We finally went with the “done deal” view on Meyer-to-OSU when The Columbus Dispatch reported the matter closed last week. The reason: Yours truly once worked for The Dispatch Broadcast Group and having lived in Columbus, I know there are three mega-boosters of the Buckeye program: the Wexners, the McConnells, and the Wolfes. The Wolfes own The Columbus Dispatch. If the Dispatch reported Meyer was all but hired by OSU, then you can bet the paper’s source was one of three folks in Columbus who knew for sure. Thus, we bought that paper’s story immediately.
Meyer had denied a deal with OSU for more than a week. But anyone familiar with coaching searches knew that the coach’s claims that no deal was in place and that he hadn’t interviewed were likely a matter of semantics only. Is a lunch an interview or just a lunch? Depends on the person telling the story.
At 6-6 following a loss to Michigan, OSU is expected to fall no lower than the Gator Bowl in the Big Ten’s bowl pecking order this holiday season. Guess who’s expected to land in the Gator Bowl from the SEC’s side of things? Yep, Florida.
WKMG-TV in Orlando reported last week that Meyer was planning to take UF’s current linebacker coach DJ Durkin and strength and conditioning coach Mickey Marrotti to Columbus with him in new roles. So the love in Gainesville for Meyer already might be dimming just a bit. If the ex-Gator coach takes over OSU and coaches against Florida in a bowl game, you can bet Meyer’s popularity in the Sunshine State will take another hit.
Will Muschamp — the man who led Florida to a 6-6 record with Meyer’s leftovers this year — said, “It’s good for college football” that the ex-coach is dropping the “ex.” “If it’s what Urban wants, I’m happy for him.”
And if Meyer and OSU whip Muschamp and Florida in the Gator Bowl, just how happy do you think he and Gator Nation will be?
Well, forget the health and the family. All the tears of joy reportedly shed when papa retired from coaching… just bottle ‘em up, kids. Urban Meyer is heading back to the sideline at much-troubled Ohio State.
Many at Florida have said that they expected Meyer to coach again someday. They’ve publicly wished him well in his future ventures. But that might change if Orlando television station WKMG has its story straight.
The station also claimed that Florida strength and conditioning coach Mickey Marotti would become the director of football operations at Ohio State.
If Meyer raids the Florida athletic department it’s likely Gator AD Jeremy Foley, new coach Will Muschamp, and many UF fans won’t look quite as favorably upon the man who won two national crowns in Gainesville.
Ironically, there’s a chance Florida could face Ohio State next month in the Gator Bowl.
If you flipped by ESPN this weekend, you likely saw reports that “sources close to Urban Meyer and Ohio State” had told the network that the former Florida coach — and current ESPN employee — had been talking with OSU officials about their head coaching position.
But Meyer told The Gainesville Sun today that that’s just not true.
“The concerns are still there,” he said. “Number one, my health. Number two, my family. Number three, the state of college football.” But then he told the paper the following:
“I’ve done some research into the second one. I’ve found that it is possible to have balance between your job and your family, that there are coaches out there who are doing it.
I’m in a good place right now mentally and physically. So if something happens with Ohio State, I’ll have a decision to make. But there has been no interview. There has been no offer to make s decision about.”
Well that’s as clear as mud. We find it hard to believe that ESPN would run a story about one of its analysts before actually checking with that employee.
So it’s possible the Meyer has spoken with OSU and he’s simply splitting hairs as to what should and should not be considered an “interview.”
It’s also possible that word got out before Meyer told his family of his talks. That’s pure speculation, of course, but Meyer decided — before speaking with his family — to return after a one-day retirement from Florida in December of 2009.
Regardless of what Meyer specifically says, it certainly sounds like he’s getting that old coaching itch again… and that if Ohio State makes him an offer he’ll strongly consider it.
We wonder, however, if OSU officials have paid attention to:
1. What Meyer did at Florida without Tim Tebow (not much)
2. What Meyer left behind at Florida (a team capable of struggling with Furman)
Nobody dislikes politicians more than me. We’ve reached a point in this country when most of them love their party more than their country. If that weren’t bad enough, most of the folks we send to Washington do whatever they can to not fix our serious problems. Instead of the economy and health care they take up silly side issues like steroids in baseball, HGH in football, all while threatening to weigh in on “spygate” and the BCS.
Now — thanks to Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell — they’re wasting Americans’ time and money by involving themselves in the current conference expansion/realignment mess.
