Hello, and welcome to the Skull Session. I am forlorn, for my favorite pair of pants has been lost to the recesses of Ohio Stadium.
On Friday night, following a typically macho workout at the RPAC, I strode toward the stadium to take in Friday Night Lights, pants in hand (having forgotten to bring a gym bag). After setting down my equipment, I fixed my eyes on the field.
So captivating was the on-field action that when players started to wander off the field and fans trickled out of the stadium, the pants escaped memory. And lo, when I snuck back into the stadium on Saturday morning to search for my precious Carhartts they were nowhere to be found among the aluminum bleachers.
In spite of the setback, a ray of hope remains: if Auburn coach Pat Dye can lose his slacks in a golf course lake and recover them decades later, maybe I can recover the Carhartts someday.
With this cool story out of the way, onto meatier news.
FOOTBALL RECRUITING HAS A PRODUCTIVE WEEKEND. After several weeks of dormancy, Ohio State football recruiting is making headlines again. First the Friday Night Lights event highlighted recruits like Braxton Berrios for offers, then Demetrius Knox committed on Sunday, and then last night Malik Hooker of New Castle (Pa.) became the 16th member of the 2014 recruiting class. Hooker, a rangy athlete who projects to college as a safety, is the first Pennsylvania player in the class.
Mark Pantoni was, as he often is, excited about something yesterday afternoon. Considering the timing, Pantoni was likely referring to Hooker's commitment.
Ohio State doesn't have a commitment call sign like Kentucky's Yahtzee or Texas A&M's Yessir; if the staff wants to create one, they'd better hurry before the NCAA's Legislative Council goes mad with power and tries to make subtweeting a secondary violation.
With Hooker in the class, the Buckeyes have only a few spots left for 2014. Assuming that OSU only has room for 20-22 players in the class, and that marquee recruits like Raekwon McMillan have a spot waiting for them, only a couple slots remain. Hooker's commitment is not a bolt from the blue, but it is unexpected enough that luxuries such as a sixth offensive lineman in the class are now unlikely. Decommitments are common events, and Ohio State may eventually lose a few current commitments to other schools, but being three quarters of the way done with 2014 recruiting in July is a sign of success.
Another thing: Ohio State fans need to decide if they think offseason recruiting rankings matter or not. Making fun of Michigan and Tennessee and Kentucky fans for June recruiting championships is fine and dandy, but then some people turn around and brag about the Ohio State class being 5th on Rivals, 6th at 247, 8th at Scout or 14th at ESPN. Without a senior season by which to compare all players, comparing class rankings at this juncture is like bragging that a ball on the roulette wheel is heading toward your number while the wheel is still spinning.
YELLOW CARDS FOR ILLEGAL TARGETING. At Big Ten Media Days, Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald joined the discussion on the new targeting rules in college football by proposing a yellow card/red card system. In an interview with Adam Kramer of Bleacher Report, Fitzgerald elaborated on his idea:
“Say the hit wasn’t malicious and there wasn’t an intent to injure, but, by definition, it was a high hit,” Fitzgerald said on providing warnings for targeting. “The next time you do it for the rest of the season, you’re going to lose a game.”
Fitzgerald didn’t go on to outline a full campaign for a yellow card movement, but the intent behind this idea is clear: Provide a small window of error for players (and officials) before minutes are taken away.
Conferences are already able to give the equivalent of red cards by suspending players for illegal hits – for example, the Big Ten suspended Kurt Coleman for one game in 2009 – but the yellow card concept is novel. Establishing a context to suspend for dangerous play over the course of the season ought to be more effective at preventing hazardous hits.
If other sports are fair game for rule adaptations, I still like Ramzy's idea of a three-play power play, if only to see head coaches blow a gasket every time a player has to leave the field and give the other team a man advantage. You'd better believe that coaches will place a different value on safety if reckless tackling puts the team in serious risk of giving up a touchdown.
GEE GETS FAIR COMPENSATION. Hey, did you hear that Gordon Gee is no longer the president of The Ohio State University? It's cool if you didn't, since it was hardly covered in the media. Anyway, Ohio State has finalized Gee's retirement package, and in an absolute sense the package is generous: $5.8 million over the next five years to work as president emeritus.
Cue OUTRAGE about how Gee didn't deserve a penny and how he brought shame to this great university and how higher education must not stand for his form of bigoted t--*fart noise*. Gee's "But for Ohio State" fund drive brought the university hundreds of millions of dollars, and his retirement is a pittance compared to the value of his leadership in his 13 years as university president.
MCQUEARY TESTIFIES ON COVER-UP. Former Penn State assistant Mike McQueary testified about Penn State's handling of the Jerry Sandusky scandal on Monday. In the trial of Graham Spanier, Gary Schultz, and Timothy Curley on charges of a university cover-up, McQueary testified for the prosecution against the men. While he provided his own account of the scandal, his testimony about what Joe Paterno told him has made the biggest waves:
Pressed by defense lawyers on his discussions of the subject, McQueary brought up a specific exchange at football practice in the hours before Paterno's firing on Nov. 9, 2011 — four days after Sandusky's arrest.
He recalled the head coach saying the school would come down hard on McQueary and try to make him a scapegoat. Paterno also advised McQueary not to trust the administration or then-university counsel Cynthia Baldwin, the former assistant testified.
What more is there to glean from the Penn State scandal? The lack of trust and accountability running through Penn State's former leadership is stunning, but we already knew that. This prosecution is more just than the Pennsylvania governor's failed anti-trust lawsuit against the NCAA, and less costly. Whatever the university's sins may be, at least Penn State appears headed back in the right direction now.
FEATURE ON MEYER HONORED. Wright Thompson's 2012 feature on Urban Meyer, "Urban Meyer will be home for dinner", has been chosen for the Best American Sports Writing 2013 anthology. The piece, which detailed the struggle Meyer had going from burnout at Florida to a job at ESPN to re-establishing a healthy family-work balance to getting back into coaching with Ohio State, joins other excellent writing in the distinguished series.
Thompson is one hell of a writer, as Believeland, Ghosts of Mississippi, Why You Should Care About Cricket and many other stories show. He may be the best sportswriter in the world today, and he deserves the honor.
LINKS AHOY. Michigan/Notre Dame will be in primetime for the third straight year... Arena League team executes The People's Touchdown Celebration... A soccer player dies in 2022 World Cup host Qatar's heat... Wrangling with censors for Monty Python and the Holy Grail... A: Cheating. Q: How did the SEC get so successful?... Marveling at the CrossFit Games... "No, you're full of crap!"... Every movie reference from The Simpsons, Seasons 1-5... Would that more media trolls like TJ Simers were forced out... Houndstooth is not an Alabama trademark... Either Eddie Lacy ate a dozen wheels of cheese or the camera added 50 pounds... How will NFL coaches adjust to the read option?... Cauliflower ear described and sculpted in ancient Rome... and way to be, Ann Arbor onanists.