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Written by Dan Wismar

Dan Wismar

Tressel and MeyerBefore Urban Meyer coaches his first game as head coach at Ohio State, it’s hard to tell which is higher...the fans’ expectations for his Buckeye teams going forward, or the bar Jim Tressel has set for him for excellence in OSU football. As the first anniversary of Tressel’s demise approaches, Meyer’s OSU record is still a blank slate, but the height of the Tressel bar is something we can measure.

It’s not Meyer’s job to match anything accomplished by Tressel...or Hayes or Bruce or Cooper for that matter...but the comparisons are inevitable. What seems obvious at this point is that, with the hire of Meyer, the tribulations of 2011 look more like a bump in the road than the program-crippling train wreck many observers assumed would result from OSU’s reckoning with the NCAA.

Meyer’s stellar track record understandably has many OSU fans thinking “upgrade”. And with the Buckeyes working on a four-game losing streak, and ineligible for much of anything beyond a win in The Game in 2012, the pressures on Meyer to excel right out of the gate are diminished somewhat. But no matter how good Meyer’s Buckeyes turn out to be in the years to come, how does one upgrade from results like this?

- Three national title game appearances and one national championship
- Eight BCS bowl game appearances in ten years
- Seven Big Ten championships in ten years, including six in a row
- An .828 winning percentage
- Seven AP Top 5 finishes
- A 9-1 record vs Michigan

Off the field, Tressel’s record was equally impressive, as his Buckeye teams were the perennial conference leaders in Academic All-Big Ten award-winners, and he involved his players in all manner of good works in the community. It’s not my aim here to catalog all the positive things Jim Tressel did for the university and the city of Columbus, nor is it to rehash how he tainted it all with one puzzling lapse in judgment. Heaven knows I’ve written enough about that.

It is simply to state the obvious...that to ask Urban Meyer to meet the expectations of Ohio State fans, and take the program to some yet unattained level of success, is to ask an awful the point of being unfair, even if it’s not impossible. At a minimum, that would involve multiple national titles before he hangs it up.

Don’t get me wrong. The fact that we are even talking about titles in the plural is exciting, and speaks to the way Tressel elevated the program to the point where a top five finish and a BCS bowl game for Ohio State became the rule rather than the exception. And I feel about Meyer as an elite coach the way Bum Phillips felt about Earl Campbell when he said, “He may not be in a class by himself, but it sure don’t take long to call the roll”. Ohio State not only landed on its feet, but has clearly hit the ground running.

The new conference championship game adds another hurdle to the long tough grind on the way to a January bowl game with national title implications. But it will be a full year before we can even start talking about Meyer’s chances to coach a game that important for these Buckeyes. In the meantime, let’s remember that despite the giddiness about Coach Meyer in Columbus, his next win at OSU will be his first, and he’s got a very tough act to follow.


Clarett TD2A Decade of Highlights

I thought one more look at the best of the Tressel decade might be in order here, so I’ve linked below my two-part series from last fall on Tressel’s Top Ten. Part One gives you #10 through #2, and then Part Two takes an in-depth look at the January 2003 title game win over Miami, with my interview of Steve Helwagen from, author of “The Greatest Game Ever Played”.

Tressel’s Top Ten - Part One - #10 - #2

Tressel’s Top Ten - Part Two - The Title Game


 Secondary Violations Reported

NCAA RULESThese days, if you put the letters “NCAA” together with the letters “OSU”, you’ve got news. Plain Dealer OSU beat reporter Doug Lesmerises did that this Thursday when he reported on the 46 different minor (“secondary”) NCAA violations that have been self-reported by the Ohio State compliance department since May 30 of last year.

The report serves mainly to confirm once again what many people feel is the silliness, if not the absurdity of so many of the NCAA’s rules. Among the violations self-reported by the university:

-Urban Meyer saying the words “good luck” to recruit Noah Spence before he took the field for his high school’s state championship game. Meyer was speaking to the coaches on the sidelines when Spence walked by and said something to him. Meyer’s response constituted prohibited contact with a recruit.

- Assistant coach Mike Vrabel was spotted on the sidelines during a game using smokeless tobacco, and was turned in anonymously to OSU officials by a local high school busybody health teacher.

- Assistant Stan Drayton inadvertently sent a text to a recruit when he meant to send an email. Don’t ask why the former is prohibited while the latter is not, because I haven’t a clue.

The violations were for all sports, not just football, and from all indications they are of the sort that is routine for OSU and most other schools. OSU’s Compliance Dept. got mostly good reviews from the NCAA when they moved in with the OSU Athletic Department for a few months last year. As Lesmerises says, the only thing mildly troubling about these disclosures is the sheer volume of incidents for a program already under the NCAA microscope.

SEC-Big 12 Agreement

SEC FootballThe SEC and the Big 12 announced an agreement this week that would match their conference champions in a New Year’s Day bowl game starting in 2014...except when it won’t...which should be almost every year.

If the anticipated 4-team national championship playoff decides to invite the top four ranked teams every year (instead of, say, the top four conference champions), it’s hard to imagine that the SEC champ wouldn’t be among them. So this agreement allows for the top teams from the two conferences that are not taking part in the 4-team playoff to meet in this newly-minted bowl game, the site for which has yet to be determined.

What the agreement really does is mimic the arrangement that the other two major conferences, the Big Ten and the PAC-12, have with the Rose Bowl. Yahoo’s Dan Wetzel mocked the Big Ten’s attachment to the Rose Bowl in an amusing column this week, and it does appear that Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany gave up on the idea of home field sites for playoff semi-finals rather than abandon the conference’s longstanding relationship with Pasadena. To be fair to Delany, it’s not at all clear that he could have prevailed on the idea of home field sites against the tide of opinion trending toward using traditional bowl game sites for the semi-final games.

For my money, any sacred tradition of PAC-10 vs. Big Ten was wrung from the Rose Bowl once and for all the day TCU played in it. But that’s another column for another day.

This new arrangement with the SEC-Big 12 has some observers saying it will hasten the formation of the four 16-team “superconferences”, with the football powers left in the lesser conferences (principally the ACC and Big East) and the other outliers like Notre Dame and Boise State, now having to scramble to affiliate with one or the other of the big boys if they hope to ever get a spot in the coming playoff.

This brave new world of college football might provide the impetus to finally drag Notre Dame into the Big Ten, along with some eastern schools like Syracuse, Pitt or Maryland. Stay tuned.


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