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Saturday, September 3, 2011

Buckeye Nation: My "State of the OSU" Address

College Football Fans:

ATTENTION College Football Fans: Whether you are part of THE Ohio State University family or not, the things that have happened to the Buckeyes in the past year are a concern to you. At least they should. Even if you are a Michigan fan, while you are celebrating the downfall of Coach Tressell, you should also be concerned for the state of College Football and what these "happenings" may mean to your program. You should be concerned about what the NCAA might do next.
I know that I am.

I should start by saying that I am a Buckeye's fan. My family are Buckeye fans. The picture you see here is of my husband and I and two of our daughters forming O-H-I-O on the Great Wall of China in 2009. I love this picture. Not just because it is of my family, all decked out in scarlet and grey, doing something together, but also because of the memory of all the people BEHIND the person taking our picture. They were also taking our picture. As the only non-asian people on the wall that day, we drew quite a few stares. I'm not quite sure what they thought we were doing, but one thing I am sure of: we were the topic of conversation at many Chinese dinner tables that night!

With that being said, I think I can still objectively look at the current situation of the football program at OSU. The announcement of three suspensions this week for the University of Akron (Fear the ROO) game blindsided many of us. It stems from three players that attended a charity event in which all attendees were given gift bags. The exact worth of the bag is not known, but only reported to be "under $300." This is because the NCAA classifies improper benefits in categories based on dollar value in order to assign penalties. It doesn't mean the bag was worth $299.99. The timing of the announcement seems suspicious to many but I'm guessing it was decided a while ago and only announced this week as part of the line-up listing for the game.

I've said publicly that my biggest concern with these new suspensions is that the school, via Gordon Gee & Gene Smith, STILL doesn't know how to share information with the public in a way that gives them the complete story and cuts back on the speculation and innuendo that can do more damage to a program than the truth. Perhaps they need to hire a "Spin Doctor" to teach them how to do a proper press release. The one that OSU sent out was one that just begged more questions, and those questions have been all over the radio, internet, and social media like Twitter. People are slamming these three young men for not knowing better, for not caring about the school, for being stupid. My biggest question about everything remains unanswered: When was the charity event?

If the event was in July, I'd like to take these three players and the compliance officers at OSU out to my back yard and tell them to select a switch, as my dad used to do with us as kids. It is unacceptable to think that with everything else that has gone on in the past year, the sensitivity meter isn't cranked up to FULL. These guys shouldn't even be buying a box of cereal at the grocery store on the off change that the secret toy surprise could be considered improper.

If the event was back in late spring, April or May is the latest rumor, then I'm much more inclined to be lenient. It was a gift bag that all attendees got so I could see how the players might think it was ok.

The other thing I am hearing is that part of the problem is that they players did not clear their appearance at this charity with the school. Again, the lack of information from OSU is just fueling this fire. Were they just attending in support of a charity? Were they advertised as special guest to sell tickets to the event? Did they sit at a table together in the back or were they set up in the front signing autographs? All of these question matter and the fact that we have to ask them, and will get no answers, makes the school look bad and does it a disservice.

The University is failing these young men in leaving them out there for people to criticize. It should come as NO surprise to anyone that in this day and age of social media the players are being painted as villains, being called out by anyone with a Twitter account, being asked to turn in their uniforms. I, for one, will not be that harsh against these young men until more facts are on the table. Unfortunately, OSU has a habit of keeping their cards close to the vest (no pun intended) and will most likely never tell us the whole story.

Today the Buckeyes took on the Akron Zips. Two of my daughters, and most of my money, go to Akron. Fear the ROO! I support Akron sports and go to as many games as I can. My niece is a senior on their Lady Zip Volleyball team. We go to those matches. It is a good school with a great group of kids involved in these sports and I feel that being OSU's first game after everything that has gone on is so unfair to them. They were put under a microscope that they never asked to be under and from what I am hearing, the staff and players have all handled themselves very well. Kudos to a great program. I truly wish them luck, but with all that said, my personal loyalty starts with Ohio State so I'm happy we won.

Once today is over, some of the attention that OSU has been getting will go away. Some outlets will move on to other stories. And some will just sit back and wait for another opportunity to scream from the rooftops that OSU has done something wrong and that more sanctions are on the way. I understand all of that - any person, team, business, etc. that has success paints a target on it's own back for these kinds of things. That's just the way it is.

From a coaching perspective, talk has been going on all summer (and I heard some again today) about who the the Head Coach should be. Um, hello? Luke
Fickell? Remember him? Can we please let him coach ONE GAME before we decide he's not "the guy?" I absolutely understand that coaching a program like the OSU Buckeyes is not just about wins and losses. It's also about public image. It's about representing one of the most respected programs in the country. It's about living a high profile life and handling it with class. And it's about credibility. All of these things play into the recruiting aspect of college football.

The two big jobs for a CFB Head Coach are 1) winning football games and 2) recruiting for the future. In the NFL, players are chosen by the front office so the coach just has to deal with what he gets. In CFB the head coach is the key. He visits players, he talks to families, he builds his team himself. Yeah he has a staff of guys to help, but you know what I'm saying. High School players don't just choose a university based on the school itself. They also choose based on the head coach.

It is far too soon to be talking about how Ohio State needs Urban Meyer or Jon Grudin. Yes, they are quality coaches that any program would love to have. I would die if either of them walked into my living room and asked if my grandson would please come and play football for them. (I have four daughters so it's up to my grandson to give me a football player in the family)

Who were they when they first started? Someone gave them their first job. Someone let them walk into a living room so they could sign their very first recruit. Why are we so quick to assume that Luke can't be "that guy?" I am willing to give him some time this year and see how the team looks on the field. I truly believe that the OSU name is enough to get Luke into some living rooms and proving he knows how to win will be the ink in the pen for recruits to sign with him.

Where does this all leave us, the college football fan? Well, that's up to the NCAA. Which school is next to be on their radar? When will the NCAA move on to the "U" of Miami situation? When will those facts all be dealt with, meetings held, sanctions offered? How about the Oregon Ducks? There are cancelled checks for gosh sakes to a guy in Texas that claimed to be a scout but was actually steering kids to the Oregon program? The Ducks are one of the teams I root for - when they are not playing the Buckeyes - and yet I want them to be dealt with for their problems. It's only fair.

At some point the NCAA will have to move on from OSU and tackle these other issues. At some point the NCAA will have to take a good long look at itself and fix the problems. I am NOT in favor of paying players. I don't want to change the rules. I read an article in Sports Illustrated back on August 18 that was simple and brilliant in offering a solution to this mess. Josh Luchs suggested that the school compliance people NOT be employees of the school, but be employed by the NCAA itself. Brilliant. Read the article yourself and you'll see why I love it. No further comment needed by me since he puts it out there so well.

College Football is back today and I can't wait for the kickoff. Whatever happens in the coming weeks/months will have to wait until after the end of the 4th quarter. THE Ohio State University will rebound from this and be better than ever. The Buckeye Family will have it no other way. That's how things are in a family - no matter how badly they screw up, we love them anyway and we are going to be there for them. We are going to support them while they fix the issues. Because we know they will fix them, we know they are better than this.

O - H ....

Respectfully Submitted,

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