The rich history of Ohio State athletics is filled with memorable years, but perhaps no year has been more tumultuous, victorious, catastrophic and memorable than 2011. For Eleven Warriors, 2011 was a transformational year: In January 11W was merely a popular Buckeye blog; by December it had become a destination site with monthly visits well into the millions.
This is part four of an 11-part series reviewing 2011, as experienced by 11W readers and writers.
On April 21 the NCAA issued a Notice of Allegations to Ohio State.
It alleged that Jim Tressel "knew or should have known that at least two football student-athletes received preferential treatment from and sold institutionally issued athletic awards, apparel, and/or equipment to Rife, but he failed to report" those violations to his superiors or Ohio State Compliance.
The allegations were had already been confirmed by Tressel and proven by the electronic paper trail that he created when he replied to Christopher Cicero.
Cicero, of course, was the attorney who had informed him that the Feds were closing in on Ed Rife's Fine Line Ink tattoo parlor, a business he used as a front for all sorts of illegal activity, and when the did, they'd find out what Tressel was telling him in advance.
Four days after the NCAA's Notice of Allegations, we found out that Tressel had exchanged at least 12 emails with Cicero. His phone records also showed that he had called FBI agent Harry Trombitas, the father a former Ohio State football player (Matt). Trombitas maintained that the call was unrelated to Tatgate.
Amidst all of the negative publicity, bad news and emerging details, Ohio State played a football game: It was the Spring scrimmage, which used a quirky scoring system that was heavily biased toward the offense.
The Buckeyes wore camouflaged helmets and Tressel donned a camo hat as part of Military Appreciation Day, which was Tressel's idea. Unfortunately the game did not serve as the escape from Ohio State's NCAA reality. It wasn't so much the elephant in the room as it was a herd of elephants running through the stadium.
All four backup quarterbacks got playing time, and from a football standpoint this was the beginning of open tryouts to temporarily replace Terrelle Pryor for the first five games of the season while he was out serving his Tatgate suspension.
Incoming freshman Braxton Miller threw a touchdown pass to Corey Brown and Kenny Guiton threw a score to Verlon Reed.
Taylor Graham hit T.Y. Williams on a 68-yard bomb for six and Joe Bauserman connected with walk-on Ryan Ross, as all four backups notched TD passes in the game known for creating false Buckeye idols.
Unfortunately, the offense totaled only 120 yards on the ground to go with 249 passing in 86 total plays from scrimmage, foreshadowing a unit that would end up with the 107th-ranked total offense in the country despite being loaded with four and five-star talent.
Spring practice provided a flimsy but much-needed distraction from the events occurring off the field. Once the finale ended in Ohio Stadium - prematurely, as it turned out, due to the threat of tornados - we were left to wait for a resolution that would never come.
That happy ending didn't exist. The national media was in a lather over how diabolical Tressel had been in hiding the fact that five star players should have been ineligible for (at least part of) what had been a 12-1 championship season.
He had put winning above the rules, and as the author of two books about winning the right way, it was open season on his character, his legacy and on Ohio State.
We already knew in April that it was going to be a very long summer. We just had no idea how long it would turn out to be.
April's most popular skull sessions
Tuesday, 4/26 by Johnny, on Tatgate, Herbstreit, Pat Forde and James "Keyboard James" Louis (RIP) <-- he's not dead, but a piece of us died when he transferred.
Wednesday, 4/27 by Chris riffing on Spielman, Bo Pelini, Frank Epitropolous and the shadiness of the Fiesta Bowl.
Wednesday, 4/6 by Chris informing us that Kenny Guiton ran with the ones in practice (!) and then coming to Mike Vrabel's rescue (Chris, not Kenny).
Monday, 4/11 by Alex foreshadowing troubles with the returning linebackers and trying to sell you your own Tebow statue.
April's most popular 11W stories
4/26: Mr. Clean by Ramzy, on the subtle differences between running a clean program and being a clean program, and on fans who allow Ohio State's successes and failures to define them personally:
If you're like too many Buckeye fans, you've intertwined Ohio State's success with your own personal well-being, which means you're in the throes of a struggle to just get out of bed without crying. When the Buckeyes win, you're on top of the world with them, and when they lose, well, you're a loser.
As you struggle to deal with it all, try and occasionally remind yourself that Buckeye football does not reflect upon you personally. Your personal uncleanliness, flaws and misgivings and Tressel's parturition are mutually exclusive. You didn't suddenly become a liar when Tressel got caught. You already were one.
4/1: April Fools Day temporarily transformed Eleven Warriors into ElevenDub Report, a Bleacher Report-inspired homage to terrible journalism and even worse writing:
Chris "shocked" the world with breaking news that more of Tressel's panicked forwarded emails had been discovered, Ramzy penned 9 things that Jim tressell has In common With Jesus and Luke cracked Google's precious algorithm with his column on Tressel's next job after Ohio State.
