Don”t ever say that Ohio State coach Jim Tressel isn”t willing to put his neck on the line. I”m sure that just about everyone from Columbus to Ann Arbor remembers the promise that he made when he got the job.
Standing on the Value City Arena court on the day he was introduced as coach, Tressel announced that Ohio State fans would be proud of the Buckeyes 310 days later in Ann Arbor. I”m sure that he said other things during the ceremony at halftime of the basketball game, but neither I, nor anyone else, really remember.
There were a lot of questions surrounding his proclamation. Was Tressel predicting an Ohio State win in Michigan Stadium something that former coach John Cooper was not able to experience in his 13 years in Columbus?
When nearly every media member at Big Ten Media Day this past summer asked him, he said no. Possibly realizing that his ass couldn”t cash the check he”d written, Tressel backed off and asserted that fans would be proud of the way his team acted, on and off the field.
So he has just five days left, and if I was an Ohio State fan, I would not be too proud.
Steve Bellisari, Ohio State”s quarterback, was arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol early Friday morning. His blood-alcohol level registered at .22 more than twice the legal limit for the state of Ohio.
Immediately, Tressel suspended the quarterback indefinitely, but Sunday night, he was reinstated. Tressel says that Bellisari won”t start against Michigan, and isn”t yet sure whether the senior will play at all.
Anyone who thinks Bellisari won”t find his way into a close game has been drinking far more than Bellisari.
Now, people associated with The Ohio State University aren”t generally known for intellectual prowess. Let”s be serious here their athletics website has a definition of a Buckeye. No mascot should require explanation.
And when Tressel showed up in Columbus, immediately throwing kerosene onto the fire of the Michigan-Ohio State rivalry, I was as happy as anyone. Things tend to get boring after such a long period of one-sidedness.
So now I”m just amused that Tressel”s defense for his bold statement has turned even more unlikely than the original comment. After all, while the chances of an Ohio State victory may be slim, I can”t see a possible way that anyone can be proud of the way Bellisari acted.
Tressel needs to go back and realize what his words mean. He can”t hide from what he said. He tried to, and now that has backfired.
Moreover, I don”t understand how Tressel could feel any pride for the lack of accountability that the entire Ohio State athletic department has shown.
I”m having trouble believing that Bellisari would have been reinstated so soon if this hadn”t been Michigan week. Can Tressel, and Ohio State Athletic Director Andy Geiger honestly claim that Bellisari would play if the Buckeyes were playing Purdue? Do they think anyone believes that three days suspension, missing one game, and not starting another is punishment?
This isn”t an issue that I”m going to lose much sleep over. Bellisari is not even that good. He”s average at best. And frankly, all streaks and emotions aside, if Michigan”s offense plays like it did against Wisconsin, Ohio State will win, even with Tressel himself playing quarterback.
I just think it”s ridiculous that Ohio State doesn”t see anything wrong with this situation.
What would Michigan coach Lloyd Carr do? Who knows? He certainly wouldn”t be so open about the action he was taking. Carr has enough experience to know that if you”re going to put aside morals for the sake of winning football games, it”s best to keep it quiet.
I don”t think Tressel realizes this yet. This is not Youngstown State anymore it”s Michigan-Ohio State, possibly the greatest rivalry in the history of sport. It”s Bo and Woody, Woodson and Boston, the Horseshoe and the Big House.
So Tressel should play Bellisari. His job is to win football games, and as difficult as it is for me to say this with a straight face, Bellisari gives Ohio State a better shot at the win.
But Ohio State needs to stop pretending that the quarterback served his time.
Jon Schwartz can be reached at email@example.com.