|Joe Bauserman (14) scrambles after his own fumble caused by Michigan State's Denicos Allen. (US Presswire)|
They booed Saturday at Ohio State because the Buckeyes lost to Michigan State. They booed the remaining innocent, eligible student-athletes who (we think) haven't taken extra benefits. They booed bad football. They booed bad football forgetting that better players were either suspended or had escaped to the NFL.
That's no way to impress Urban Meyer.
The accepted silver-and-gray lining resulting from the Buckeyes imminent NCAA-induced collapse is that the franchise will be driven so far into a ditch there will be no choice but to hire the nation's best free-agent coach.
A few things wrong with that: The penalties haven't even been handed down. It seems like there are as many boosters running wild in Columbus as NCAA investigators. Oh, yes and there's this: The flawed assumption that there would be someone around of sound mind and ethics to make the decision on Meyer.
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Saturday showed us once again that the priorities are out of order in Columbus. How do we know this? The sun came up. To be fair, that makes Bucknuts no different than the fans in Norman, Eugene or Gainesville. Except that at none of those places is about to turn some free tattoos into a bonfire that burns down the football program.
The boo birds should have saved some of their invective for Monday afternoon. That's when AD Gene Smith looked the world in the eye and continued to tell them that all is well. If you consider alibis and excuses "well".
We don't understand that it's hard to oversee 1,090 athletes, he told us, with 200 new ones coming in each year. It's even harder to keep track of all those community service hours. And boosters. And summer jobs.
It turns out two of the Buckeye Five previously suspended five games for taking extra benefits -- 2010 leading rusher Dan Herron and top returning receiver DeVier Posey -- were caught taking even more extra benefits. Both allegedly were paid for work they didn't do during summer jobs. Posey also reportedly accepted a free round of golf.
This, while Ohio State is dealing with an amended notice of allegations in a still open-ended NCAA investigation.
Smith, president Gordon Gee and the compliance department keep coming to work each day. Buckeyes keep getting caught breaking NCAA rules. What's that definition of insanity again?
Smith tried to explain Monday how Herron, DeVier and three other players were paid for that work they didn't do during those summer jobs. He told us the unending problems aren't evidence of a "systemic" failing in Ohio State athletics. He explained why a guy named Bobby DeGeronimo had been disassociated from the program.
Certain people, he said, "went off the reservation."
Then Smith summed up the entire Tressel/email/Tatoogate/NCAA/suspension thing this way:
"It's not 30 players."
As in the number of players involved in wrongdoing. It's less than that.
That's comforting. What is this, Oklahoma in the 1980s or gangland Chicago in the 1930s?
It would be lazy at this point to write that Smith should lose his job. That's assumed. That finally hit home for me when I noticed who wasn't at the Monday presser. No one of substance. Certainly not Gee to crow, "I hope Gene doesn't fire me."
The money quotes have ended, along with accountability.
Smith should have been canned months ago, along with Gee and the entire compliance department. It's not personal. It's business. Sooner or later, whoever is in charge at Ohio State will realize it. The proud franchise being run off the road cannot sustain the damage.
Ain't life a ditch?
Just to sum up: Jim Tressel used ineligible players to win a Big Ten title and a Rose Bowl. Five players were suspended for the Sugar Bowl, and then allowed to play. Don't ask how or why.
Since then, Terrelle Pryor and Tressel "left" and both were suspended by the NFL before they were ever in the NFL.
There's more: That August infractions committee hearing that left more questions than answers. All along, there has been more self-rationalization than self-examination.
Those fans shamefully booed those innocent players. They booed the coach, Luke Fickell, who was doing nothing more than being loyal to his university by taking the job. The Buckeyes are 3-2 without the Buckeye Five. They may be 3-5 when they come out of a three-game stretch that next includes games at Nebraksa, at Illinois and at home against Wisconsin.
It wasn't supposed to be this bad this soon, but that's hardly the main issue. If and when Meyer wants to return to coaching, he wants to be at a place that has a chance to win. He wants to be backed by a strong athletic director and president. He wants to be able to recruit without a postseason ban.
No matter how much Smith says his athletic department isn't, Ohio State now clearly has to be in line for failure to monitor and lack of institutional control. That means enhanced penalties. That means a dreaded bowl ban. Is has to. Everything has to be on the table since the NCAA is basically being mocked in this case.
Tattoogate has metastasized for so long that the original body ink has faded. That was the starting point. Who knows where it's going to end? When the NCAA comes to your town, it doesn't stop with the original allegations. It's a prostate exam for the entire athletic department. The whole process can make an AD want to jump off a cliff screaming, DiGeronimo!
There was big-time pressure on NCAA president Mark Emmert to begin with. He celebrates his first anniversary on the job this week needing a Hazmat unit to clean up the problems. Chief among them was perception, that the NCAA is unfair.
One player, Reggie Bush, took down USC. At Ohio State, the two-deep is being redefined as the number of players in violation of NCAA rules at any given moment. Nothing systemic to see here, though. Move along, folks. All is well.
"I know most people don't understand that," Smith said.
No, we don't. There are lots of sketchy people hanging around the program. There are lots of people doing bad jobs trying to track down bad things at Ohio State. I know, I know. That makes The university no different than a lot of places.
But that's another excuse. Take heart, though, Bucknuts. The numbers don't lie.
At least it's not 30 players.