Skull Session: Chris Holtmann is Happily Off the Bubble, Coaches Want Rules Against Faking Injuries, and Kristina Johnson Will Fight for Athletics

By Kevin Harrish on February 18, 2021 at 4:59 am
Justin Ahrens is pointing in today's skull session.

The quest for a No. 1 seed continues tonight. I'm sure Ohio State will hit you with some glorious pregame hype art, and it will look nothing like this.

Get dumped then, Penn State.

Word of the Day: Svelte.

 GETTING T'D UP. Chris Holtmann is a pretty even-keeled guy, but even a long fuse burns down sometimes.

Holtmann went on the SVPod with the legendary Scott Van Pelt and Stanford Steve and spent some glorious minutes talking about his history with technical fouls, among other things.

Some highlights from the interview:

  • Holtmann didn't remember how many techs he's received throughout his career but remembered the last one was in February of 2020 (which is pretty weak – it's been an entire calendar year!)
  • Holtmann said Ryan Day asked him about his last technical just last night.
  • "I deserve every one I get, I'll be honest with you," Holtmann said. "I know. I know."
  • Stanford Steve's research said Holtmann (or his bench) has received 18 technicals in 10 years.
  • Holtmann said early in his career, there were a couple of nights he didn't come home the night of a bad loss, but after the second one, his wife made him swear not to do that ever again.
  • Holtmann said getting rid of all his blue stuff was "the first thing I did" after getting hired, and told a story about bringing a brand new, very nice blue backpack to his opening presser, and everyone telling him to throw it away.
  • Holtmann said he paid attention to bracket projections much more when they were on the bubble than now.
  • He said the good thing about being a high seed is he doesn't have to root against his friends. Holtmann said "The last two weeks, I was actively at home with my wife and my daughter rooting against close friends."
  • Holtmann compares Ohio's love for Buckeye football to Kentucky's passion for Wildcat basketball. "It's the most similar thing I've seen."

It was an excellent interview all around that's well worth your time, but Holtmann did tell one blatant lie that needs to be addressed.

When asked about how weird it is playing without a crowd, Holtmann mentioned that it's weird playing at home in an empty building, saying "you expect juice in the building and you just don't have it."

Buddy, there has never had juice in that building. If anything, this year is an equalizer you should be grateful for.

 THAT'S MY PRESIDENT. For years, Ohio State had a university president that couldn't be less interested in the sports at the university he was paid almost $900,000 to represent.

Now, Ohio State has a president that cares so much about athletics, she's voluntarily spending her free time fighting to save the sports at her own alma mater.

On Tuesday, leaders of the group presented their financial findings to Stanford provost Persis Drell during a 35-minute Zoom call, where they also pitched a proposal: Reinstate the 11 sports and give them a five-year runway to self-endow, not just their own programs but also all 34 nonrevenue sports at Stanford.

“It was like we were talking to an empty suit,” says Kathy Levinson, a former three-sport athlete at Stanford in the 1970s who is leading the 36 Sports Strong movement and was part of Tuesday’s meeting. “I would say she was immovable.”

On the call, Levinson was joined by members of a separate but symbiotic movement, Keep Stanford Wrestling, as well as a prominent member of the higher education community: Kristina Johnson, president of Ohio State University and a former Stanford field hockey athlete. Johnson, the U.S. secretary of energy under Barack Obama, expressed the need for a broad-based educational system and encouraged Drell to grant permission for the programs to return as self-funded teams.

I love everything about this. Stanford's own administration isn't going to support those athletes, so she'll do it. And she can do it from a position of authority as someone who leads a university with an even bigger athletic department.

And again, I cannot emphasize enough how remarkably different Dr. Johnson is than her predecessor on this front. Not only would Michael Drake never do anything like this, but he would also have been the "empty suit" on the other end of the phone.

If this tells you anything about the future of the Ohio State athletic program, it's that she's going to fight like hell for it, and athletics certainly won't be an afterthought to her.

She's been about that action so far, even before she was officially hired.

 NO MORE FAKING IT. We've all seen it – an offense is rolling down the field against a gassed defense that's getting shredded like mild cheddar at Skyline Chili. Then, all of the sudden, a defensive tackle somehow sprains his ankle while walking to the line of scrimmage.

It's painfully obvious when it happens, but so far the only punishment has been a spattering of boos from the crowd and a rule that the injured player must come out of the game for one (1) play before returning to action.

If it pisses you off, just imagine how much it pisses the opposing coaches off. And they're finally pissed off enough to demand something be done about it.

"Our ethics committee, which suggests rules changes to the NCAA, said by unanimous consent that this has got to stop," said AFCA executive director Todd Berry. "So they asked the rules committee to do something about it. It's bad for football."


Hoping to avoid a rule that would inevitably punish legitimate injuries as well as fake ones, the rules committee decided to let it be known among coaches and administrators that it was prepared to act if those in the sport didn't move to stop the practice of faking injuries immediately. A tape of questionable injuries was sent to all FBS programs as a quasi warning.

"We did not eliminate the feigning injuries," Shaw said. "Even if you just watched the bowl season, you saw some peculiar actions."

Berry said that while they saw some decline in the number of questionable injuries, it wasn't nearly enough, adding that "any of it is bad."

"It's time," Berry said. "... There needs to be a harsh deterrent."

I don't know what "a harsh deterrent" could be, but I'm all for whatever it is. They'll probably just force teams to use a timeout like the NFL and penalize them if one isn't available Pretty uncreative, but it's better than nothing!

 I SEE YOU, KALEB. It looks like Ohio State's basketball school powess extends to the NBA G League, too, cause Kaleb Wesson is out here putting the Santa Cruz Warriors on his back.

Good to see Wesson carrying on that rich Buckeye tradition in Santa Cruz, following in former Defensive Player of the Year (and D-League champ!) Aaron Craft's footsteps.

 SONG OF THE DAY. "My Love" by Justin Timberlake.

 NOT STICKING TO SPORTS. A man set fire to his lawn to get rid of snow and ice... How animals perceive time... A family is fighting for the return of a deceased tattoo artist's preserved skin... A Ukrainian man invents a murder to get the police to clear snow from his road... Frank's RedHot sauce will soon come in a sandwich-ready 'slice' form...

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