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Thursday, June 2, 2011

Ohio State mess: A diehard fan's perspective

This probably has to be one of the hardest entries I'll ever have to write.  And not just because it seems that the bottom has fallen out on what was once the pride of Columbus, Ohio-the Ohio State Buckeyes football team.  No, there is a lot I feel I have to say--and I sincerely hope that this turns out to be one of my better editorials.

Before I start I want to make something perfectly clear for those of you who are regular followers of my blog.  A few weeks ago I made light of what Jim Tressel might have said to Gordon Gee to save his job in light of the alleged coverup of inkgate.   But at that time(May 16th) I  had no reason to believe he would be forced to give up his job, and I also thought that his error in judgment, while unfortunate--was nothing that he, the Ohio State University, and the football team couldn't put behind them.

Fast forward to today, June 2, 2011, three days after The Ohio State University announced that one Jim Tressel would be stepping down as head coach of its football program.   Ray Small's admission that he received deals on cars, etc. and Sports Illustrated's article on Jim Tressel(more on that in a bit), have sent tOSU into a tailspin that it might take years to recover from.

Annoucement of resignation and Immediate Reaction

It was Monday morning, and I was kicking back at my apartment, enjoying Memorial Day as best I could.  I was watching a little tv(I can't remember what was on, but I think I was tuned to TBS), and surfing the Internet.  Actually I think while I was watching tv I logged on to Facebook to see if anyone had commented on my wall. There were no new comments on my wall.  I then believe I went to the homepage to  check the latest news in the sports world.

Along the side bar of ESPN's homepage, I see the headline that Jim Tressel is set to resign as head coach of Ohio State. I quickly turn the channel from whatever I was watching to ESPN, and follow whatever news they have to say about this turn of events.  I reluctantly text my dad that Jim Tressel had resigned, that he was right.  At the time, however, I remember wishing my dad had been wrong.

As the day went on, I would receive texts from my younger brother Rocky about my thoughts on Urban Meyer as the next head coach of Ohio State.  I said I thought he would be a good fit because he could bring the recruits in, did not micromanage the game, and had an Ohio State connection.  That his tenure at Florida was marred by scandals as well did not really cross my mind.

I think, however, my biggest reaction was disbelief.  How could someone like Jim Tressel get himself involved in something like this?  I felt disappointed in him but also furious at the NCAA.  This is directly from my twitter account on that day :  @jargobright: "Tressel's resignation sobering, but a wake up call? NCAA needs rule change. Athletes should be allowed to have a part time job."

Later I would find the article on the new NCAA investigation on Terrelle Pryor.   Upset at the flamboyance Pryor has seemed to exhibit throughout(notice I said seemed, that is my perception of him) I sent my buddies an email saying I hope Terrelle Pryor never plays another down of football for the Buckeyes(the email itself was a little harsher than that, but I have cleaned it up in case impressionable young minds should read my blog).

I would take the news about Pryor to break a story about a potential qb controversy at tOSU on the website (you can read that article here )  I thought for sure this story would be placed on the front page of the website, but it would get buried in favor of articles about Tressel.

Then I found the article about Tressel on Sports  After boasting that it was responsible for breaking the story that caused Tressel to resign(I'll have more on that in a bit) I went on to read the list of coverups the man they call "The Senator" was to have purported.  I was in absolute shock.  I could not believe that not only would Ohio State have to vacate their 2010 season, including a Sugar Bowl win over Arkansas, but they might also have to forfeit the 2009 season, which includes a Rose Bowl victory over Oregon.

Dealing with criticism both from both within and outside of Buckeye Nation

I hadn't even finished reading the word "resignation" and I already knew I was going to have defend my position on tOSU, right or wrong. It comes with the territory. Especially when you're as rabid a fan of the Buckeyes as I am. Who also happens to write several different blogs(including this one).

In the aftermath of Tressel's resignation, I had gone to facebook and twitter to show my support for the fallen coach.   Sure he had some serious lapses in judgment, and this ultimately led to his downfall, but I refuse to believe that he broke the rules due to arrogance.