It’s one thing for politicians to lobby to keep in-state schools together. But when the people we send to Congress decide they need to pull strings to make sure Homestate U. gets a berth in Conference X, well, that’s taking things a mile or 10 too far.
We’ve got some links for you to chew on this morning just to catch you up on all this silliness. Most of it would seem to have bupkes to do with Missouri or the SEC.
On that front, the biggest news yesterday was The Kansas City Star’s report that MU chancellor Brady Deaton is scheduled to go to India next week to speak at an international conference on radiopharmaceuticals. (I happen to be all for that because there are a lot of sick guys out there in sportstalk radio-land. Bah-dum-bum. I’ll be here all week.) The takeaway: If Missouri can’t line up its exit from the Big 12 before the end of the weekend, this mess probably won’t be cleared up until after Deaton returns about 10 days into November. Hooray.
But here’s the fear regarding all this Congressional hanky-panky — while it looks like this is a Big 12/West Virginia/Louisville problem, now that shouts are being heard in the halls of Congress, is it not possible that all of the politicians not happy over realignment might band together and decide to investigate the whole matter? After all, as we’re seeing in Kentucky and West Virginia, what better way to kiss up to the electorate than to fight for the local school when it comes to its football conference.
And if some nitwit decides to further waste our tax dollars by calling for some half-baked hearing on conference expansion, then everything could be put on hold.
Maybe you like expansion and maybe you don’t. Maybe you think the SEC should add West Virginia or East Carolina or East Oxnard Community College. Fine. Super.
But the minute Congress gets involved is the minute things will go straight to Hell. Mark my words. They may be keeping Mizzou out of the SEC at the moment, but tomorrow they may putting a de facto cap on all expansion or causing other leagues to break apart.
For those who don’t like the slippery slope argument, I give you cigarettes and ice cream. As smoking bans were put in place across America — rather than allowing businesses to decide for themselves if they would be smoking or non-smoking — I told my friends that this would open us up to all manner of bans. Obesity is the #1 cause of health problems in our country. Insurance companies know that. What’s to stop their lobbyists from trying to ban all types of fattening foods? Imagine no ice cream parlors, I said.
A couple of years later, trans fats have been banned in New York City and the cities of San Francisco and Boston have now banned sugary drinks from vending machines on city property. Soda taxes are now being proposed across the country. Next stop: ice cream.
Does that make me a prophet? Hardly. It just makes me someone who knows that buffoonish blowhards will act like buffoonish blowhards when given half a chance.
So whether you’re for expansion or agin’ it, you should be on your knees praying that our elected “leaders” don’t get involved in it. Or else things will only get worse.
Besides, shouldn’t Minority Leader McConnell be all for free enterprise with little government involvement? Or is that just pablum he tosses around on the stump? It seems big government is A-OK as long as he’s the big government interfering in the business decision of nine Big 12 schools.
3. But then the Big 12 slowed their expansion plans when McConnell started lobbying the league to reconsider Louisville. WVU sources who had been more than willing to talk about their move to the Big 12 on Tuesday suddenly went silent. (Louisville was believed to be the Big 12′s top choice in expansion right up until WVU stormed past them this week.)
Suddenly, West Virginia politicians had to protect their phony-baloney jobs, too. Senator Jay Rockefeller said:
“The Big 12 picked WVU on the strength of its program — period. Now the media reports that political games may upend that. That’s just flat wrong. I am doing and will do whatever it takes to get us back to the merits.”
Fellow West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin then took things further:
“If these outrageous reports have any merit — and especially if a United States Senator has done anything inappropriate or unethical to interfere with a decision that the Big 12 had already made — then I believe that there should be an investigation in the US Senate, and I will fight to get the truth. West Virginians and the American people deserve to know exactly what is going on and whether politics is interfering with our college sports.”
6. Orangebloods.com – the Rivals site covering Texas — reported this morning that WVU is still the pick to replace Missouri. (Of course that’s the Texas the viewpoint.) The site also claims that it would take a “miracle” for the Big East to free WVU to leave immediately. If that doesn’t happen, the Big 12 won’t free Mizzou to leave immediately.
Again I ask: How strong is the language in these contracts? If the pact states that a school will remain in the league or pay an exit fee to leave, then paying an exit fee to leave should fulfill the contract.
7. While the Longhorns are saying WVU is still the pick, The New York Times reported yesterday that the race between the Mountaineers and Cardinals was “too close to call.”
