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 seven of an 11-part series reviewing 2011, as experienced by 11W readers and writers.
In any other year, Will Lyles would have been the scandal of the summer in college football.
He may eventually be, but that wasn't the case in July when the stories of his "special" relationships with numerous schools began to surface. No one at 11W ever wants to see scandals polluting our favorite sport, at any school.
The Lyles story is no different, HOWEVER, if it was going to happen - as it did - we wish it would have gotten some real coverage. Especially in July.
Paying more than lip service to the Lyles story would have gone a long way toward effectively contrasting Ohio State's troubles with the meat market problems of college football. A coach covering up the fact this some of his players sold their own belongings for petty cash was transformed into a mammoth, perpetuating, national story.
Schools paying tens of thousands of dollars to a street agent to steer high school kids to campus? Meh. Whatever. The target never deviated from Ohio State's self-inflicted problems.
Ohio State punished itself in July by vacating a conference championship/gold pants/Sugar Bowl-winning season and placing its football program on multi-year probation. The reaction from the media, which never once stopped hyperventilating over how offensive the whole affair was, was entirely predictable. More outrage along with predictions of devastating punishment.
ESPN quickly vacated the Buckeyes' wins (you can read about that below) and then unvacated them (11W will take credit for this) and then filed suit against Ohio State to see what the NCAA had seen in its investigation but had been withheld from the public under FERPA laws.
But something funny happened on the way to Death Penaltyville: The NCAA completed its full investigation at Ohio State and found no new violations; not even a Failure to Monitor charge for the Tatgate affair.
If you actually believed that would have quelled the outrage, you're probably also expecting a fat man in a red suit to slide down your chimney this weekend.
In light of the news that the NCAA had found nothing beyond what Tressel had admitted to, the media nonetheless doubled down on its breathless, seething outrage and its gruesome predictions on Ohio State's impending punishment that included a TV ban (!) that Jim Delaney was desperately fighting to avoid.
The real punishment that was striking the Buckeyes over the summer wasn't the reality of what they probably were going to be punished with, it was the unending assault on its brand that was impacting its ability to recruit.
The first verbal commitment of the 2012 class, Kyle Kalis, once pledged to be "the Mike Brewster" of his class for Ohio State, i.e. recruiting players to join him in Columbus. Shortly after Tressel's dismissal he reconfirmed his commitment to Luke Fickell.
One day after visiting Michigan, he switched his verbal commitment to the Wolverines, specifically saying that he didn't want to pay the price for violations he didn't commit. Keep in mind that Michigan was (is) on probation for Failure to Monitor and other major violations that Ohio State was cleared of that same month.
So the unrelenting media onslaught, combined with Brady Hoke's uncanny ability to sell fear was making a bad situation worse. But ESPN did not survive the month unscathed; in July we learned that unconvicted murdered Craig James hired a PR firm and used his platform at ESPN to deliberately get Mike Leach fired from Texas Tech.
That's not journalism; it's propaganda, and it was the first time all year that ESPN news coverage had been undressed and exposed for what it really is: An entertainment out masquerading as legitimate news.
So while the real news outside of recruiting was actually pretty good in July, the other thing of note that occurred was the reuniting of Fickell with his college roommate on the Ohio State staff.
The hiring was received positively, as it was nice to see someone coming to Ohio State.
Here is how we imagine Mike Vrabel's job interview with Ohio State went down:
VRABEL: *sighs* Brah. /signs contract
july's most popular skull sessions
Thursday 7/21 by Alex, looking for trouble elsewhere and musing about Michigan's recruiting barbeque.
Monday 7/11 by DJ, on the women's World Cup team and vacated Sugar Bowls that cannot be vacated from the mind.
Friday 7/15 by Jason, wondering why nobody knew about Georgia Tech's troubles until their scandal was over. Oh, and #FreeBruce
Monday 7/18 by DJ. Lindsay Lohan. Narcotics. Tressel. Warren G. Harding. The usual.
Friday 7/22 by Sarah, who with this inaugural post pioneered the 11W's Summer Ovarification®.
july's most popular 11W stories
7/26: The Worldwide Leader in Selectively Vacating Wins by Ramzy, acting on a tip from the 11W commentariat about ESPN's curious application of Ohio State's self-punishment compared to others:
ESPN almost went out of its way to avoid reporting on the three-year investigation into USC's football troubles, leaving all of the heavy lifting (and actual reporting) to Yahoo! Sports.
When the NCAA reached its final verdict, only then did ESPN actually bother to acknowledge that the Trojans were not only under investigation - certainly a shock to those who only get their sports information from ESPN - but had gotten the blunt, business end of the Committee on Infractions' punishment stick.
Not surprisingly, USC's vacated wins were never vacated by ESPN either.
7/21: Rick Reilly is Going to Make You Laugh by Johnny, who took on one of the easiest tasks in blogging: Eviscerating Rick Reilly. And he crushed it:
You know, one of the things that I really love about this job is that I can be anything. One week Rick Reilly can be Serious Issues Rick, haranguing the masses. The next week he can be Goofy Rick, all jovial and fun.
This week I'm Superfan Rick, saying outrageous and mean things that I'm normally critical of but it's totally okay because I used to care about a minor college football rivalry 40 years ago! Internal consistency doesn't matter as long as I can attempt to make a joke that maybe someone might laugh at.
And if they don't, who cares? According to my own webpage, Wikipedia, and the New York Daily News, I'm hilarious.
