First off, farewell to athletic director Andy Geiger. He did an excellent job during his 11 years and will be sorely missed.
His legacy will be the coaches he hired, and facilities he helped create and refurbish, but Geiger should also be remembered as a stand up guy that didn’t back away from anything. Nothing seemed too big for him.
I don’t think he will have a basketball arena named after him, but Geiger will be remembered the same way OSU historians view L.W. St. John. A visionary that wasn’t afraid to take chances.
PUSHING THE RIGHT BUTTONS
This is my first column since Ohio State’s 33-7 Alamo Bowl victory over Oklahoma State.
Several things stood out in the game and there were obviously many high points for the Buckeyes. But more than anything else, I continue to be impressed with the aggressive and innovative play calling of Jim Tressel. Where did this come from?
Even up 30-0 in the fourth quarter against the Cowboys, Tressel was allowing quarterback Justin Zwick to chuck it into the end zone. Maybe the criticism of his play calling has finally gotten to him, or maybe the talent is just simply better and more suited for aggressive play calling. Who knows. But the point is that Tressel was much less conservative in the second half of the 2004 season and OSU fans should hope it’s a sign of things to come.
While we’re at it, first-year defensive coordinator Mark Snyder also deserves some credit for his aggressive play calling in the latter stages of the season. With arguably the best linebackers in the nation, we were waiting for Snyder to turn them loose and let them make plays and that’s exactly what he did. The Silver Bullets could be lethal next season with everyone back except Simon Fraser and Dustin Fox.
When will our good friends in Vegas learn not to underestimate the Buckeyes in bowl games? Oklahoma State was actually favored in that game? That's three years in a row the Bucks entered as dogs, and left with a W. Oddsmakers are apparently still used to the sterling 3-8 bowl record under John Cooper. Hopefully a few of our Buckeye brethren made some coin off that ridiculous +2.5 line. The Big 12 looks like a weaker and weaker conference every day.
How about that block from OSU quarterback Justin Zwick in the Alamo Bowl? He took a defensive tackle and knocked him back a couple weeks. Now if we could just get Zwick to throw the ball with the same velocity. No, just a small joke there. That was a gritty performance by Zwick against the Cowboys (17 of 27, 190 yards, 1 TD, 0 INT) and OSU will not soon forget the way he toughed it out after his hamstring strain early in the first quarter. Todd Boeckman definitely won’t forget.
Ohio State wide receivers coach Darrell Hazell has “head coach material” written all over him. But don’t tell him that. We want to keep him around for a while. He did a great job with OSU’s young receiving corps this season, and he also did a fine job heading up the kick and punt return teams.
TRESSEL NOT STARVED FOR ATTENTION
One thing that becomes more and more clear about Jim Tressel is that he’s not concerned about drawing attention to himself. It would be easy for Tressel to throw his name in the ring for the Cleveland Browns’ head coaching job, just so OSU fans would say, “Oh, please Coach, don’t go. Please don’t go.”
You know, like Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski's annual, “I mean it this time, I might take an NBA job,” when he has absolutely no intention of leaving his cushy job in Durham. He just wants everyone to love him and beg him to stay, which is exactly what happened last summer. I had a better chance of taking the LA Lakers job than Krzyzeski, but that didn’t stop him from pretending he was interested.
Tressel just isn’t interested in stroking his ego like a lot of coaches. You could name many other coaches that “threaten” to leave their schools just to get attention (or a pay raise). Yes, there are plenty of coaches that actually like to bounce around and find better jobs. I don’t have a problem with that. Urban Meyer or our own Thad Matta could fit into that category. That’s better than “faking it” as Elaine Benes might say.
But then there are people like Krzyzewski and Cincinnati’s Bob Huggins who hint they are interested in other jobs, simply so the fans will beg them to stay.
NFL: OPERATED BY GENIUSES
Football is the No. 1 sport in America and the gap is growing.
One reason – beyond the fact that football is simply the most entertaining sport – is that the NFL does a near-perfect job of marketing.
The last few years, Major League Baseball decided to open its regular season in Japan in the middle of the night. What a bad idea. You are going to call yourself the “National Pastime” and then open your regular season on foreign soil with no one watching on live TV?
