Thursday Skull Session

By Jeremy Birmingham on November 10, 2011 at 6:00a


Sometimes, there isn't that much to say. What a miserable few days for the sports world in general and college football specifically.

As 2010 ended, it appeared the sports world was spiraling out of control. Each day seemed to bring one more example of athletes run amok.  There were sex scandals that included the world’s greatest golfer (Tiger Woods), the NFL’s poster-child (Brett Favre) and a Super Bowl MVP (Ben Roethlisberger). We had Heisman trophies being vacated, wannabe NCAA championship front-runners shopping for players for a chance in the spotlight, and our own beloved Buckeyes tattoo-troubles.

On January 12th of this year, Julie Foudy, the former US Olympian soccer player and now TV analyst, penned a column for ESPN with this headline:

“Let 2011 be scandal-less, not scandalous”

The wish for a more serene 2011 was a logical one, given all that 2010 gave us. Unfortunately, 2011 has provided us even more heartbreak than 2010. 

Jim Tressel resigned in disgrace, the NFL threatened a lock-out before coming together at the last hour, and the “U” upped the ante on NCAA infractions.  Oregon paid $25,000 for two-year old recruiting tapes, Boise State broke NCAA rules for impermissible benefits, LSU did too, and they didn't stop there, or there.The NBA has cancelled the first month of their season (Ok, so one good thing happened this year), and to top it all off, the disgusting situation that is currently unfolding at Penn State.


I love sports. I love the fuel of competition and the drive for success.  I love the desire to dominate your opponent, to stand victorious against long odds.

Above all, the thing about athletics that I love the most was that it revealed character and strength when most people would be breaking down mentally, physically and emotionally. 

Sadly, I don’t know if I love sports anymore. The fanaticism that has long given sports its power in the national conscience has now led to so many who are involved in them to feel untouchable and entitled. The confidence needed to be a successful athlete has morphed into an out-of-control arrogance that belies the common man who eats, sleeps and breathes the team colors. The money and fame that come with on the field success has blinded so many formerly great men who turn their backs on morality for victories and power.

Where do we go from here? I just don't know.

LAST THING ON PENN STATE SITUATION. When the Jim Tressel story broke, there were few fan-bases who stood behind the Ohio State coach and the Buckeye football program, and Penn State was certainly no different. Every columnist and sophomore journalism student in American went over Tressel's situation, which has been unfortunately compared to the crimes in Happy Valley, with a fine-toothed comb, eager to point out the perceived disconnect between JT's public persona and his cutthroat, win-at-all-costs alter-ego. This particular article displays some of that holier-than-thou vitriol that was so prevalent, and it underscores to me why celebrating the failures of others is almost never the correct position to take.

Another "Nittany, no!" moment that popped up on the interwebz yesterday, was this photo - celebrating the moral highground that was so often a safe-harbor for Penn State's recruiting ship. While it seems that this bulletpoint will remain factual, it is interesting to note that if the NCAA wanted to address the issue at Penn State (which I don't think they should, or that they will) that they may have a by-law with which to proceed.

This entire situation is tragic, and for Penn State, all they can hope for at this point is for it to end quickly.

CRAFT-ING A REPUTATION. Anyone who watched the Ohio State men's basketball team play last year probably can identify with the sentiment I am about to express. A sentiment that is both a bit creepy and yet totally justifiable.

I love Aaron Craft. I love him so, so,much.

Sports Illustrated feels the same, apparently. In a glowing article that begins with the verbiage "The Legend of Aaron Craft", SI waxes poetic about #4's affinity for being a defensive nuisance. Among the most interesting stats: Of the possessions that Craft was playing defense for Ohio State, 32.9% of them ended with the opposition turning the ball over.

My favorite Aaron Craft moment last year was against Michigan State when he ran down a loose ball that ended in a Buckeye basket, changing momentum in a game that was huge for Sparty.  Of course, the second best moment in 2011 for Craft got a bit more publicity.

Too terrific to not post on the internet for a second time

BUCKEYES INJURY UPDATES. When JB Shugarts went down midway through the third quarter of last week's game against Indiana, it looked as if the senior right tackle had sustained a pretty serious leg injury. It appears that the injury is not that serious, but it is still unlikely that JB will play this weekend against Purdue. Freshman Antonio Underwood took reps with the number ones at RT, sharing some time with Jack Mewhort and Marcus Hall. With a huge battle against Penn State looming, I would expect Shugarts to sit unless he's 100% this weekend so he can rest up and be ready for senior day in the 'Shoe next week. The running game didn't miss a beat when Underwood took over for Shugarts, and the staff is very confident in Big 'Tone's aptitude in the pass-blocking schemes.

Jordan Hall, who missed last week's game against the Hoosiers with an ankle injury should be ready to get back on the field this week for Ohio State, an important piece of the puzzle against Purdue, who allows over 27 yard per kick return on the season. Hall, who was replaced by Devin Smith in the return game last weekend, has been terrific returning kicks for the Buckeyes, averaging over 30 yards per opportunity.

Most importantly for the Buckeyes, Braxton Miller, who suffered a hip-pointer against Indiana, showed no lingering effects and will be ready to go against Purdue's 92nd ranked run defense.

COACHING SITUATION CONTINUES TO MUDDLE RECRUITING. There are a lot of talking points that get bantered about regarding Ohio State, the NCAA, coaching searches, etc. Many people are quick to comment that Ohio State's "difficulties" with the NCAA are the reason that this year's recruiting class, which had the potential to be among the best in Buckeye history, has been derailed by looming sanctions and negative recruiting by the Incredible Hoke and his ilk. The NCAA situation being what it is, the indecision and confusion about the Ohio State coaching situation has to be the issue that is affecting recruiting the most.

Canton Glen Oak tailback Bri'onte Dunn, a five-star back who has been anything but steady in his commitment to Ohio State, continues to flirt with other schools, and his affection for the curent staff could be a primary reason. Other players, like Alex Kozan and Jordan Diggs, a DB from Florida, would prefer that the current staff remain in place, so we hear.

Of course, Urban Meyer would likely have his own recruiting targets and a number of players would probably prefer to play for him, as well.

Ohio State may have their hand forced if Penn State gets proactive in their targeting of Urban; and that combined with the NCAA delays might put Meyer in a much better bargaining position.

QUICK SLANTS. With all the negativity and sadness that surrounds sports, it's important to celebrate the good news...This is sort of awesome, if you like awesome sorts of things...Here's another view of the Kirk Herbstreit in an earthquake video...make it bacon and we'll talk. UCF learns from Oregon on how to leak negative sports stories, namely, wait until someone else is embroiled in something far worse.  Speaking of worse, here's Notre Dame's helmet for this weekend.

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