7/25: 11W Recruiting Notebook: The Remaining Targets by Alex, trying to guide disillusioned Buckeye fans out of the wilderness into a civilized world where good football players still want to be a part of the crumbling Buckeye edifice:
The big dogs that lead the (OL) want list are Cleveland Heights' Kyle Dodson, Chicago Simeon Vocational's Jordan Diamond, Lakeland (FL) Senior's Evan Goodman, Blue Earth (MN) Area Senior's Jonah Pirsig and Encinco (CA) Crespi Carmelite's Jordan Simmons. Dodson is currently committed to Wisconsin, Pirsig has basically taken OSU off his list since Jim Tressel resigned, Simmons is unlikely to come from California to Ohio, and Diamond and Goodman will likely take visits to Columbus, but landing them will be nothing short of extremely difficult.
That leaves the Buckeyes dropping down a tier, where the options may not be as sexy, but certainly aren't all that bad. Some players to keep an eye on are Eden Prairie (MN) OT Nick Davidson, Highlands Ranch (CO) Valor Christian OL Alex Kozan, Fort Lauderdale (FL) University School OL Abraham "Nacho" Garcia, and Canton McKinley's Kevin Mills.
7/19: The Sound of Silence by Ramzy, wondering why it took 45 days for anyone to report the bombshell that occurred at the SEC meetings in Destin:
It's quite clear who is newsworthy and who isn't, and it definitely isn't because of the news itself. Last week on July 13 it was "revealed" by New York Times college football beat reporter Pete Thamel that NCAA VP of Enforcement Julie Roe Lach told Gene Chizik in a room full of SEC football and basketball coaches that Auburn was still under investigation.
The SEC meetings in Destin where Lach's revelation occurred began on May 31, and they were exhaustively covered by plenty of national and SEC beat writers. If you look back at what storyline emerged from the meetings where that bombshell was dropped, you'll see that instead of being about NCAA scrutiny over Auburn or anything else related to what came out of Destin, the ledes were almost unanimously about Jim Tressel with the angle that he had played ineligible players against Arkansas in the Sugar Bowl and Razorbacks coach Bobby Petrino wasn't happy about it (even though he had previously said - prior to losing - that he wanted to face Ohio State at full strength).
7/5: Late Hit by Ramzy, telling the story of one man's interaction with George Dohrmann, investigative reporter & president of the George Dohrmann Fan Club:
"I was standing there thinking about how to sort of slide away from him without being too abrupt. Then it happened."
"What happened?" I asked.
"He just started talking about a story he was currently writing: So this new story I'm writing for SPORTS ILLUSTRATED is about blah blah blah...it should be pretty interesting." And it's weird because he's going into all of this detail about whatever he was writing while looking over my shoulder or at his shoes...He's talking about this story he's writing and the access he's getting to write it and he says, "I guess I get that sort of leeway to do my research as a Pulitzer Prize winner."
"And that's when he stopped talking for the first time," he continued, "like to allow me to absorb what he had just said and so that I could comment on his award. That's also when he finally made eye-contact for the first time."
7/30: This Guy Gets It by Johnny, in appreciation of how Michigan Man-ny Brady Hoke is in being from Ohio yet growing up a Michigan fan; a contrarian position so common everyone in Ohio has at least one "Brady Hoke" friend:
Brady Hoke is, from a cultural standpoint, the perfect guy to coach the Michigan Wolverines football team. He is a pompous toad who squats upon the lilypad of elitism. Everything he has said after opening that gaping maw he calls a mouth has infuriated me to the point of violence, and I am starting to believe that nothing short of Ann Arbor being terrorized by Woody Hayes' rotting corpse would get him to stop talking about how awesome Michigan football is.
More than any Michigan coach I can remember, I want to see his jowls shake with shame and sadness after yet another loss to Ohio State. His very existence has made me into a worse person, more vengeful and petty than ever before.
7/27: In Defense of Terrelle Pryor by DJ, walking a mile in TP's shoes. Or at least the shoes that weren't "stolen" from his locker:
I can only imagine how big I could inflate my ego if I were holding nationally televised press conferences about where I was going to take my 1.18 high school GPA. If I had been told—from a very early age—that I was The Man, wouldn't I enevitably start believe it? And if I didn’t, I’m sure there would be no shortage of beautiful women to try to convince me otherwise.
I think, when viewed through this scope, TP’s mindset becomes quite understandable, if not outright predictable. He’s not the first to be afflicted by the disease of American celebrity and he’s certainly not the last.
july's buckshots, gray boxes of doom & miscellany
GRAY BOX OF DOOOOOM from when Ohio State officially vacated 2010 and probationized itself.
GRAY BOX OF DOOOO- what? No new violations? BUT THE MEDIA SAID DEATH BY FIRING SQUAD
All of your favorite media trolls, destroyed by Jason in a special episode of A Confederacy of Hurr.
Two defensive linemen that ran the 1996 Buckeye defense were back together to run the team.
The Great Butthurt Symphony of 2011. BUT BUT BUT IT'S JUST LIKE USC ACCORDING TO I HAVE NO IDEA BUT IT IS
Jason read the case summary document so you wouldn't have to.
A roundup of the other, super cheaty scandals that nobody bothered to report because OMG RAFFLES.
Coming tomorrow: Remembering August. Freshmen report. Upperclassmen report. Football. Finally. Football.