Here is how it happened:
After Maurice Clarrett shared with the world the crazy cheating that goes on in Columbus, the NCAA searched for evidence. Ohio State had become so good at covering up their tracks from years of boosters hiding their corruption in clever ways the NCAA was unable to find anything of substance.
Under normal circumstances, a player’s word about improper benefits would probably be enough, however Maurice Clarrett’s “unique” off-the-field incidents made him just a tad less trustworthy than O.J. Simpson.
With that in mind, the NCAA starting tapping the phones of all people involved with “one of the: Ohio State University Football teams (in this case the Columbus branch). They wanted to hear what they said, hoping to get leads, hoping they would slip up.
Courtesy of the fine people at the NCAA I have managed to piece together the conversations that led to “one of” the Ohio State Universities (the one in Columbus) paying the University of Cincinnati $1 million to move their 2012 meeting from Cincinnati to Columbus.
Their hope was to avoid the ass-beating that was bound to ensue. I doubt it will work, but here is how everything transpired.
A Worried Nancy Zimpher Calls Some Old Friends in Columbus:
Ohio State President E. Gordon Gee: NZ, to what do I owe this great pleasure?
Nancy: Gordo, it’s been too long. Honestly, I hate to call under this kind of circumstance, but I have been doing some thinking. You remember my original plan to sabotage UC sports?
Gordon: Yes, it’s been working wonders for the basketball program, but you’ve got some trouble brewing in football. Who would have thought that pushing Michigan State to hire Dantonio would have been the end?
I know you don’t know much about football, but how could you let them get Brian Kelly? Have you been pushing for him to take other jobs?
Nancy: So far I’ve pushed, but nothing's come. Nebraska wanted to talk to him among other schools. Brian seems intent on making this team a winner. That is why I am calling.
If Brian Kelly is the coach of the University of Cincinnati in 2012, I can conceive of no way the Buckeyes can get out of Cincinnati with a victory. You need to consider calling off the game.
Gordon: Is it that serious, NZ?
Nancy: I would not be telling you if it was not. The UC fans really want this game. They will probably outnumber you by a good amount at Paul Brown Stadium. By that time, they will have SEC-type speed…I think we both know how Ohio State tends to fare against the SEC.
Gordon: Sure we have had a “small” string of bad luck against that conference, but you cannot believe it will come to this. Nancy, other jobs will come up. You have to get Kelly out the door…start taking funds from the athletic department, delay the construction of a practice bubble, just get him out of the way by 2012.
Nancy: Kelly seems to be Bob Huggins 2.0. Everyone who is involved with the university in any way loves him. He owns this town. At the same time there has not been an inaccurate Sports Illustrated story to start lowering his credibility.
I do not think I can beat the guy. Short of him getting arrested, he is going to be at UC for a long time.
Gordon: You talked to the NCAA right? There is not a chance he is getting another season. This Bearcat team is a national title contender with Mauk at the QB.
Nancy: We do not have to worry about that. I have been assured that it will be a long, drawn-out process, but in the end Ben will not be granted another season. The NCAA figures if they wait a long time, he will not be able to sue, because there is no way he would play this season anyways.
Gordon: The NCAA knows how to handle all of its shit, doesn’t it?
Nancy: They are good, there is no doubt; maybe they’d give me some advice on how to get Coach Kelly out of here.
Gordon: That is a little risky, NZ. We cannot afford to have our plans revealed to the world. It would really put a black eye on both you and the Ohio State University.
Nancy: I understand, Gordo. Just cancel the game.
A confused Brian Kelly receives a call from Ohio State athletics:
Brian Kelly: Gene, I hear you needed to talk to me over a scheduling issue in 2012. What is that all about?
Gene Smith (OSU Athletic Director): Ohio State can no longer afford to play UC. Honestly, it’s simply a financial thing. We will make more money in a home game.
Brian: Gene, I hear the financial part and I know Ohio State is “constantly” strapped for cash in football, but you had a deal to come play us. UC has played more than our fair share in Columbus. The school understood it benefited them to do so, but part of the deal was for you to come back here again.
You have traveled to the little MAC schools in-state with no problem. Gene, we are going to have to hold you to the contract you signed. I expect a school of “integrity” like Ohio State would stay committed to its word.
Gene: Brian, I am truly sorry, but there is no way we can do it. We just make way more money for games in Columbus, even after whatever buyout we give you and whatever we pay the 1-AA School we choose for another guarantee game.
Brian: Gene, if it is finances you are worried about we can split the profit with you. Whatever profits are made down at PBS we’ll give you half. That also avoids you having to pay off another 1-AA team for a guarantee game in Columbus. You are sure to come out on top that way.
Gene: Our fans will not be happy. We just need more home games. Our fans will not be able to get tickets like last time. UC fans are going to get all the tickets.
Brian: Gene, I thought this was purely about finances. OK, what if we called it a neutral site game. We split the profits and the ticket distribution 50/50, right down the middle. If we do that the Buckeyes will certainly have at least as many fans as they had last time you came to Cincinnati…probably more.
Gene: I am sorry, Brian. There is just no way we can play this game.
Brian: Gene, let's play in Cleveland, or, Detroit, or in a parking lot somewhere. This is a game people want to see. It’s a game that can get national exposure. It would be a game between two BCS schools in the same conference.
Let’s look at the states around us: Louisville and Kentucky play, Michigan and Michigan State play, Purdue and Notre Dame play, Tennessee and Vanderbilt play, Illinois and Northwestern play. All of these BCS schools in the same state play each other. It provides great TV games.
I know your fans may not be excited for the game now, but if we started playing every year, they would look forward to the game. UK did not always want to play Louisville in basketball, but now it is a marquee, must-see game every year.
Our football program is going to be great some day, Gene. Let’s get this game going now, let’s start building the anticipation. Gameday is going to want to be at this game before it is all said and done.
Gene: Brian, we are the Ohio State University. We are not Michigan or Notre Dame. They can play other BCS teams in the state. We are better than the rest of the state and we get to dictate our games.
Brian: Gene, maybe a team like Notre Dame understands the value in promoting a regional non-conference rivalry. It can be a selling point down the road; it creates excitement for the games.
Gene: We are the Ohio State University.
Brian: I heard you the first time. You are one of the Ohio State Universities.
Gene: We are the Ohio State University.
Brian: Gene, I am going to give you a chance to save face. You do not want to look like you are ducking us and I want to build anticipation for this game. I want there to be pressure to play this game.
What if we were to come to OSU to play in 2012? It would be a home game for you, plus you could tell everyone it was purely financial and I’ll stay quiet about all the offers I made you hear today so you could fulfill your contract. I know I could get people all over asking you why OSU ducked UC if they knew the full truth.
However, I think when we go up there and play a great game people are going to want to see more. There will be pressure to continue the rivalry. So I am giving you this chance to save face.
Play us in Columbus. I will keep quiet. But mark my words…this game will be played annually some day, when OSU is wishing they were the program UC has become.
Gene: Not much of a choice there. I am not sure how I will explain this to the President, but we’ll see.
The UC vs. OSU football game scheduled for 2012 was officially moved back to Columbus. Coach Kelly kept his word and kept the entire conversation to himself. But who knows…maybe one day Coach Kelly will be right.
Maybe one day people will ask the question: Why do OSU and UC, two teams who consistently win BCS conference championships, not play each other every year?
And eventually maybe Kelly will get his wish and OSU will see the value in coming to Cincinnati to get their butts whooped every two years.