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Written by Dan Wismar

Dan Wismar

death to the BCSSpring ball is over in Columbus, but OSU football is a year-round sport, and there’s always something to report on with the program. We’ll get to the Buckeye news, which includes more prison time for a former quarterback, and a highly-ranked recruit de-committing after an OSU fan he met on a visit turned out to be a registered sex offender. Yes, the creepiness quotient was unusually high this week in Buckeye country.

But the big news in college football is the progress made by the powers that be toward a playoff system to determine the sport’s national champion. The conference commissioners gathered in south Florida the last week of April and whittled down a number of proposals to a handful that will be further tweaked and presented to the schools for consideration sometime in June.

One thing is certain. The BCS is popular demand. A new playoff system, almost certainly one involving just four teams, will take effect for the 2014 season. How those four teams will be selected, and where they’ll play the games are the key details still to be worked out, but at the very least, now the two teams meeting for the title will have to qualify on a football field against a quality opponent, instead of strictly in the polls. And that is a big step in the direction long demanded by the fans of the sport. Whether it turns out to be an improvement over the current setup is another matter.


There is some sentiment for awarding the four playoff berths only to teams having won their conference championships (an arrangement that would have eliminated last year’s best team and national champion Alabama, by the way), but it’s reportedly more likely that the top four ranked teams overall will square off, with No.1 meeting No. 4, and No. 2 meeting No. 3.  

For starters, conference champions aren’t necessarily ranked all that high, and last year’s Big Ten champ Wisconsin (No. 10) stands out as one good recent example. For that reason, a compromise was floated this week that would require a conference champion to be ranked in the top six in order to qualify. And some allowance would have to be made for the (admittedly somewhat bizarre) possibility that a Notre Dame or other independent would be ranked in the top four.


The other key issue is the venue for the semi-finals. (One feature common to most all the remaining proposals is that the championship game be bid out to different cities/stadiums, as a way to maximize revenue, and minimize the likelihood of playing the final in the same place as a semi-final.) The bowl game committees do not have a seat at the table for these talks, but as you can imagine, their hope is that the proposal incorporating the existing bowl games for the semi-final round will win the day.

One favored proposal would have the semis played at the traditional bowl game sites of the No.1 and No. 2 ranked teams (the Rose Bowl for a Big Ten team, the Sugar for an SEC team, etc.). SI’s Stewart Mandel says  conference commissioners are saying this bowl game tie-in is favored by approximately a 60-40 margin over the main competing idea. One down side to this arrangement would appear to be the likelihood that one bowl game...say, the Sugar...might end up hosting a semi-final almost every year, while other bowls are left out in the cold. One variation has the major bowls taking turns as semi-final sites.

The competing proposal would provide for home games for the top two ranked teams, which would serve as a reward, competitively and financially, for the teams, their towns, and their fans, while also eliminating travel costs for two of the four teams. This system is favored by “Death to the BCS” co-author Dan Wetzel, who says the NFL (which plays on home fields up to the Super Bowl) is the applicable comparison here, rather than the NCAA basketball tournament (which plays all games at neutral sites).

I must say I’m persuaded more by the idea of home games for the top two teams, if only because the prospect of an SEC or PAC-12 team having to play in Columbus (or Ann Arbor, or Madison) in late-December is so damn delicious. It wouldn’t make up for decades of playing the Rose Bowl in the PAC-10’s backyard, but it’s something.

There will undoubtedly be fans unhappy with whatever the arrangement turns out to be, but the sport has finally decided to listen to the majority of them and do away with the detested BCS format. Now if they can take the next step and do away with 6-6 teams qualifying for bowl games, we’ll really be getting somewhere.


schlichter1Art Schlichter - Crook

The long, repetitive saga of Art Schlichter took a familiar turn this week, when he was sentenced to ten years in prison for bilking more than 50 people of millions of dollars, including $680,000 from a wealthy widow who had befriended him in Columbus years before. After serving 12 years in jail from 1994-2006, Schlichter wrote a book and started a foundation for gambling awareness, but it turns out he was stealing money from people at the same time.

I can’t help asking myself...after all these years...who would give money to Art Schlichter? No offense meant to Anita Barney, widow of the Wendy’s chairman, who was sweet-talked by Art into handing over 680-large, but c’mon...the “dumb enough to take a check from Art Schlichter” jokes are almost 30 years old now.  He’s an infamous con man and a thief. A person who steals from old ladies. I thought everybody knew that. He must have a hell of a line.

