The latest string of arrests has stirred up quite a debate among Buckeye football fans.
Some say that head coach Jim Tressel is too soft on his players. The players must not fear him, or fear any repercussions, or they wouldn't behave in this manner.
Other OSU fans counter that argument, saying that these types of incidents happen at programs all across the nation. Ohio State is no different; there is more media exposure on the program, therefore it looks much worse. Tressel is doing all he can.
So, you have the two extremes: Tressel has let the program get out of control and needs much stiffer penalties for players that break the rules; Tressel can do no wrong and treats his players fairly.
However, there is a middle ground with the discipline issue. I think a strong majority of OSU fans feel this way. They like the way Tressel is running the ship. They obviously like the wins he brings to the table. A national championship and a 3-1 record over Michigan have earned Tressel a lot of points in Columbus. But beyond that, they like that he has raised the academic standards. They like that he seems to be a man of high character who is deeply rooted into the community. Anyone who doesn't believe that Jim Tressel cares about the community doesn't know the first thing about the man.
Furthermore, the majority of Ohio State fans appreciate the fact that Tressel treats all 105 of his players as his children. They simply want to see a fewer number of arrests associated with the program.
So, what is the solution? What is going to be done about the soiling of OSU's national reputation? Well, for starters, Tressel can continue treating his players as his children, while laying down the law a little tougher. Parents can crack down on their kids; so can the head coach.
But make no mistake that Tressel is going to continue being fair with his players. He is not going to make an example out of a certain player and kick them off the team, or suspend them for a full season, unless he feels that is the penalty that is deserved.
At the same time, no one knows better than Tressel that OSU's players need to clean up their act a little bit. Behind the scenes, he might step up his discipline a notch or two. But it's nothing that the press and fans will ever know about. There might be more morning gassers, more calisthenics, salad instead of steak at training table, and the Code Red administered by A.J. Hawk and Anthony Schlegel to anyone who breaks team rules (OK, maybe not that last one).
But seriously, anyone who thinks Tressel will completely change the way he operates – just to satisfy the vocal minority – is not dealing with reality. He does not accept it when his players break team rules, or break the law. He punishes them. Does anyone really think that Tressel doesn't get sick to his stomach when he gets that late night call that one of his boys got into trouble? But, like any parent, he does not kick them out of the house unless they have done something beyond repair. He punishes them, and if he feels they deserve it, he allows them to work their way back into the program.
Let's also remember that Tressel and his staff are responsible for over 100 players, 85 scholarship players, plus walk-ons. A basketball coach is responsible for 13-15 players. Baseball coach, about 25.
Therefore, when dealing with over 100 college students, there are going to be problems. Ohio State has had too many recently, there is no arguing that, but I do not think OSU's program is even close to out of control. About four percent of Tressel's players get arrested each year. Four percent. Would we like it if it was zero percent instead? Sure. But that's not reality. A few players are going to get in trouble each year and they will be dealt with. If it's something major, they will be out the door. Something minor, miss a few games and deal with Sergeant Schlegel before breakfast.
Tressel may very well "crack down" on how he handles discipline, but I think it will all be handled behind the scenes. He is not going to suspend a player for six games, when the penalty deserves two games, just to look good to OSU fans. He is going to do what is right for the program and fair to the player. It's just the way he operates. It's the promise he makes to parents while he is recruiting.
One more note on this topic: There is no hiding the fact that the Internet and everything that goes with it has given even more exposure to OSU football. OSU football needed more exposure like Paris Hilton needed more exposure. But there you go. It's reality. We now have chat rooms, message boards, new stories being posted throughout the day.
When a player was arrested in the Woody Hayes era, or Earle Bruce era, or even most of the John Cooper era, you might have read about it the next day in the paper. Maybe not.
Nowadays, a player gets in a fight outside a bar and there is a 10-page thread on one of the message boards, with fans debating on "where our youth went wrong."
Nothing has changed. Players got into just as many fights under the previous three coaches. They probably drank just as much, and smoked just as much pot. But the problems look much worse today because everything is being reported instantly… and then fans head to the message boards to discuss it. It's the snowball effect times 100.
