Monday, June 13, 2011

Translating Fickell

New Ohio State head coach Luke Fickell is not one to mix words.  In his inaugural press conference on Monday, Coach Fickell said the things that the embattled Buckeye Nation needed to hear.  His words were succinct, direct, and unassuming.  However, it was the words he didn’t speak that resonated the loudest.

When asked if he had any contact with exiled quarterback Terrelle Pryor, Fickell was very matter of fact. If he could have said what was on his mind, I believe his answer would have been something like this.  “I’m glad Pryor decided to leave the program.  Good riddance.  Don’t let the doorknob hit you on the way out!”

Truer words were never spoken. To paraphrase Fickell, “We’re excited about having four good quarterbacks to compete this fall.”  Most coaches would have had a little compassion about losing your 31 wins versus 4 losses, three year starter.  I imagine that considering the circus Pryor’s dubious escapades have created, Fickell considers this equation addition by subtraction.

Luke has been groomed well by his former boss.  He was humble, yet authoritative.  Unlike his predecessor, he did not dance around the hard questions.  He clearly stated that the 2011 version of the Buckeye football team would lead the nation in “Effort, Turnovers, and Toughness”.  What else would you expect a former nose guard who started 50 consecutive games to say?

Being a teammate of Luke’s, I know that he knows what it takes to win at The Ohio State University.  Consider his tenure as a player and coach as a dress rehearsal for his current assignment.  He won’t be outworked.  He has a wealth of experience to draw from as he battles the competition on the field and in the recruiting battle.

Despite the recent stain on the program, the brand shines bright even when the light seems dim.  The coach is the leader of The Ohio State Buckeyes.  No tattoo, dealer tag, or signed memorabilia can knock down the structure of The Shoe.  So for all foes who think that The Buckeyes are wounded, keep on thinking that’s the case.  I think they’ll leave disappointed and beaten.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Declaration of Independence

Did I waste my time during the entire 2004 season?  Did the 2004 college football season disappear?  Was I dreaming in early January when I watched the Orange Bowl?  I swear I saw a juggernaut that goes by the nickname Trojans destroy some team with an “O” on their helmets.

Now it’s clear.  I did see all of that season.  I did watch the Orange Bowl.  I did see Southern Cal destroy Oklahoma.  However, the BCS holds a time machine in their offices that wiped away the paper records of that transaction.  How should such power be held by one organization?  What did Southern Cal do to be wiped off the mat?  They played football, didn’t they?

In 2004 through 2005, Reggie Bush received improper benefits from various sources in the Southern California area.  He could be seen in expensive cars.  His parents lived in an upscale home.  He took advantage of his own celebrity.  He rubbed elbows with his celebrity quarterback Matt Leinart.  Wait!  He took advantage of his own celebrity?

It begs to ask the question, how many #5 jerseys were sold across America during this time period?  How many times did Snoop Dogg and Will Farrell visit the sidelines of the Coliseum? 

The USC Trojans along with the rest of College Football saw Reggie Bush electrify the stadium.  Millions across America watched in awe of the swivel hips and raw speed of the 2005 Heisman Trophy winner score with effortless motion.  Los Angeles did not need a professional football team.  They had something better.  They had the Trojans.  The Trojans had a Hollywood quarterback.  The Trojans had a Hollywood coach.  The Trojans were the toast of the town.  More importantly for this discussion, the Trojans raked in millions of dollars in revenue, fueled on the backs of the Men of Troy.

What’s wrong with mindset of the dictators of college football?  It’s morally wrong to exploit the multitude of talent on the playing field, only to be thanked by offering them a mere portion of what they deserve.  There was a time and place for such treatment, and that time was before I was born.  The time was pre ESPN.  The time was before the Heisman Trophy ceremony was an hour long television special.  The time was before coaches started making millions of dollars per season. 

