This morning I set the introduction to a multi-part series revolving around the problems and unrest facing the Ohio State football program. Let's now start to touch on the reasons that the Ohio State program is facing such adversity from not only the college football fans around the nation, but even scrutiny from BuckeyeNation itself.
First, let me ask you a question: Why is it that Ohio State is regarded around the nation with such hatred? That whenever the microphone is pushed in front of national pundits' mouths, you can almost guarantee that venom is spewed with wrathful vengeance toward the Buckeyes?
Better yet, why is it that the Buckeyes can handle the tough and physical stretch of the regular season, but when the national spotlights are on in a bowl game or nationally heralded non-conference game, the Buckeyes have shrunk?
The reasons have been varying and everyone seems to have an answer: The Buckeyes don't have "SEC speed," the Big Ten ends its season too early, leaving too much layoff before the bowl games, the Buckeyes are overrated and void of premier talent...and on, and on, and on.
But is that really truthful? Do you really believe any of those reasons? I don't. Those reasons are not insightful, too simplified, and honestly...excuses.
I will tell you one reason today why Ohio State in recent years has been unprepared and overmatched when the nation is watching and the pressure is on, and you can look no further than the Little Ten, errrrrrr...I mean, "Big Ten" conference.
The Big Ten over the last five to 10 years has become a punch line, and that's a fact. The Big Ten is caught in the past. Most of the college football world has moved light years ahead in a couple of different areas.
These areas are simple to explain: Other teams recruit better and place more effort into finding the personnel to put more talented teams on the field, they pour money into their facilities and coaching staffs, they throw caution to the wind and pull out all the stops to be winning programs, and they are constantly looking for new and innovative ways philosophically to win football games.
There it is—the answer is that simple.
The Big Ten is rapidly working itself into relative "Ivy League" status. Tell me another conference and another set of athletic directors and board of trustees members that allow mediocrity from their programs year in and year out more than the Big Ten conference.
Don't have an answer? That's because there isn't one out of the other BCS conferences.
Unfortunately, the flag bearer for the Big Ten conference through this absolutely hideous stretch of football across the conference, and the ONLY team in this conference that has committed itself FULLY to being a national power, is our Buckeyes.
But with the Buckeyes' almost unparalleled success in the history of the Big Ten have come the curses from the national media, instead of giving our Buckeyes the credit they deserve for striving for football excellence despite the dismal effort from the rest of our conference nemeses.
Instead of cursing the Big Ten for their feeble attempts to try to build and rise up to fight the Buckeyes for dominance, it's the flag bearer who is taking the heat.
As fans of our individual teams and Big Ten football, we are just as guilty as these programs. We're not putting the heat on these ADs and these boards of trustees and demanding that the brand of football improve.
We're not saying as Big Ten fans, "I'm tired of losing to Northern Illinois, and Florida Atlantic, and Toledo, and Appalachian State, and I demand changes to the program, or you'll see an half empty stadium!"
Where are you, Big Ten fan? Better yet, where is your outrage?!?!?
Everybody wants to complain about the SEC. Granted, they do things that I disagree with strongly, and I don't think they deserve the constant slurp job they get from ESPN 24/7.
But how are you going to argue with the results? Every defense is fast and physical, every atmosphere is loud and passionate, they have FIVE NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP-WINNING HEAD COACHES, and they are ruthless as a whole.
They fire OCs in the middle of the season, they fire coaches at the end of a season, they bench seniors for freshmen, and they don't give a crap what you or I think because right now and for the past 10 years or so, all they have to do is point up and say scoreboard!
Let me ask you some more questions...
- Where is the Penn State Board of Trustees to drag Joe Paterno out of the head coaching position?
With new coaching lifeblood at that university, they join Ohio State as an elite program in college football. They have the stadium, the facilities, the fanbase, and the recruiting base to be a dominant NATIONAL powerhouse. They should be in the same breath with Florida, Texas, USC, Michigan, Oklahoma, and Ohio State annually.
Yet under Paterno, they have grown stale, old, tired, outdated, and you are LUCKY if they are good once every four or five years anymore.
- Why did Michigan not get Les Miles out of LSU? Well, let me tell you why...because Bill Martin is too busy yachting to make the move to a REAL coach with a CHAMPIONSHIP pedigree.
Rich Rodriguez hasn't done JACK SQUAT as a head coach without Pat White! He did NOTHING at West Virginia until that gift from God was dropped in his lap—check the records.
Michigan SETTLED on Rich Rodriguez. Don't you get it, Michigan fan? The Michigan athletic department SOLD you that this was "their guy" all along when the facts are that Les Miles turned you down. Greg Schiano told you no. Then your choices were Rich Rodriguez or Brady Hoke.
- You could also make an argument that Iowa and Wisconsin should be among some of the top jobs. Maybe not elite...but good jobs that when opened up should be the destination for a good young coach to come through and establish himself—and maybe become a Barry Alvarez or Hayden Fry.
