer and LeBron's Decision. And the similarities between the two situations cause me to be very concerned about the near future of OSU football.
The Cavaliers and their fans waited from the end of the season in May until July 8th to find out if LBJ would return. During that time, the Cavs were unable to sign any big name free agents to the team because even they were waiting to find out what LBJ would do. They also needed a new head coach since Mike Brown was fired. The Cavs would be two completely different teams depending on his decision and I can't blame other players for wanting to know the deal before signing to play here. I would love to know what Byron Scott was thinking when he took the coaching job. Did it matter to him what LBJ would do? I know that if I was interviewing for a new job, that would be my FIRST question.
Coach Jim Tressel resigned on Monday, May 30th. Now OSU and their fans wait to learn the fate of the university's football program and player status until the NCAA hearing on August 12th. How do you recruit new players when you don't know the extent of the sanctions that will be imposed? The school could lose athletic scholarships, bowl game eligibility, etc., for anywhere from a few games to a few years. How do I tell my son that it's still OK to commit to the school? Frankly, if my son is just a good player that wants to use football as a means to get his education, I'm sending him. However, if he's a great player? With a possible future in the NFL? Sorry - tradition and world-wide popularity aside, I'm sending him somewhere else where he can get the exposure and experience he needs to be drafted by an NFL team.
OSU also needs a new head coach. Again, same questions - how do they interview candidates for the job when they don't know exactly what the job will entail? Luke Fikell is a great choice as interim head coach and it would be very smart of the school to keep him there for at least a year; let this whole thing settle out and see exactly what the future holds. If Coach Fikell is smart - and I believe he is - then he will use this year as a one long job interview and try to prove to the boss that he is the right man for the job long term.
The bottom line is this: I suffered through a terrible basketball season this year. The team, crippled by "the decision," finished 19-63. Embarrassing. Terrible. Abysmal. And directly related to the waiting game we all played last summer.
What fate awaits OSU as a result of the waiting game they must play now? The NCAA is doing the program a grave disservice by making everyone wait until August 12th for THEIR decision. The coaches must get the players ready to play a game against the University of Akron on September 3. How distracted will everyone be while they are waiting? How bad will this team be with star players out at least the first five games, new prospects possibly going to different schools, and a coaching staff that isn't secure in their own futures?
I barely made it through a terrible Cavs basketball season and I don't think I can make it through a losing OSU football season. But I like to think that I can learn from history, that I can see the mistakes of the past and improve my choices in the future. Hopefully OSU will take a look at the pain the Cavs suffered and try to make better choices this summer, clean up the program, convince coaches and players that everything will be ok, and give all fans a reason to hold their heads up with pride this fall. O - H .....