Luke, on Tressel taking over...at Florida:
With rumors prevalent that Jim Tressel will be replaced by Urban Meyer, the only logical thing to happen would be for Florida to realize they made a mistake with Coach Boom Muschamp and decide to bring in a truly champion national figurehead like Coach Jim Tressel. Jim Tressel for Urban Meyer would be a trade conceptualized on the trading room floors of the New York Stock Exchange but realized in the hearts and minds of millions.
Urban Meyer would lead Ohio State to at least 2^2 as many champions as did the University of Florida and Jim Tressel would have Florida State playing the kind of ball we’ve come to expect from someone like him. Slow and steady wins the race.
4/19: B1G Fashion: An Eleven Warriors Special Report by Ramzy, inspired by the University of Minnesota officially sanctioning the marketing of "Crank Dat Gopher Boy" which is based on a rap song glorifying the use of body fluids as adhesive to give female partners capes made out of toilet paper:
Sticky lyrics aside, Crank Dat is a relic from an otherwise glorious era, back when we were blissfully unaware of the impending economic crisis which had not yet fully begun to unload its bowels on everyone. At Ohio State, Greg Oden was merely a 42-year old freshman, a shade older than 12th-year senior Todd Boeckman.
It was also back in 2007 that Minnesota hired Tim Brewster to improve upon the recently-terminated Glen Mason's run that had seen Minnesota in a bowl game nearly every year for the better part of a decade. Minnesota certainly has good reason to wish it was still 2007.
4/24: Five Things: Spring Game by Chris, recapping the Buckeyes in limbo heading into an offseason that all of us realized would be long; just not that long:
Standing next to him as one of 10 mics in his face, he thoughtfully answered every question careful to avoid giving generic answers while also providing meaningful and valuable insight to the team. He talked about Miller and how the QB's have come along. He astutely talked about Shugarts injury, how that created a shuffle on the line and how Norwell etc played as a result. He talked about team chemistry as a valuable asset in the face of scandal. It doesn't sound all that exciting because they are just words and probably moreso because I'm sucking at skillfully describing it as I try to make my point but damn, the kid gets it.
Not only should he be one of the captains of this team, he should be the captain of the captains. That's a guy you'll always be proud to say played at Ohio State.
4/18: You Win With People by Alex, firing a pro-Tressel salvo based on personal experience and good stories that miss the headlines and news tickers:
The man who may have best integrated the winning with people philosophy better than anyone, including Woody himself, was Jim Tressel. I say "was" and not "is", because after the events that have occurred over the last 4-5 months, a good portion of Buckeye Nation no longer feels that is true. I, for one, disagree with those sentiments and still believe in Jim Tressel. I have had many personal encounters and experiences with the man himself that convince me that one transgression is not enough to make me pull a complete 180 and start to think he is a cheater, liar, phoney, and hypocrite like many have accused him of being since further details of Tatgate have been released.
4/13: The Perfect Ball Carrier by Joe, contrasting the current Buckeyes in the backfield with the great ones of the past:
Among the current Buckeyes, no one is as elusive as Jordan Hall. His punt return against Miami is one of the highlights of the early part of 2010. Surprisingly, Carlos Hyde also seems to have some good moves, as he excels at bouncing plays outside when the middle is jammed up. As for Jaamal Berry, one pundit wrote that he seems to move in three directions.
The one thing that all of the current Buckeyes lack is experience, and that could prove costly in some of the early games. However, there appears to be no lack of talent at the position, and OSU fans can look forward to seeing all of them display their various talents in the first 5 games this season.
April's buckshots, gray boxes of doom & miscellany
Duron XBOX Carter transferred to Alabama, after NLOI day, forcing Nick Saban to cut one extra player to make room for He-Who-Will-Never-Be-Eligible.
Joe Paterno took a cheap swipe at Tressel by making a joke at his expense over the Tatgate scandal. #KarmaBomb
Keyboard James, being the national treasure that he is.
Beano Cook predicted that Urban Meyer would take over at Ohio State. HAHAHAHAHAH OLD PEOPLE WITH 1000 CHINS ARE HILAR- what?
Donte Whitner blackballed Herbstreit from Buckeyedom. BOOM: Glenville'd
Buckeye 2012 verbal Bri'onte Dunn, spooked by Tatgate, re-opened his recruitment. Wow, April sucked. Watch Dunn end up at Michigan! HORRIBLE THOUGHTS.
Coming tomorrow: Remembering May. Ah yes, the month that Ohio State won the national title in men's volleball. Of course. May.