The NFL might have exhibition games in other countries, but when it comes time to open its regular season, it features a Thursday night game with two of the top teams in the league (this year it was a preview of the AFC Championship game – Colts vs. Patriots). On U.S. soil no less.
The NFL also televised games on Christmas Eve (a Friday) and Christmas, then had a slate of games for the regular Sunday slot as well. Basically, the league catered to the needs and wants of its fan base this year. What a strange concept.
The NFL also has the other major sports leagues trumped in terms of collective bargaining. The NFL has an excellent revenue sharing policy, something that MLB and obviously the NHL cannot figure out. The NBA is probably second-best in this area. It has a soft salary cap and decent revenue sharing, but nothing compares to the NFL. Commissioner Paul Tagliabue doesn’t strike you as the super-intelligent type, but he is obviously doing something right.
The only good thing about the NFL season ending is that we don’t have to hear ESPN’s Sunday night broadcasting team for a while. Wow those guys are bad – especially Joe Theisman and Paul Maguire. The only way they could get worse is if they added Dan Dierdorf to the booth.
How about the rookie seasons of former Buckeye offensive linemen Alex Stepanovich and Shane Olivea.
Stepanovich, a fourth round pick by the Arizona Cardinals, started the entire season at center.
Olivea, a seventh round steal by the San Diego Chargers, started the entire season at right tackle.
OK, so I guess we have the answer now. The problems with OSU’s running game in 2003 had a lot more to do with the running backs than the O-line.
CLARETT SEVENTH ROUND PICK?
Maurice Clarett is everyone’s favorite enemy right now, but I have to laugh when I hear NFL draft “experts” predicting that Clarett will be no better than a sixth or seventh round pick.
These were the same people last year – when it looked like Clarett was going to be eligible for the draft – that were saying he was going to be no better than a fifth round pick.
That didn’t seem right. Clarett a fifth rounder? “No way he would last past the first day,” was what I was thinking.
Then, after the draft, the New England Patriots brass went on record saying they were planning on using one of their 2004 second round picks on Clarett. It was no coincidence that the day after Clarett’s court ruling was overturned and he was told he would be ineligible for the draft, the Patriots traded a second round pick to the Cincinnati Bengals for Corey Dillon.
Yes, the Patriots are lucky they landed Dillon and not Clarett, but the point is that they were set on taking Clarett in the second round. This year, just like last, no way Clarett lasts past the first day. All it takes is one team and one team will definitely take a chance on him sometime during the first day.
MIDSHIPMEN SINK COMPETITION
Navy went 10-2 this year, its first 10-win season since 1905.
The Midshipmen drilled New Mexico 34-19 in the Emerald Bowl and finished ranked No. 24 in each major poll.
Head coach Paul Johnson is doing a great job and I think it’s great for college football to have the service academies playing well. Air Force has been a solid program for many years. And it’s a matter of time before former NFL head coach Bobby Ross builds Army into a winner again.
Since his freshman year, OSU center Terence Dials had “star potential” written all over him. It didn’t really click for Dials until this season, but man has it clicked. Dials leads the Bucks with 16 points and 8.3 rebounds per game, and when he’s not called for touch foul after touch foul (cough, Wisconsin refs, cough) he can really be a force in the Big Ten. Aside from Paul Davis at Michigan State, James Augustine at Illinois and Mike Wilkinson at Wisconsin, there are not a lot of quality big men in the conference.
And the good news about Dials is that he has another year of eligibility “thanks” to the back injury he suffered in 2002-03, which enabled him to redshirt.
Since the moment he stepped on campus in 2001, Dials brought a rebounding presence that OSU hadn’t seen in quite some time. He also flashed decent offensive skills – he had some big games for the 2001-02 Buckeyes – but was fairly inconsistent. Remember, that was the same year OSU tied for the Big Ten regular season championship, won the Big Ten Tournament championship and made it to the second round of the NCAA Tournament. Dials was the go-to post player on that squad, despite his youth and inconsistencies.