There is no way the NCAA saw this revenue explosion coming 40 or 50 years ago.  If Nostradamus was on the NCAA board of trustees, he would have predicted an era where College Football becomes a money making juggernaut.  He would have advised his colleagues to create the correct guidelines to see to it that these athletes could receive a mere percentage of the revenue they create.  He would have suggested that it is ok to allow these young men to enjoy some of the spoils of their celebrity.  He would have seen that the masses would love to show their appreciation to these young men by treating them to a meal.  Too bad Nostradamus was gone before the NCAA took power.

Cry not fans of the Men of Troy.  Like you, I had the pleasure of watching many of those games during the 2004 season.  I watched Reggie Bush dazzle up and down the field leaving clumsy defenders in his wake.  I watched the onslaught in the Orange Bowl where Pete Carroll hoisted the trophy proudly above his head.  I saw it myself.  So as far as I’m concerned, the BCS can strip the National Championship from Southern Cal.  However, the BCS cannot strip the pleasure I received in watching, nor can they strip what everyone else saw.

Plain in simple, College Football needs to have a meeting of the minds similar to that of the men who gathered in 1776 and declared independence from tyranny.  College Football needs a Declaration of Independence and its needed now.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Who's Kidding Who?

Who’s kidding who?

I, along with countless thousands of young men played college football.  Some of those same college football players became coaches in college football.  Some of those college football coaches became college head coaches.  And some of those college head coaches became administrators.

There have been few changes in the pure game of football.  The players are a little bigger, faster, and stronger.  The equipment is a little more advanced.  The rules make the game a little safer.  However, the basic premise of the game and everything surrounding the game remains basically the same.

With that being said, how can such egregious acts of non compliance go on with The Ohio State Football program unbeknownst to those who run it?  Did the coaches, compliance department, and the administrators at The Ohio State University all get their degrees at the University of Mars?  The last time I checked, I played the same college football that these guys played, coached, and administrated.  Way back when I played, we couldn’t make a phone call without someone higher up knowing with whom we were speaking.  So how can the last 8 years be such an enigma to these men with whom we are entrusting our sons?

It is what it is.  There is no way that I can believe that Jim Tressel, the vest, the man who wrote The Winner’s Manual, the man who wears his faith on his sleeve, did not know what was going on in his own program.  Furthermore, I find it hard to believe that athletic director, Gene Smith, the chairman of the NCAA selection committee for college basketball, did not know what was going on in his most lucrative program.  It is what it is.  I call foul on the whole thing.  The coaching staff, athletic department and the compliance department all are culpable.

Jim Tressel is endeared by all those who bleed Scarlett and Gray.  Rightfully so.  He led The Buckeyes to 7 Big Ten championships.  He led the team to 9 victories against Michigan.  He led the team to 8 BCS bowl appearances.  He attracted the best of the best recruits to sign on to wear the Scarlett and Gray.  All this being said, he brought millions if not billions of dollars to the university.  Maybe this is the reason such blissful ignorance became contagious over the years?  Maybe this is why the last 6 months have resembled a bad marathon of The Three Stooges, the episodes with Shemp, not Curly.

The brand will survive, but I have to call a spade a spade.  This is what happened.  Kids made mistakes.  Kids got caught in those mistakes.  Sometime before the story broke, coaches and administrators found out about mistakes but tried to find a way to make the mistakes go away.  Then came the collateral damages.  The cover-up became worse than the infraction.  A person or people lied.  Many people got caught.  Unfortunately, I think there is more to come.

Dark Day 3

May 30, 2011 may be considered Dark Day 3 in the eyes of Buckeye fans across the world.  Jim Tressel's resignation falls on the heels of several months of speculation concerning the integrity of the program and its coach.  Tressel lied to the NCAA about his role in the now infamous "Tattoo Gate".  Furthermore, allegations of improprieties from former players regarding discounts on automobile purchases, have cast a dark shadow on a proud program.