Sentencing had been delayed while a “mental evaluation” was done, and as the Dispatch reports, Schlichter’s attorney “said the former quarterback was examined by three mental health specialists who concluded that he had "significant deficits" in the frontal lobes of his brain, most likely caused by the 15 concussions he suffered while playing football”, and that these “could cause severe depression, impulsivity and an inability to make good decisions”.

It’s “the concussions made me do it” defense. The attorney said this was an “evaluation that he hoped would reveal why he’s been unable to stop his illegal behavior.”  Wait, they got a delay in sentencing so they could try to figure out why a compulsive gambler can’t stop gambling?

Schlichter may well have been concussed while at Ohio State. He was a tough and fearless runner and took a lot of shots. But this is a guy whose life was consumed by gambling, from the time before he was old enough to bet at Scioto Downs, but was there twice a week with his high school buddy.  A 1983 NYT piece on him talks of the early pattern of gambling that then accelerated over years and eventually destroyed his first professional career. His second was the 30-year criminal career he has had since in support of his habit.

Schlichter started taking other people’s money when his own money ran out...and that didn’t take long. He played in only 13 games before he gambled himself out of the NFL. He was winless in six starts, and out of the league after two seasons and two suspensions. He had lost his 1st round signing bonus over the summer before his rookie year.

Maybe Schlichter’s lawyers were onto something with the concussion defense. It’s in fashion. And it holds more water than the tired and worn “the gambling made me do it” defense. Because he was a great Ohio State quarterback, Schlichter has for years garnered a measure of sympathy from fans for having a “disease” that compelled him to steal from other people. But the supply of sympathy isn’t endless.

Sometimes you’re just a crook.


waughBrave New World

Pennsylvania linebacker Alex Anzalone committed to Urban Meyer’s Buckeyes shortly after the spring game this April, but the 4-star player officially de-committed Friday. It was not a coincidence that about this same time, the Ohio State athletics administration was warning players and recruits to “choose your social media friends carefully”. The school’s warning suggested they block access to their Twitter and Facebook accounts from one Charles Eric Waugh, a self-described superfan of OSU sports who had been in contact with recruits via Twitter, and had been photographed with Anzalone and other OSU recruits during their visits to Columbus.

It was disclosed that in 2008 Waugh had pled guilty to five counts of "possession of matter portraying sexual performances by minors", and was on the official Kentucky registry of sex offenders as a result. An account in Anzalone’s hometown newspaper suggests he was having second thoughts about his commitment to OSU in recent days, and the embarrassment of then appearing in an online photo with Waugh was enough to make him rescind his verbal pledge to OSU. His father's outrage at the story appears to have been a factor in the decision as well.

It should be noted that Waugh was not targeting or specifically trying to communicate with Anzalone, nor is there any evidence that he has ever done anything untoward with or to any OSU players or recruits. He had a track record of tweeting motivational messages to large numbers of Buckeye players and recruits, and he did make a habit of asking to pose for pictures with recruits, which he would then post to OSU fan sites, including the shot that came to embarrass the Anzalones.

Ohio State has taken pains to assure everyone that “this individual is not associated with Ohio State. He is not a booster. He has not engaged in any activities on behalf of the University”. Anzalone’s dad had reacted angrily to the news that his son had been in contact with Waugh, saying, "You would think that these kinds of people would be kept at a distance away from recruits...The fact that he got close to recruits was the issue. Keep people like this away from them. I can't be everywhere."

After the initial anger and emotion of the moment passed, however, the elder Anzalone allowed that “Ohio State had no idea that this guy was a perv...They were totally unaware. Let's make that very clear. That's not Ohio State.” He said his son might even still consider Ohio State, saying, "It's a possibility....Things change. You can't hold them responsible for other people's behavior."

A couple of short years ago, a guy like Waugh...or anyone else for that matter...wouldn’t have been able to achieve such easy access to football recruits or players. Twitter and Facebook allow that access, and all schools are now faced with the dilemma of how to monitor, control and otherwise deal with the new world of social media. Good luck with that.


To help out those of us losing track of what college teams are in what conference, Stewart Mandel has put out a handy conference realignment cheatsheet. He says by 2015, fully 25% of FBS programs will have changed their conference affiliations. Here's hoping he plans to keep this updated.


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