Skull Session: Michigan Immortalizes The Infamous Block M Flag, Ryan Day is Not the Next John Cooper (For Now) and Javon Bullard Gets an NIL Deal at Marvin Harrison Jr.'s Expense

By Chase Brown on March 30, 2023 at 5:00 am
Flag Plant
Adam Cairns / Columbus Dispatch

Welcome to the Skull Session.

Ohio State has its seventh spring practice today.

It's time for the Buckeyes to get better.

Let's have a good Thursday, shall we?

 JUST BEAT MICHIGAN. By now, you've probably seen that Michigan football enshrined a maize and blue Block M flag in the museum inside Schembechler Hall this week. It's the same flag the Wolverines paraded around the Shoe and planted into Ohio Stadium's turf after the team defeated the Buckeyes in Columbus last season.

Still, I feel as if I need to vocalize my opinion on the matter. I promise it will be quick.

Ever since Michigan beat Ohio State in November 2021, a lot of noise has come from Ann Arbor. Harbaugh alluding to Ryan Day being "born on third base," Josh Gattis calling the Buckeyes "soft," J.J. McCarthy waving Ohio State fans in the Shoe goodbye, Michigan's players screaming "It's great to be a Michigan Wolverine" in the visitor's locker room at Ohio Stadium and many other instances of chestiness from those who don and support the maize and blue. And now there is this.

I think I've had enough of it. Haven't you?

I've said it before, and here I will repeat it. Ohio State's three goals every season are to beat Michigan, win the Big Ten Championship and win a national championship. The Buckeyes' goals this season should be amended to say this: beat Michigan, beat Michigan and beat Michigan.

It's that simple. Just beat Michigan. Ryan Day, the ball is on your court.

 COOPER, TRESSEL, MEYER, DAY. Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy.

Those nouns listed don't match the names listed before them. I just liked the way the words looked when I, for some reason, typed them out and how they sounded when I said them out loud in succession. Speaking of "Succession," has anybody seen that show now that it's back on the air? I've heard great things. Let me know if I should watch it.

OK, OK – let's get back on track.

In 10 years, will we look at Ryan Day and say he was the next John Cooper or the next Jim Tressel/Urban Meyer? That's the question a person named Brian from Cleveland submitted to The Athletic's Stewart Mandel as part of a weekly mailbag article where The Athletic's subscribers personally write to the author.

Here is how Mandel answered that question:

Can I get back to you on Nov. 25, after we find out whether Day notches an unconscionable third straight loss to Michigan? … No? For those too young to remember Cooper, he was the Buckeyes’ coach from 1988-2000. He produced five top-10 teams but is mostly remembered in Columbus for going 2-10-1 against the Wolverines, including two brutal Michigan upsets of undefeated Ohio State teams in 1995 and ’96.

Day, who is 45-6 overall for a .882 winning percentage, is much closer to Tressel (.828) and Meyer (.902) than he is to Cooper (.715) in terms of overall success, and the only way that’s going to change is if he starts going 8-4 every year. I don’t see that happening. The 1-2 mark against Michigan probably wouldn’t seem so alarming, though, if he weren’t being compared with Tressel (9-1) and Meyer (7-0).

But Day also has one distinct advantage that Cooper did not. There was no national championship game much less a Playoff for most of his tenure. Had there been even a four-team CFP, his team would have made it in 1995, ’96 and ’98. If one of those makes it through and wins the whole thing, he’s viewed more like national champions Tressel and Meyer are today. Starting in 2024 there will be a 12-team CFP, which I’d expect Day’s program will make more often than not, giving him more shots at a trophy that would cement his legacy regardless of his Michigan record.

This is a big season coming up, though. He needs to show that Ohio State is still Ohio State, which to me means beating Michigan and winning the Big Ten. If it’s another year like the last two, or worse, I’ll start doubting whether he’s got Tressel/Meyer capabilities.

To be upfront, I do not believe Ryan Day is the next John Cooper. He is a great coach and an even greater person to lead the Ohio State program, its coaches, players and staffers. Still, I will entertain what I believe to be two points in Mandel's write-up that could either be used to prove or disprove Day being the next Cooper of Buckeye football coaches.

First, Mandel states that Day's winning percentage of .882 is more similar to Tressel's (.828) and Meyer's (.902) than it is to Cooper's (.715) when it comes to overall success in the regular season and the postseason. This is a positive for Day not being the next Cooper, as his percentage (albeit with fewer games) is second-best among the four coaches and the far above Coopers. If Day maintains that pace of wins and losses, which we should expect him to, he will always have that distinct advantage.

And second, Mandel states that Day has had some success in the College Football Playoff, which has altered how Ohio State fans should probably view his recent losses to Michigan and lack of Big Ten titles. Had Cooper coached when a national championship game or four-team CFP existed, he likely would have played for some titles here and there. This could have created a better perception of his performances, especially against the Wolverines.

In some weird, roundabout way that I can't seem to articulate in a short sentence, I see this as a positive for Day being the next Cooper. Let me explain.

It's a little unfair to compare Day and Cooper's postseason success in different eras of college football. Assuming Cooper would have made the CFP had there been one feels a bit like revisionist history. Day should be judged for his postseason success in his era and Cooper for his.

However, I can make this connection: Cooper and Day combine for zero national titles regardless of the championship format. Cooper finished second in the AP Poll twice and ended the regular season with one loss four times, just missing the mark on a title. Day has reached the playoff four times, losing in the semifinals twice and the CFP title once, just missing the mark on a title. Add in that Michigan was a thorn for Cooper and has been one for Day, and you can certainly see the connection.

In all of this, Day controls the narrative about his legacy from this point forward. As Mandel wrote in his closing, if Day loses to Harbaugh and the Wolverines for a third consecutive season in 2023, then we can have a more serious dialogue of him being less like Tressel and Meyer and more like Cooper. But if he wins, all should be well.

It's funny, really, that one game determines the legacy of a coach at Ohio State. But that's how it works around here. Beat Michigan and you'll turn out just fine.

 BULLARD'S BUCKEYE CRUNCH? Remember when a Georgia-based memorabilia company called "More Than Sports" sold signed photos of Javon Bullard's controversial hit on Marvin Harrison Jr. in the Peach Bowl with the inscription "Night Night," eventually leading to outrage from Ohio State fans and a public apology from the company's CEO?

Yeah, me too.

However, the owners of another Georgia-based business, "Alumni Cookie Dough," must have forgotten that ever happened, as the Athens, Georgia, company has introduced a new flavor called "Bullard's Buckeye Crunch" in honor of the Georgia defensive back.

It would appear Bullard has also failed to remember what all went down with Ohio State fans, Harrison and More Than Sports. In an interview with Marc Weiszer of OnlineAthens and The Athens Banner-Herald, Bullard feels honored to have the dessert named after him and finds the deal amusing.

“I thought it was a blessing, man, to have a cookie dough named after myself and the team we played,” Bullard said when asked about the deal. “It’s pretty funny, and I feel like it’s good for advertising.”

According to Weiszer, Bullard’s cookie dough will be sold in the Athens location of Alumni Cookie Dough from April 1-15. Bullard will promote the store on social media and fans will have a chance to win an autographed football. He hopes Georgia fans will love his namesake product.

"They always show support," Bullard said.

That is some piping hot tea if I've ever seen it.

 RESPECT THE PAST. The Ohio State football media team posted a few pictures on Wednesday of former Buckeye quarterback Bobby Hoying helping current Buckeyes understand the world of real estate, which I found to be pretty cool.

 SONG OF THE DAY. "Weight of the World" by Jon Bellion.

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