Wisconsin head coach Bret Bielema drew a few raised eyebrows from Ohio State fans this week when asked about his team playing road games at night.
After hosting conference foe Iowa last weekend for a night game at home, Bielema put the squelch on playing further night games on the road.
“There’s no other game for us right now that’s scheduled at night, so it won’t happen this year because I won’t agree to one on the road, that’s taken care of,” he said before the game.
His comments raised the question, then: Do coaches have the right to refuse to play such a contest? If so, why are the Buckeyes and head coach Jim Tressel playing their first of three road night games during the season Saturday night against Minnesota?
The reasoning for the OSU schedule, Tressel said, is to appease the university’s television partners.
“We have an agreement with our television partners that they’re allowed to pick six games of which are outside of our jurisdiction, which is the way I understand it,” he said. “It just so happens that three of the six we’re in.
“I don’t think anyone had a master plan at ABC or ESPN to say, ‘Hey, let’s make it harder on the Buckeyes.’”
Within the Big Ten, the network selects games it would like to have be night games, and the home team has to agree. If so, the decision is locked in – regardless of what the visiting team might think. All game times are locked in 10 days prior to kickoff, and a change made at that point has to be approved by both schools in question.
Tressel said he takes the fact that his team is playing so many night games as an honor because that means lots of people want to watch the Buckeyes play.
Just don’t go looking for him to start telling reporters when his team will and will not play.
“I don’t have any say as far as that goes,” he said.
Not The Best In The Family
James Laurinaitis’ family tree is fairly well known. The junior linebacker for Ohio State boasts a father who wrestled professionally under the nickname “The Animal” – a fact well-known to Buckeye fans.
However, the 2006 Bronco Nagurski award-winner told reporters this week that not only is he not the most athletic member of the family, but that his father, Joe, is not either.
That honor would go to younger sister Jessica, a high school senior at Hamel (Minn.) Wayzata who is fielding offers to play college hockey. She has one official visit schedule to Boston this October, James said.
“I can really honestly say she’s got the most athletic ability in the whole family,” he said. “I’ve seen her make so many diving stops at shortstop for softball too and she doesn’t even care. She gets up, blood on her knees, wouldn’t care. She’s a pretty girl too, so she’s definitely got all the talent.
“I don’t know why I can’t get some of that, but she’s the most talented of all of us and my brother and I just sit back and laugh.”
James was a hockey player himself in high school. As a senior, he was elected team captain. A 6-3, 225-pound player at the time, Laurinaitis said he was a bit of an enforcer on the ice.
“I was like 6-4 on skates, so that was great,” he said. “I was definitely a goon. If one of our forwards was getting beat on or something, they definitely told me to go out there and protect them a little bit. We can’t fight in high school, though. You’ll be out for the game and the next game if you fought.”
As he returns to Minnesota for Saturday’s game with the Golden Gophers, however, he said he will not be taking his skates with him. The last time he nearly laced them up, he said, was during his freshman season. In the end, he decided not to.
“I went back over Christmas before the Fiesta Bowl,” he said. “We had our alumni game and I thought about taking the skates out, but I thought, ‘I really don’t want to call Coach Tressel and tell him I tore my knee in an alumni hockey game before the Fiesta Bowl when I was expected to start.’ ”
Is That Really The Wing-T?
That was a question Ohio State fans have had to ask themselves a few times this season as the Buckeyes have rolled out their 2007 offense. At several different points already, OSU has opted to line up in the throwback wing-T formation not often seen in decades.
When the Buckeyes have run the formation, center-turned-fullback Tyler Whaley has lined up as one of the backs in the game.
He said the players have never questioned why the team would run such a dated offense.
“I think you’re so programmed to kind of know what you’re doing and so programmed to think about what you’re about ready to do that you don’t really think, ‘Does this look good with the fans?’ or ‘Does this look crazy?’ ” he said. “You know your coaches are going to put you in a position to be the best that you can be and you’re just ready to get out there and do what they ask you to do.”
Most teams that still run the wing-T are high school squads without a quarterback capable of creating a serious passing threat. Whaley said it is just one part of the team’s playbook that allows them to be successful.
“It’s just another way for us to go out and do something different and give defenses different looks and see what we can do out of that and see if we can be successful,” he said. “I think if you have the right tools and the right schemes, I think any offensive scheme can work if you know what you’re going up against and you feel it’s the right fit for the defense you expect to be playing against.”