Of course, some of the people closest to me would disagree with that last statement.  To protect the innocent, I will leave their names out of this discussion. They would argue Tressel knew full well what he was doing, and he had the audacity to think he could pull a fast one on the NCAA.  I'm not sure Tressel was that devious, and I don't know if I will ever believe that.

Needless to say, I wondered if their comments to me in the past days and months meant they were truly glad OSU had gotten rid of Tressel(whose coaching philosophy they may not have agreed with anyway), or they were just trying to get a rise out of me, or both.  If the latter was the case, they had succeeded in getting a rise out of me, as I would not let this die.

As for those outside of the Buckeye Nation, I am not sure why I listened to them at all.  I read a couple of articles written by Michigan fans, one of which jokingly suggested that we hire Rich Rodiguez as our next coach.  I should have resisted the urge to respond to this, but I couldn't help myself.  The following is an excerpt of my comment, and the response to my comment:

Jarrod Argobright commented on 5 Reasons the Buckeyes Need to Hire Rich Rod

i didn't even need to read this drivel to know you were a michigan fan. its all good though, we still have the better athletes to...

I knew Michigan fans were going to let us have it, but I could not resist.  I think part of it has to do with the fact there are Michigan fans who live in Columbus.   Not that they shouldn't be able to, but I really don't know any Buckeye fan who would willing move to Ann Arbor.  And still root for the Buckeyes while living up there.

In the end, however, I am glad that I haven't replaced my car stereo so I don't have to change the station to classic rock every time Mike and Mike in the morning want to talk about Tressel.

A Fallen Hero

My aunt Cheryl had said when the news first broke out about Tressel that she felt the worst for her nephew (also my cousin), Jonathan.  Jonathan had just learned that the man who was his hero, Jim Tressel, was not the man he thought he was.  And I think, I, too sort of looked up to coach Tressel as a role model.

To outsiders, Tressel was an easy man to hate.  He was the ultimate control freak, a man whose offense was as bland as the sweater vests he wore on the sidelines.  Critics argued he scheduled weak opponents, and that he could never beat any real competition (read: SEC).    They would further contend that his OSU squad would pad their win total over a "watered down" Big Ten Conference.  And, when the latest scandal broke, they would point to his book, "The Winners Manual", as more proof that not only was he a cheater but also a hypocrite.

But inside Columbus, Ohio, Tressel had been revered the way no one around these parts had since Woody Hayes.  Tressel apologists argued that he scheduled games against Ohio schools to give back to Ohio.  They also noted how much he gave back to the univeristy, and that he even taught a class at the university(one that I would have liked to attend had my work schedule permitted me).  They further went on to note everything he did for our fine men and women overseas.

All of that seems to have gone by the wayside with this latest scandal.  For many, they will only remember Tressel's tarnished legacy.  For myself, as well as others in Buckeye Nation, we will remember him as a good man who ultimately fell victim to a lapse in judgment.

Calling out Sports Illustrated

So if you haven't read it, Sports first broke the news of the complete history of Tressel's trangressions. (Click here to read the full article, also reprinted in the June 6 magazine edition).  The mag even went as far as to claim this story even led to Tressel's resignation.

But was Sports Illustrated's article motivated purely by a search for the truth? Or were they motivated by something else?  Surely they want to sell magazines, but is it possible they also reveled in seeing the Ohio State football program collapse?  And did Robert Rose and Thaddeus Gibson voluntarily offer that they traded memorabilia for benefits, or did the magazine receive an anonymous tip?  And if the former is true, did you(SI) ask either Rose or Gibson why they chose to sell out a coach who treated them as if they were his sons?

I am calling on Sports Illustrated to respond to my claim of journalistic integrity.  I would love to see someone respond to my claim.  Heck, I'll be honest, I wrote this piece in part to see if they would even reprint it.  They don't even have to pay me for it, as long as they credit me for the article.

I don't expect SI to even respond to my allegations, but I'd love to hear your thoughts, pro or con.  And not just on SI.  On the article in general.

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