Amen. There is no greater joke in the current college landscape than the Big 12 conference. Quick, tell me the last time you heard of a Big Ten or SEC or ACC booster weighing in on what their league should do.
Oklahoma and OSU are good together. They should grab the remaining old Big 8 schools — Kansas, Kansas State, and Iowa State — and beg their way into something else, anything else.
Texas — and the remora who cling to them — should all head in another direction where the Longhorns can rule and their peasants can, well, be peasants.
And to think there are those who think Missouri and Texas A&M are making a mistake. The only mistakes were made by the other Big 12 schools who didn’t crawl on their knees toward Mike Slive begging for entry into his cozy conference.
Regardless of what the Big 12 does next, it will be blow apart as soon as its much talked about media-rights deal ends in six years. Adding Notre Dame would only bring in another poor fit with its own massive ego and its own way of doing things. There would be Texas. There would be Oklahoma and OSU. There would be Notre Dame (in some sports). And there would be “the rest.” With everyone pulling in different directions.
Congrats to Mizzou for breaking free. Even if it takes longer than we expected, the Tigers are making a very, very wise decision.
Now somebody tell McConnell, Manchin and Rockefeller to get back to work.
Pearl will be handed a three-year show cause ban (that will keep him out of the NCAA ranks for three seasons) while his former assistants will get one-year bans.
The Sentinel also reports that the two major violations attributed to the football program were deemed in the end to be secondary violations instead. Therefore, the school will receive no further penalties in football, either. Ditto Lane Kiffin and his brother-in-law, former Vol assistant David Reaves.
A couple of observations:
1. It’s hard to gauge when the NCAA has set a precedent and when it hasn’t, but in this case, it does appear as though the NCAA has begun to hold coaches more accountable for broken rules. Pearl and his staff are catching serious heat while the school — which kept them employed for a full season even after their violations came to light — gets off with only self-imposed penalties.
2. This is literally the best possible scenario for Tennessee. It ends what has been an incredibly tortuous two-year period that has seen coaching changes and scandals rock both main revenue-producing sports. UT’s current football and basketball coaches finally know what they’re up against and they can begin to move forward with recruiting, coaching and rebuilding.
3. Former UT athletic director Mike Hamilton was very much involved in Tennessee’s defense process. With this ruling — if the reports are true — should Hamilton be credited with his handling of the crisis? Or was his resignation on the eve of the Vols’ hearing one final blood sacrifice that was needed to appease the NCAA gods? Either way, Hamilton is likely to breathe a sigh of relief over these penalties. His reputation will not be dragged further through the mud.
4. Southern Cal fans can also rest easier tonight. Kiffin, too. Had the NCAA thrown the book at the coach, it could have cost him his job. Instead he and his Trojans escaped unscathed.
5. Ohio State fans are likely trying to figure out what this all means for their Buckeyes. On the surface, it would have to provide fans with some hope that OSU can dump all its woes on Jim Tressel, just as Tennessee handed full blame to Pearl. But every case is different. And the Ohio State investigation continues even now. Just because UT escaped relatively cleanly, there’s no guarantee OSU will experience the same leniency.
Pickens also said that he does not want to see the Big 12 split up with some schools heading to the Pac-12. And he also said that he thinks whatever happens, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State will stick together (which could be more wishing than believing):
“The rest of the conference isn’t quite that way. … There’s too much tradition just to wash it out and we scatter. I think OU and Oklahoma State will stick together if something happens. We’re kind of a stick-together crowd in this state.
The Aggies ought to stick with Texas. They have a hard time hugging Texas. I don’t know if you’ve noticed that. But I can always hug Sooners if they don’t beat us. …
The Aggies, they’re very spirited guys and all. I don’t think they’ll move. I don’t want them to. Texas doesn’t want them to either. Nobody wants them to leave.
They’ve got three weeks to come to their senses. I think they’ll stay with the conference.”
Pickens is one of the most powerful boosters in college athletics, so his words are worth listening to. However, as an OSU supporter, he’s also laying out a best-case scenario for his school.
There’s some news outside the conference today that we believe you will — or should — have some interest in… and those nuggets are as follows:
1. Consider this a small tremor on an active fault line. The Big East is still considering expansion and there’s talk that the league might reach out to Army and Navy with an invitation to join as footbally-only members. While that likely wouldn’t set off a full-scale expansion-quake across the country, when things are as shaky as they proved to be last summer, fans had best pay attention to any potential movements.
