Miller: Big Ten Bombshell

March 25, 2011

Written by Jon Miller

Hawkeye Nation

Following Big Ten football, on the whole, is certainly one of my favorite pastimes. I don’t write about it as much as I would like to, but from time to time I am moved to sit down at the keyboard and put some thoughts down on virtual paper.

Based on what is going on in Columbus, Ohio pursuant to the Ohio State football program, this is one of those times.

The Buckeyes will be in the Leaders Division next year, opposite of Iowa.  Or is the Legends Division?  Still not top of mind sure about that right now, but we’ve covered that topic in the past.

Yet, what happens with the Ohio State football program has some affect on every team in the league.  Some will argue that the Big Ten needs Ohio State and Michigan to be elite powers on an annual basis for the league to get as much respect as possible from the national media.  Those same folks will say the same for Penn State, and will likely add Nebraska to that mix as the new Big Ten ‘Big Four’.

If there’s trouble with Michigan or Ohio State, it trickles down to the rest of the league…not that the rest of the league is in trouble, rather there is opportunity for other teams in the conference to perhaps bloody the nose of the traditional bullies.

Michigan has seen that in recent years, since Lloyd Carr stepped down and they hired Rich Rodriguez.  The Wolverines are well below .500 in Big Ten play the past three seasons and have a new coach in place for this fall in the form of Brady Hoke. Iowa is 2-0 against Michigan since Carr resigned and several schools have had their way with the Wolverines that historically have not had so much success.

Ohio State has been rolling for the past decade and Jim Tressel owns Michigan.  Yet Tressel and Ohio State find themselves in trouble right now, and some people are wondering if this might not be ‘the big one’ for the Scarlet and Gray.

The Columbus Dispatch is reporting that Tressel forwarded emails to a confidant of Terrelle Pryor after he learned of Pryor’s involvement with the tattoo parlor and the improper exchange of benefits and items that ensued from that situation.  This, from the linked story:

During a news conference on March 8 to announce NCAA ethics violations by Tressel, the coach said he kept the information to himself to protect the confidentiality of the federal investigation and for the safety of his players.

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Tressel also admitted that he had forwarded emails, but Ohio State Athletic Director Gene Smith jumped in and halted the questioning as there is an ongoing NCAA investigation.

Ohio State initially suspended Tressel for the first two games of the 2011 season, and recently that suspension was increased to five, which is the same number of games that Pryor and other members of the tattoo fiasco are suspended for to start next season.

Those players were allowed to play in the Sugar Bowl and serve their suspensions in 2011, something that prompted plenty of scorn from the national media and football fans across the country, and deservedly so.

There has been a lot of speculation as to whether Tressel’s punishment, which comes from Ohio State and not the NCAA as of yet, is fair or enough?  Will or should Ohio State face sanctions?

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These are valid questions and debates, and they have also led to several writers asking this question: “Is Ohio State too big to fail?”

Hardly.  Ask USC that question.  The Trojans have five national championships since 1969, while Ohio State has just one.  USC has more Heisman Trophy winners than do the Buckeyes and the NCAA levied severe penalties against USC last year, including a 2010 bowl ban, reduction in scholarships and allowing seniors to transfer out of the program without having to sit out a season.

Ohio State is not too big to fail if USC was not too big to fail.  USC is the premier football program on the west coast.  Ohio State is A premier football program in the Midwest, but there are several others.

It’s becoming hard to imagine the NCAA not coming down on Ohio State somewhat harshly due to this entire business, if for nothing else for fostering an apparent environment of disregard for abiding by the rules; between 2000 and 2010, Ohio State has had more than 375 secondary NCAA violations, more than any team from a BCS conference.  America’s Favorite Drive by blogger Dennis Dodd of CBS thinks Tressel might not withstand this…then again, didn’t he say the same about Ferentz a few months back, or something in the same spirit?

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As for the notion that the Big Ten needs certain schools to be winning more regularly than other schools for the conference to have the best chance at good ‘PR’…The ESPN’s of the world are going to continue to malign the league as long as the Big Ten Network exists, because that’s a huge piece of the college football financial pie they will not take part it.  The stereotypical power vs speed debates are going to continue, and have during Ohio State’s decade of football dominance.

If Ohio State goes down, someone else (and maybe more than one) will rise to take their place.  The league will still put forth champions from the Leaders and Legends Divisions, those teams will still play for the right to go to Pasadena and the championship game will still be a Big Ten style stimulus package.

Enough with the nonsense that the Iowa’s, Wisconsin’s and Illinois’ need a strong as possible Ohio State or Michigan.  That’s a line of garbage.  Big Ten football is going to produce eyeballs and households, the things advertisers want more than anything else.  The league will get bashed nationally whether or not Ohio State is the team winning league titles, something its done for six straight years.  That will not change.

So is Ohio State too big to fail?  Hogwash.  Do they present a problem that is too big for the NCAA to ignore or to continue using kid gloves to clean up?

Absolutely.

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