I spent the first almost decade of my career as a farm radio news reporter, which is an industry that is every bit as full of personalities as you might imagine. One of my favorites is an Oklahoman named Ron Hays (he's lead anchor on the Radio Oklahoma Network, so he's literally "Ron on RON," which always made me chuckle) who starts every broadcast by saying, "Howdy neighbor!" and I just think that's about as nice a way to greet someone as there is.
Like Earle Bruce following Woody Hayes (more on that in a minute), I feel destined to come up short writing today's diary of what's happening in Buckeyedom... stepping up to the plate the day after resident raconteur and bourbon sommelier Ramzy, here's hoping I manage nine wins... or at least get a snazzy headband or hat or something.
TODAY'S ENTIRELY SFW ANTI-WORK BANGER. King of the Road by Roger Miller
SCOTUS TO NCAA: DROP DEAD. If you're like me, you enjoy reading a blistering legal opinion once every so many years. There's something about a thorough beatdown written in the scholarly parlance of the judiciary. And boy oh boy did the highest court in the land hand it to the high stewards of collegiate athletics yesterday!
As our Dan Hope reported, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled unanimously in favor of college athletes in the Alston v. NCAA case Monday. Although the case was somewhat narrow in scope, ruling specifically on the NCAA's ability to limit education-related benefits like free laptops of paid internships, the ruling has broad implications for the future of amateurism as we know it.
Justice Kavanaugh came off the top rope in a concurring opinion that pretty much summed up the crux of the issue:
NCAA has long argued that application of antitrust law to it would destroy college sports. Here's Kavanaugh's response-- let the athletes unionize and share revenue; or go to Congress for help. pic.twitter.com/Ei8ptnHSm7— Gabe Feldman (@SportsLawGuy) June 21, 2021
It's pretty clear at this point that Congress isn't going to help with this any time soon. But what about that question of letting the athletes unionize? Alex Kirshner, writing at Matt Brown's Extra Points, notes that it's not impossible... just extremely difficult.
State laws are hostile to unions, especially those at public-sector institutions, in much of the country. They’re especially so in many of the states that care the most about college sports, especially football. (Almost the entire South has laws that prevent unions from automatically collecting dues from every worker covered under their contracts, and so does much of the Midwest.)
Even if state laws were friendly to employees who wanted to form unions, no adjudicating body in the United States has ever recognized college athletes as “employees” in the first place –– the specific thing they’d need in order to get a legally binding union off the ground. In 2015, football players at Northwestern got close, but even if the National Labor Relations Board hadn’t struck down their effort, the resolution in that case only would have applied to private colleges, which are a minority of the NCAA.
Yet conditions feel closer to ripe now than they ever have, for two reasons. For one, athletes have demonstrated an expanded realization of how important they are to college sports’ economics. In 2020, they acted on that realization, building on activism players had carried out many years before.
Kirshner compares the situation to the foodservice industry, particularly fast-food workers, as a useful case study given similarities in turnover of employees in the industry and the typically limited power of workers in the current system.
In either case: legislation or unionization, the writing is on the wall. The current system of universities, coaches and administrators reaping all of the financial benefits from college athletics is not long for this world.
Oh, and because it's fun to laugh at the NCAA and it's egregious incompetence, USA Today's Steve Berkowitz pointed out that the Alston case has now cost the Association and its 11 conference co-defendants at least $280 million.
CHRIS OLAVE: THE LEAGUE'S NEXT BIG DEEP THREAT. Draft scout Daniel Jeremiah was one of many among us surprised that Ohio State's receiver extraordinaire wasn't actually in the NFL Draft this year. Jeremiah went back to Olave's game film to pick apart the senior standout's many gifts and a few opportunities for improvement, too.
Biggest takeaway: Olave's best attribute is his ability to make plays over the top of the defense. His presence is felt in every game I studied, and he opens up the field for his teammates. That being said, he isn't a one-trick pony. He is just as effective running comebacks and curls as he is on posts and go routes. He's a home run hitter who's also capable of winning on third down in the middle of the field. That's a special combination.
He reminds me of: Will Fuller. My first thought was to compare Olave to Jerry Jeudy. They have similar body types, top speed and production. However, I think Olave has better hands while Jeudy is a little more explosive in his release and at the top of the route. Fuller is a better comparison. Both guys are special when they work over the top of the defense and both needed to add strength coming out of college. When healthy, Fuller has been one of the best deep threats in the NFL. I think Olave has the chance to be even better because he's a more polished player than Fuller was at that same point in his career.
Polished is exactly the word I'd use to describe Olave. You can heap superlatives for days, and while Jeremiah noted he could use some additional strength when it comes to fighting through contact and getting a little better at blocking defenders, it's also pretty clear that Olave is going to have the opportunity to be special on Sundays sooner rather than later.
THE ROSY CHEEKED ASSASSIN'S GOT HOPS. When you have the chance to write about Aaron Craft (I really can't wait until we can legitimately call him Dr. Craft) at an Ohio State blog, you should do that. People love this guy, and with good reason.
Although he's the school's all-time leader in steals and one of the best all-around defenders in Buckeye history, the one thing you don't typically think of immediately is air time. Well friends, that's about to change.
BEFORE & AFTER w/ @ACraft4— Flight Lab Hoops (@flightlabhoops) June 21, 2021
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Stop messin around with your workouts. This gets results! See site for details pic.twitter.com/QPDQJAh6mo
According to former OSU assistant strength coach Brian Unverferth, Craft added more than 3.5 inches to his vertical leap in preparation for leading Carmen's Crew to another championship in The Basketball Tournament this summer.
The bracket was revealed yesterday and action tips off in just under four weeks. Get ready.
SPEAKING OF BUCKEYES DUNKING WITH RECKLESS ABANDON... Zed Key and Meechie Johnson had high hopes of representing not only Ohio State but Team USA and USA Basketball at next month’s FIBA U19 World Cup as part of the men's U19 World Cup Team. The pair were invited to Fort Worth this week for a three-day training camp that will determine the 12-man roster.
Although neither Buckeye made the cut of 17 finalists still in contention for a spot on the team, we'll always have these clips of Key and Johnson letting it fly:
MATTHEW MCCONAUGHEY WITH A BABY HOOK. I really didn't intend for today's Skull Session to be a love letter to Ohio State basketball, but with last night's news that Duane Washington earned an invite to the NBA Combine after a productive G League Elite Camp, I could have written pretty much the whole article about roundball.
The Buckeyes picked up an excellent big man by way of Bloomington off the transfer wire this offseason in 6' 11" center Joey Brunk. It was clear the Hoosiers needed Brunk's size and production last season, but a lingering back issue led to what ended up being a season-ending surgery in late December.
Well there's good news, friends: Brunk's back on the hardwood.
Played my first game tonight since COVID and my back surgery in a summer league. Lot of work left to do. #greenlight— Joey Brunk (@JoeyBrunk) June 20, 2021
The bearded big man likens himself to a certain Dazed and Confused star, so it seems appropriate to say: alright, alright, alright.
THINGS I'M READING RIGHT NOW. The mystery of Earle Bruce: why the heck was he fired, anyway...? Darn few people cook ribs as well as Aaron Franklin... The dark side of solar power: the high cost of solar trash... Lumber prices are still high, but down 45% from their pandemic peak... Popular and polarizing: The Tiger Mother and Dinner Party-gate at Yale Law.