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Established October 31, 1996
Front Page Columns and Features
Last updated: 07/21/2011 12:00 PM
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Opinion
Around the-Ozone Water Cooler
By the-Ozone Staff

Q: What if any are the significant long-tem effects of the current scandal in the OSU football program?

Brandon Castel - In order to answer the question we have to understand what type of long-term damage we are talking about here. After receiving the “death penalty” from the NCAA in 1986, it took SMU a quarter of a century to rebound even to the point where they were competing for bowl games.

Ohio State is not in much danger of receiving the death penalty from the NCAA—something that may never be issued again—nor is their program’s success as fragile as SMU’s was during the height of its powers in the mid-1980’s.

The Buckeyes have a rich football tradition and nearly a century of success to fall back on, but that doesn’t mean they can cruise through these choppy waters unscathed. Despite their vast success, Ohio State has had some lulls over the years, especially in the final years of their three previous head coaches before Jim Tressel.

The difference here is that Tressel is leaving at the top of his game. The Buckeyes had won six straight Big Ten titles and seven straight over Michigan. They have been the toast of the conference for the better part of the last decade and to think that will continue right along into the Luke Fickell era is naïve.

Even if Fickell is replaced at the end of the 2011 season, the Buckeyes will feel the effects of this scandal for the next few years as they try to rebuild their image in the eyes of the public.

But we’re talking long-term here, and it’s hard to think that 10-15 years from now Ohio State will still be feeling the aftershock. With their name recognition, top-notch facilities and a talent-rich recruiting state, the Buckeyes should rebound rather quickly; assuming they have the right man leading them into the future.

Whether it’s Fickell, Urban Meyer or someone completely obscure—like Tressel was in 2001—the biggest key to their future will be the man walking the sidelines every Saturday.

Tony Gerdeman - Yes, there will absolutely be long-term damaging effects to the Ohio State football program.

Luke Fickell will tell you that Ohio State is still Ohio State, and he is absolutely right. The 'Block O' isn't going anywhere (unless Nike wants it to, of course). However, what the football program has been through over the last eight months has changed it forever. That doesn't mean Ohio State's days in the Top Five are over, it just means that it's going to be harder to get there than it used to be, and even harder to stay there.

You don't lose Jim Tressel and come out better for it. The best you can hope for is to come out of the Jim Tressel Era the same way you went in, and then build from there.

In Tressel's final ten seasons at Youngstown State, his Penguins won 101 games. In the ten seasons since his departure, Youngstown State has won 63 games and gone through two coaches. I'm not saying the ability to succeed at Youngstown State and Ohio State are commensurate, but you have to admit that that's a pretty sharp dropoff for what was one of the premier football programs in the FCS.

When members of the national media talk about there being five or ten years of recovery, I just don't see that happening. Ohio State has many built-in advantages going for it. The recruiting base, the tradition, the desirability of the institution all play in, and all lead to an easier road towards recovery.

Few football programs could withstand the loss of their greatest coach ever, but Ohio State is one of those programs that can absorb it and move on. That doesn't mean it will be easy, and it certainly doesn't mean there won't be bumps along the way.

It may look like I'm contradicting myself, but you have to look at “damaging effects” relatively. A damaged Ohio State is still better than most of the rest of the Big Ten, and still able to fully compete with anybody they come into contact with.

But Jim Tressel had something special going, and now he is gone. You can expect Luke Fickell to be successful, but you can't expect him to be more successful than Jim Tressel. Honestly, you can't expect anybody to be more successful than Jim Tressel, and to me, that qualifies as long-term damage.

The Ohio State football program is forever changed, but the Buckeyes will march on. However, nobody loses a Jim Tressel and doesn't have scars to show for it. Just ask Youngstown State.

John Porentas - I have long believed that how people say something is almost as important as what they say, and it from that perspective that I say the Ohio State football program, and indeed the entire department of athletics, is seriously damaged.

In the course of covering Ohio State sports for almost 15 years I have noticed is that coaches in all sports never talk about skills when talking about players. The offensive line coach never talks about "finding the strongest guy". The defensive backs coaches never talk about "finding the best tackler" or "finding the best cover guy". The baseball coach never talks about "finding the best hitter", and the basketball coach never talks about "finding the best shooter".

Invariably, when a coach talks about finding players, they talk about "finding players we can trust", or "finding players we can count on."

That concept of accountability, of trust, of reliability, permeates sports culture at all levels and in many ways. Not only do OSU coaches look for "players they can trust", but so do high school coaches, and ultimately, so do the players who take the field because they must trust that their coaches are putting them in the best possible position to win. Beyond the players, the families of players trust that the athlete from their family can expect certain things to be true both on and off the field, that their collegiate athletic experience will be a certain way.

In the Jim Tressel era, that trust and reliability was as solid as the rock of Gibraltar, at times to the point of being maddening. You KNEW that his teams would play a certain way, whether you liked that way or not. You KNEW how he would answer questions at a press conference, whether you liked his style or not. You KNEW there would be academic accountability for student-athletes. You KNEW expectations would be high and the demand for work and effort would be relentless. You KNEW there would be success, both on and off the field.

I would argue that Tressel's success was based largely on the trust and reliability he was able to engender toward his program and the way that trust was embraced by the fan base and the high school football community. High school coaches and parents of players wanted to send their kids to Jim Tressel, because they KNEW absolutely what to expect and what they would get.

That has all changed now. We have watched as the University administration first stated unwavering support for Tressel, then do a total about face and turn him into a complete scapegoat. We were told that Jim Tressel resigned, then we were told that he was forced to resign. We watched as Luke Fickell was named "Interim Head Coach", then was named "Head Coach" when the "interim" was seen as inconvenient.

The Ohio State department of athletics has destroyed in a couple of months what Jim Tressel built over 10 years, a reputation of being "reliable" and trustworthy. Ask yourself, do you really believe that Luke Fickell is not an "interim" coach? If there is even a shred of doubt in your mind, the damage is done. The damage will manifest itself in many ways, but most notably when high school coaches and families no longer rush to send their athletes to Ohio State. It is no longer a place that meets the ethos of trust that is pervasive in sports, and when the flow of quality athletes diminishes, invariably so will the wins and championships.

Trust is a difficult thing to engender. It is an even more difficult thing to recover once it has been gained then lost, and that in the long run will haunt Ohio State recruiting and Ohio State athletics for many, many years to come.

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