- To me, the Big Ten has three flagship coaches right now: Jim Tressel, Mark Dantonio, and Ron Zook. Think about the strength of this conference with quality coaches like Jim Tressel at Ohio State, Ron Zook at Illinois, Mark Dantonio at Michigan State, Les Miles at Michigan, and say, Greg Schiano at Penn State.
Then add in a good young coach like a Turner Gill, Brady Hoke, Randy Edsall, or Jim Leavitt to an Iowa and a Wisconsin, and those are premier coaches on the college level that not only would make the Big Ten more competitive in recruiting, but on the field as well.
I know it seems as if I've gone off topic, but it all relates to one another. Since when does a coach leaving his position on the team get to pick his successor? Better yet, tell me the last time you have seen that situation and it's worked!
Yet that's what has happened at Wisconsin and Purdue and Indiana, and it's what Joe Paterno is going to try to pull next at Penn State—you watch.
It all relates...the Big Ten hasn't made the same RUTHLESS commitment to being the best that some of these other conferences have and are moving to do.
It starts with facilities, it moves to money allotted for coaching staffs, it trickles into this Big Ten succession thing, or simply the allowing of mediocre coaching (Iowa, Indiana, Penn State, Michigan, Purdue), to this insane thought that less talented seniors are owed something more than the FREE EDUCATION you've provided them with a SCHOLARSHIP, and a chance to showcase their talents on a weekly basis in the fall to get paid in the NFL.
Other than those things...these coaches owe these kids nothing. These coaches need to put the best team on the field that is going to make them as competitive as they possibly can be for a conference championship and a national championship.
And if that is a true freshman brought in from Walsh Jesuit HS in Podunk, Idaho over an All-Big Ten returning starter, oh well, life sucks that way sometimes. The SEC gets this and HAS gotten this for a while now, and as time has passed the gap got wider and wider to the point it is now where everyone sees it.
You think I'm wrong? You think I got this all wrong, and I'm just another in the long line of haters? People, you are talking to MR. BIG TEN. You're talking to a lifelong Buckeye fan and a lifelong Big Ten fan.
There IS a problem—and it's not Ohio State. My god, Ohio State is about the only thing right about the Big Ten right now.
But because the Big Ten is not holding up its end of the bargain, the Big Ten has been a problem for Ohio State. Anytime Ohio State has to step up to play bigger competition, they aren't prepared for the raise in competition. Cause and effect then leads people to believe that Ohio State is a farce.
I'll conclude this article with some stats for you.
Here is a look at how many teams have had Top 25 recruiting classes per BCS conference 2005 to 2008.
2005: 1) SEC: 7 2) ACC: 7 T3) Big 12 & Pac-10: 4 4) Big Ten: 3 5) Big East 0
2006: 1) SEC: 7 2) Big 12: 5 T3) ACC & Pac-10: 4 4) Big Ten: 3 5) BE: 1
2007: 1) SEC: 7 2) ACC: 5 3) Big Ten: 4 T4) Pac-10 & Big 12: 3 5) BE: 2
2008: 1) SEC: 6 T2) ACC & Pac-10: 5 3) Big 12: 4 4) Big Ten: 3 5) BE: 1
The Big Ten is being out-recruited: plain and simple. Recruiting is the lifeblood of a college football program, and the Big Ten is recruiting right above the Big East in recent years.
That ties into a few more problems—coaching and facilities.
The Big Ten isn't paying top dollar for the young, best and brightest coaches. Seven of the top 15 highest paid coaches reside in the SEC, eight within the top 30. Six Big 12 coaches are paid in the Top 30. Six within the Top 30 also reside in the ACC.
The Big Ten, you ask? Four—and one of the four, Joe Tiller, will be retiring at the end of the season, leaving Jim Tressel, Rich Rodriguez, and Kirk Ferentz as the only three left. Jim Tressel and, surprisingly, Kirk Ferentz are the only two Big Ten coaches receiving Top 10 money.
Ferentz, you can argue over the last few years, certainly hasn't earned it through recruiting and victories.
Bottom line: The Big Ten is becoming a problem more than a benefit for Ohio State. The proof is in the numbers I showed you above. It is also in the allowance of mediocrity from the fan bases and the alumni.
It's resting on tradition and not willing to pay for the youngest and brightest minds to stay up to date in the X's and O's, and energetic personalities to bring in recruits across the board. The bar has been raised by these other conferences, and the Big Ten isn't doing what is necessary to keep the pace.
Unfortunately for us in BuckeyeNation, we aren't being viewed as the outstanding exception that we are...but the gold standard of mediocrity.
Until A) The Buckeyes can raise their game and beat USC, or the SEC for a title, or B) the Big Ten makes a conference-wide commitment to excellence in football again, this monkey upon our backs is just going to keep growing and growing.
Stay tuned for tomorrow for the next installment...The Roots of Ohio State's Problems, Part Three: The ESPN Agenda.
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