3. It’s being reported that the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles found no wrongdoing in its investigation into 25 vehicle sales involving Ohio State football players and a Columbus car dealer. However, the BMV was looking only for violations of state law. It was not looking into possible NCAA violations. In other words, when the BMV says it found no improprieties, that means the dealer wasn’t giving cars away. It does not mean the dealer wasn’t providing special deals for OSU players, which would be against NCAA rules. So while ESPN is suggesting this closes the door on the car purchase part of the OSU scandal, we’ll quote ESPN’s Lee Corso instead: “Not so fast.”
According to SportsByBrooks.com, the NCAA has notified OSU of “dozens of payments (Terrelle) Pryor received in past years from a Columbus sports memorabilia dealer.” For one player to be on the receiving end of thousands of dollars of illegal payments is bad enough, but if the memorabilia dealer in question is tied to other Buckeyes — as is suspected by many in Columbus — it could be a body blow for OSU’s program.
Fun as it may be, this post isn’t an attempt to rub salt in the wounds of Buckeye fans. The average OSU fan just cheers for his team. He doesn’t give players free tattoos, discount cars or thousands of dollars for their autographs.
Instead, we simply wanted to point out how quickly all of this information is emerging. In the last three months investigations have uncovered:
* Multiple Buckeye players trading merchandise for tattoos and — allegedly — marijuana in some cases
* More than 50 Buckeye players all buying cars — some at deep discounts — from the same dealer
* Payments made for signed merchandise from a collectibles dealer to OSU’s biggest star, Pryor
* Lies from ex-coach Jim Tressel regarding just who exactly he told about the initial tattoo situation
* Inaccuracies in the “all’s well, we’re clean” pronouncements from OSU athletic director Gene Smith and president Gordon Gee
Now consider what’s been going on in the SEC. The league has taken a big black eye because the NCAA has been snooping around the South for the better part of a year, but no school’s facing a wipeout like Ohio State.
* After months of digging into the Tennessee football, basketball and baseball programs, the biggest issues in basketball stemmed from a coach lying about secondary violations and the Vols’ football program avoided a failure to monitor charge when it was handed to ex-coach Lane Kiffin instead. UT will go before the NCAA on Friday, but its hearing probably won’t be anywhere near as bad as what OSU might eventually face.
* Despite rumors, accusations, slung mud, and even some alleged audio tapes, the NCAA has dug up exactly bupkes on Auburn to this point. That doesn’t mean that FBI wiretapes and perhaps Abraham Zapruder haven’t caught some evidence of some wrongdoing by someone — the NCAA is still investigating, of course — but for now, there’s not been the kind of info spill in Auburn that we’ve seen in Columbus. Despite all the finger-pointing.
* LSU took immediate action against a player and a coach after it uncovered and self-reported some illegal recruiting activities. The Tigers are still waiting for the NCAA’s thumbs-up that they’ve done enough. And there have also been questions raised about a recruiting service — meaning: street agent — that LSU might have used in connection to former cornerback Patrick Peterson, but like Tennessee and Auburn, one find hasn’t led to another and another and another as it has at OSU.
On and on the list goes. Georgia and AJ Green. South Carolina and The Whitney Hotel. Alabama and Brent Calloway. Plenty of talk, little dirt. At least so far.
At this stage, a few smoke alarms might’ve gone off in the SEC, but a full-fledged four-alarm blaze is raging in Ohio. Maybe the SEC will go down in flames eventually, but to date, NCAA and national media investigators have had a much easier time finding violations at Ohio State than they have in the Southeastern Conference.
Slive and company — their reputations damaged — can take some solace in that fact, at least.
Bobby Petrino has had no problem discussing the situation at Ohio State this week. His Razorbacks lost a heartbreaker to the Buckeyes in January’s Sugar Bowl after the NCAA ruled that Terrelle Pryor and four other OSU stars could play in the game before facing a five-game suspension in 2011.
But Petrino seems to be sending two different messages when it comes to whether or not the NCAA hosed his team by allowing OSU to use its full compliment of players.
Here’s what he said to reporters yesterday: “There’s no question that I don’t understand how they were eligible to play in the game. I just don’t, and I never will. … They (the NCAA) kind of changed the rules for that bowl game.”
But he also said this to reporters yesterday: “We wanted to play their best players. When you have a year like we had and you’re able to win six games down the stretch and get to a BCS bowl game you want to play their best players. That’s what you want to do.”