It’s certainly a quieter Memorial Day in Columbus this year. On this day in 2011, Jim Tressel, a beacon of presupposed integrity, resigned as head coach of the Ohio State Buckeyes. Twelve months later, what’s the status of the Scarlet and Gray?
First, the back story. Tressel lied to the NCAA and failed to provide information he was privy of in regards to multiple players accepting improper benefits. It cost Ohio State a vacated Sugar Bowl victory over Arkansas, Terrelle Pryor‘s remaining collegiate eligibility and the head coach his job. Somehow, some way, athletic director Gene Smith is still employed.
Tressel, who won 94 games in Columbus, 6 Big Ten titles, the 2002 BCS National Championship and sported an 8-1 record against Michigan, now works for the University of Akron as Vice President of Strategic Engagement. In my fantasy land, he’s laying out sweatervests for new Zips football coach Terry Bowden ahead of the fall schedule.
Pryor, the face of the tattoo scandal, is a backup quarterback in Oakland. He’s joined under center in the Bay Area by former Trojans Matt Leinart and Carson Palmer. As former owner Al Davis was so fond of saying, “the strength of the Raiders is in the vertical game.” Playing his college ball under the uber-conservative Tressel might have made Oakland the perfect landing spot for a frustrated Pryor considering the ability of quarterbacks there to say, “screw it, we’re going deep.”
The successors to the two aforementioned Columbus figures are high on potential.
Urban Meyer realized top five college jobs don’t open up at perfect moments so while the former Florida head coach had promised his family some ‘Urb time, his native state needed him on the headset. Meyer, healthy again after scares due to SEC shenanigans and Nick Saban probably, hired a stellar staff and immediately began poaching recruits from Big Ten competition. This hilariously angered some of his colleagues but confirmed what sort of adjective Meyer embodies: relentless.
Braxton Miller won’t lead the Buckeyes to a Rose Bowl in 2012 — they’re not bowl eligible this season as part of NCAA sanctions — but the sophomore seems a perfect fit for Meyer’s spread scheme. A dual-threat, Miller tossed 13 touchdowns in 2011 against just 4 interceptions, managed a quarterback rating of 138.4 and saved his finest performance for a close loss to Michigan in Ann Arbor. He’s a near blank slate for incoming offensive coordinator Tom Herman who, along with his head coach, is looking to 2013 as a opportunity year.
The freshman crop signed in 2012 (ranked 5th nationally by 247 Sports) will have a season under their belts and the 2013 freshmen (ranked 7th nationally) must know Meyer isn’t coaching for strictly Big Ten championships. In 2012, while the Buckeyes watch the postseason at home the national title is awarded in Miami. In 2013, the final rendition of the BCS Championship at the Rose Bowl offers a tantalizing goal.
What better way for Meyer to assert his legendary status than to conquer the mountaintop of college football at the locale his conference holds so dear?
A year ago, the Buckeyes were swimming in indecision and uncertainty while NCAA punishments and a coaching search beckoned. On Memorial Day 2012, there’s nothing but realistic fervor for a frenzied fan base hoping to squash the same rise occurring for the Wolverines under Brady Hoke.
The Big Ten requires that rivalry. It needs it elite and it needs it hateful.
2012 brings Urban Meyer back to a sideline to unleash a mobile quarterback with the moxie he craves.
And Jim Tressel?
Strategically engaging, whatever that is.