This year, Thad Matta has stressed consistency to Dials and he’s taken it to heart. He’s worked hard on his game and is close to becoming a complete post player. He has added a nice left hand, which prevents teams from keying on his jump hook and drop step to the right side. He has more post moves and is playing with more confidence.
Dials could possibly be one of the best post players in the country next season. He has some fine-tuning to do, but the new coaching staff has done a great job with him and he deserves credit for buying in and working hard.
I agree completely with what he said. The Patriots are not as good as they used to be and the Colts are going to knock them off. But he shouldn’t have been the one to say it. Stick with making fun of your record-breaking quarterback and the best coach in franchise history. Wait a minute, don’t do that either.
Like the girl in the beer commercial a few years ago… “You have one job: MAKE KICKS.”
FEELING SORRY FOR AUBURN
I admit it. I am. Auburn goes 13-0 and doesn’t even get a share of the national title? Could you imagine if that happened at OSU?
Hey, I have no love lost for SEC teams. They cheat. I mean really cheat. Not this elementary school garbage that is going on at Ohio State. But I’ve always kind of liked Auburn, save the Terry Bowden years.
For the War Tigers, or Tuber Eagles, or whatever they are calling themselves these days, to go undefeated playing in a good conference… it’s ridiculous they were not given a shot to “play” for the title.
It’s amusing that many people are now saying, “Well, USC obviously deserves it. They blew out Oklahoma.”
OK, that proves to me that Oklahoma is not good and nothing more. Auburn would have given USC a good game. Might have even won the game. No one gave little Ohio State a shot heading into the 2002 national title game. Similarities between ’02 OSU and ’04 Auburn? Good running game; good defense.
Of course, all of this is more proof that a playoff is needed. I’ve said it many times, you’ve said it many times, everyone that writes about college football has said it many times.
So, what is the holdup? Every other division of NCAA college football uses a playoff, but Division I still does not? Every other sport in the NCAA has a sanctioned “tournament” or “championships” at the end of the regular season. But the NCAA’s brass continues to bury their collective heads in the sand when it comes to D-I college football. There is absolutely no excuse not to have a playoff. It should include eight teams (16 would be too much – still want the regular season to mean something) and the bowls could still be incorporated. And teams that do not qualify for the eight-team tournament could still play in good “lesser” bowls like the Alamo Bowl. I mean, it makes so much sense that we will probably never see it in our lifetime. It makes too much sense for the NCAA to figure out.
IF TRESSEL CALLED A RECRUIT AT 1 A.M. …
ESPN would have a special “Outside the Lines” ripping Tressel for waking a high school kid up on a school night. They would have media personalities on the show (that obviously do not cover Ohio State football very closely) talking about how Tressel does not care about academics. "He is only concerned about waking recruits up in the middle of the night, when they have a chemistry exam the following morning, and trying to bribe them into coming to Ohio State." They would also find a way to blame him for Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston breaking up.
WHEN ARE THEY GOING TO LEARN…
Not to cater football halftime shows for 10-year-old girls? People that are watching football games do not want to see some cheesy, loser, pop singer at halftime. These are disgusting men watching a violent sport. Get the picture? If you want to have Metallica and Snoop, fine. But please leave the Ashlee Simpson for the annual Milli Vanilli Lip Sync Festival.
Of course, the best thing that happened during the national championship game was ’Lil Simpson getting booed off the stage. That was hilarious, and well deserved.
WORSE LYRICS AWARD…
While we’re on the topic of music, if I hear that Finger 11 “One Thing” song anymore, well, I hope you are not driving in the car next to me.
If there is an award for “Worst Song Lyrics Ever” the boys from Finger 11 have won it hands down.
Throughout the track, they rhyme “one thing” with “something.” That is brilliant as they say in the beer ads.
They also manage to rhyme “time” with “time” and “know” with “know” all throughout the song. Good stuff. Your daughter who is just learning how to speak could write a better ditty, but this is what we have to listen to on the radio these days.
Colin Cowherd of ESPN Radio has done a great job of replacing Tony Kornheiser as the midday host. In fact, Cowherd is a major upgrade. I liked Kornheiser. He was entertaining for the most part. But Cowherd is entertaining and knows a little something about sports. It doesn’t hurt that he has an obsession for college football either.