I recently analyzed the net revenues of the Big Ten athletic departments.
Two things jumped out at me: the amount of money the football programs are making for athletic departments; and the amount of money the other sports are losing.
Everyone knows that college football rakes in the money. But did you know Ohio State made a whopping $30,113,825 on its football program in 2003? Yes, that's net revenue, not gross.
However, yet another figure that might surprise you is that OSU's total revenues for all sports during the 03-04 school year was just $13,783,720. That means OSU lost $16,330,105 on sports other than football.
But that is true of every school in the Big Ten. Each school makes a lot of money in football, then loses a bunch of it fielding other sports. In the end, most schools more than break even thanks to football. Most don't make $13 million like OSU, but overall, they are making money off athletics.
However, that's not true of every school in the conference.
Surprisingly, three Big Ten athletic departments lost money in 2003-04: Purdue, Northwestern and Indiana.
Purdue made over $11 million in net football revenue, but turned around and lost over $12 million on the other sports, for a total net revenue of minus-$1.6 million.
Indiana made a Big Ten-low $5 million in net football revenue, then lost $5.5 million in other sports, for a total net revenue of minus-$500,000.
Northwestern made $5.4 million in net football revenue, but lost $6 million on its other sports, for a total net revenue of minus-$600,000.
Here is the complete list of football revenue and total revenue of athletic departments for your reading pleasure (net football revenue, followed by total net revenue):
ILLINOIS: $12,047,758; $8,792,573
INDIANA: $5,031,123; minus-$491,060
IOWA: $15,015,050; $11,014,762
MICHIGAN: $ 27,909,113; 9,593,242
MICHIGAN STATE: $10,478,111; $8,004,529
MINNESOTA: $7,018,012; $1,877,302
NORTHWESTERN: $5,449,528; minus-$620,430
OHIO STATE: $30,113,825; $13,783,720 (of interest, OSU had $103,871,324 in total expenses… the highest figure in the country)
PENN STATE: $26,171,787; $2,510,310
PURDUE: $11,559,847; minus-$1,649,741
WISCONSIN: $12,464,227; $7,250,043
It's no surprise that OSU, Michigan and Penn State are 1-2-3 in football revenue. Then there's a big drop-off to the next group, led by No. 4 Iowa. It's still a bit surprising that a school like Purdue is losing over $1.6 million a year in athletics. Title IX is partially (mostly?) to blame for that, but that is a different topic for a different day.
BEST LINEBACKER TANDEM?
There's already been a lot of discussion about who has the better linebacking duo: Ohio State's Hawk and Bobby Carpenter, or Iowa's Chad Greenway and Abdul Hodge. With four All-American candidates you really can't go wrong, but let's break it down a bit.
In 2004, Hawk led Ohio State with 141 tackles (62 solo). It was his second year as a starter, after receiving meaningful playing time as a true freshman on the national championship squad.
In 2004, Carpenter was second on the team with 93 tackles (46 solo). It was his first full year as a starter.
In 2004, Hodge led Iowa with 116 stops (79 solo) in his second season starting at MLB.
Greenway was second on the team with 113 tackles (71), also his second season as a starter.
All four players are entering their senior seasons. Hawk is 6-1, 240 pounds; Carpenter is 6-4, 255. Both outside ‘backers can run the 40 in 4.5 seconds and will likely be taken early in the 2006 NFL draft.
Hodge is 6-2, 235; Greenway is 6-4, 234. Hodge is a true middle linebacker, while Greenway mans the outside. They will also be taken sometime during the first day in next year's draft.
The four of them have a lot in common. They're all old-school type players, true football warriors. And three of them are country boys at heart: Hawk, Carpenter and Greenway.
In fact, Greenway grew up in Mt. Vernon, S.D., a town of 477 people, and played nine-on-nine football in high school.
It really is a tough call. I would give a slight edge to Hawk and Carp, but you really can't go wrong.
Going one step further, I don't think there is any question that OSU has the best overall linebacker corps in the country. You add Schlegel and Mike D'Andrea to the mix at MLB, and there are talented backups like Marcus Freeman and Chad Hoobler. Luke Fickell really has an embarrassment of riches to work with.