What do the events in Columbus say about the world of College Football?  Legends like Woody Hayes, Bo Schembechler, and Bear Bryant are rolling over in their graves now.  However, some of the rules still in effect by the NCAA are older than the legends now rolling.  College Football is a huge business that generates billions on the backs, knees, and shoulders of the young men who go out every Saturday and entertain the millions in stadiums and on television around the world.

Right or wrong, the five Buckeyes who sold memorabilia for tattoos and cash were wrong in doing so.  These players claimed hardship as their defense for selling these items.  Is the world of college sports so distorted that 18 and 19 year old young men need to hock precious items to make ends meet?  Is it worth a coaching career to "cover up" knowledge of these improprieties in order to win?  Why would the most dominate coach in recent history mortgage his future on the cover up of these infractions knowing what the ultimate penalty would be?

Some reports stated that Tressel was instructed by the FBI to keep confidentiality regarding the email he received from Columbus attorney Chris Cicero, in order to preserve the integrity of the investigation of local tattoo parlor owner Edward Rife.  If this was true, Tressel may have received a pass on his cover up.  An order from a federal entity trumps the NCAA 10 times out of 10.  However no one has come forward to validate this theory.  Even if this rumor became a true fact, the subsequent release of other damaging information further tarnished the OSU program and its coach.

Well a coach lied about major violations to protect his players eligibility.  An historic Top Ten program receives a black eye.  Four starters will sit out the first five games of a senior season.  Furthermore, they will be known as the “players that got coach fired”.  How does college sports remedy a situation like this?  Read on.

Many including myself believe that “revenue sports” should be able to compensate players.  You can call it a “profit share” similar to an incentive program any other major corporation may have.  It is time for the college presidents who make up the BCS to sit down and strategize the most efficient use of the talent they control.

Imagine if the top 64 teams break away from the NCAA and form 4 super conferences consisting of 16 teams.  Each super conference would have 2 divisions of 8 teams.  At the end of a 12 game season, 8 division winners would be seeded 1 through 8, creating 4 quarter final games.  Whaddya know, there are four “BCS” bowl games who would gladly welcome LSU v. Southern Cal, or Michigan v. Texas.  I think you catch my drift. 

A week later there would be a National Semifinal Game, and 2 weeks later, the often talked about “Plus One” National Championship game. 

Talk about revenue opportunities.  Adding the “Plus One” means the eventual National Champion and runner-up only play one additional game.  The silly notion of students missing class time is eliminated because the playoff games follow the existing BCS bowl schedule.  Now a true playoff system is formed and a true National Champion is crowned.

What about the remaining bowl games and remaining teams in the super conferences that performed well during the season?  Let the Peach Bowl, Liberty Bowl, and Papa, bowl send out invitations like they do now.  The week prior to the holidays up to New Year’s Eve is now filled with top notch College Football entertainment while we wait for the big boys to battle it out for the Sears Trophy.

Now let’s get to the real reason for this playoff system.  It’s about the billions of dollars that can be generated.  A major network that rhymes with “box” has the pockets to fund such a venture.  The compensation plan per school is based on a profit share per conference.  Each team receives 1/64 of the profits from television revenue.  The additional revenue generated by ticket sales, merchandising, and apparel contracts is totaled up for each conference and divided equally amongst its members.  The powers that be decide on a percentage to pay its players.  Let’s say 25%.  Now Vanderbilt can compete with Michigan State on a recruiting platform.  Now players have compensation for their work and can be responsible for their income taxes, tuition, room, board, books, and still have some money on which to live.   Require that all players enroll in and successfully complete investment classes in order to manage their money. There is still plenty of money to fund the “non revenue” sports.  Now Terrelle Pryor doesn’t have to sell his championship ring to aid a struggling family.  Jim Tressel doesn’t have to lie about receiving emails regarding his players and “tattoo gate”.  Now Boise State does not have to lose scholarships because of violations committed by the tennis team, and Reggie Bush still has a Heisman.