Ohio State's doing a lot of things really well in recruiting. The Ohio State coaches, in particular, are recruiting very well. Recruits love the coaches! The coaches are not screwing anything up about Ohio State recruiting!
The fans, though...well, we're going to have to talk about the fans. Not all of them, obviously, but enough of them that it's hurting the university's reputation and it has actively pushed away at least two recruits this year alone.
The latest incident on the radar is the Ohio State fan reaction to Michigan commit Logan Tuley-Tillman's self-mail arson, or whatever you want to call lighting an Ohio State recruiting letter on fire. Now, that's a pretty disrespectful thing to do to Ohio State, and if talking to recruits and/or their families wasn't creepy as all hell, a Buckeyes fan might even be justified in calling Tuley-Tillman a jerk.
What is not justifiable in any sense, however, is directing death threats at the kid and his family, even in jest, even past the point of absurdity. You never do that, and Ohio State fans (plural) did it:
Tuley-Tillman told Yahoo! Sports that ever since he posted the photo, Ohio State fans have become unruly.
"There have been a couple death threats," Tuley-Tillman said. "And they've been sending my mom messages on Facebook. I just told her you can't listen to it because it's one of the biggest rivalries in sports."
Tuley-Tillman's attitude is correct here, because even as those who have the least amount of perspective overdo this rivalry at times, it's all talk. That's what bullies do—they talk and intimidate. That's all. Even if it's talking about the Holocaust (yep, a Buckeye fan went there), it's talk.
This isn't the first time Ohio State fans have run their mouths at the 4-star recruit and Illinois native, either; he told Yahoo! Sports that he was verbally harassed at a Columbus mall for wearing his Michigan hat there and that someone had thrown something at him. That person missed, so we'll just assume it was Steve Bellisari.
The mall harassment is worth noting, because while Tuley-Tillman was committed to Michigan at that point, he says he was still considering Ohio State, and that he never really soured on the Buckeyes until being mistreated that day.
So, just a quick reminder to however many Ohio State fans still don't understand this: You are not on the team. The players are not your bros. You don't have to fight battles on their behalf.
Just grow the hell up already.
If a recruit is in a mall with a Michigan hat on and you see him, the correct response is always be an adult and ignore him. If that same guy disrespects your team on the Internet, be an adult and ignore him. If someone on a message board gives you the Facebook account for that recruit's mother, be an adult and ignore him or her.
And if you've been arrested for incidents involving sexuality and underage people—regardless of whether you can tell the Columbus Dispatch that it was a misunderstanding and that you never meant to hurt anyone—be an adult and don't talk to kids on the Internet.
If, on the other hand, you're one of the sane Ohio State fans (as the vast majority are) and you aren't happy with how the fanbase's media portrayal looks, don't talk to the media about it. Talk to the jerk fans you know (and everyone in every fanbase knows some, because every fanbase has 'em), and make sure you tell them that it's not OK to harass recruits or their families. Tell them it reflects badly on your school and you. Tell them that's not how adults act.
And if it sticks and those certain worst elements in your fanbase don't feel the need to harass kids online or offline in the name of Buckeye pride or whatever anymore, recruits will notice. And so will that bogeyman media you're so fond of hating. But the real act that needs to be cleaned up here before anything else can change is that small but vocal faction of Columbus that needs to grow up.