The whole Ohio State thing reeks. I’m not the first to write that. But as I watched the Luckeyes survive their Sugar Bowl game against Arkansas on Tuesday night, the outrageous nature of the OSU situation hit me like a ton of bricks.
Five Buckeye players were suspended five games by the NCAA for selling their bling and other merchandise. They also accepted cash discounts on tattoos. Those five players were involved in four touchdowns and the key interception in the final seconds that preserved Ohio State’s win.
Wait, didn’t I just write that they had been suspended. So what were they doing in the Superdome on Tuesday night?
What a great and logical question that is.
Well, the NCAA deemed the suspension to apply to the first five games of the 2011 season. The athletes were not kept out of the Sugar Bowl, whose executive director, Paul Hoolahan, admitted to using his influence on behalf of the Ohio State players to not be suspended until after the bowl game. He said he did it to protect the “integrity of this year’s game.”
Do you think, for instance, that if five Georgia Tech players had done what the Ohio State players did, they would have gotten to wait until next season to serve their penalty? Or would the NCAA have kept them out of the Independence Bowl, a far less lucrative game than the Sugar Bowl?
Pardon my cynicism, but this NCAA double standard – fueled by big collars and the clout of ESPN and the BCS – is completely out of bounds. It makes the NCAA appear discriminatory in its standards and punishment and that organization’s officials can talk all day about why that isn’t the case – I’m just not listening.
The five affected Ohio State players had a little something to do with the Buckeyes’ win over Arkansas, too.
Quarterback Terrelle Pryor passed for two touchdowns and had 336 yards of total offense.
Running back Dan Herron gained 87 yards on 24 carries and scored a touchdown.
Receiver DeVier Posey caught three passes for 70 yards and a touchdown.
Starting left tackle Mike Adams had a solid game.
And back-up defensive lineman Solomon Thomas made the play of the game, an interception of a Ryan Mallett pass deep in Ohio State territory after a blocked punt by Arkansas looked like it might be a difference-maker.
Those guys shouldn’t have been out there. The NCAA should have done the right thing. It was too much to expect the Sugar Bowl to sit those players out. It’s been a dud of a game for three years running and this year the match-up was good, as much as a bowl game not involving a national championship can be good. And anybody who thought Ohio State was going to punish its players is not living in the real world. The Buckeyes were 0-9 in bowl games against SEC schools before Tuesday. The school’s president has railed against TCU, Boise State and other non-BCS schools. Ohio State wasn’t going to keep those guys from playing.
It’s getting harder and harder to care about college football. The hypocrisy is overwhelming. The ticket-buying public that supports college football so enthusiastically is being played for fools and they don’t seem to mind.
It’s ironic that what the five Ohio State players did was deemed a violation by the NCAA, but that it defends its own actions. Ironic and maddening.
* Congratulations to Bert Blyleven and his long-overdue election to the Baseball Hall of Fame on Wednesday, and to former Wichita Pilot shortstop Roberto Alomar on being inducted in his first year eligible. Both are very worthy. I’ll write more about Alomar, who played for the Pilots in 1987, their inaugural year, as a 19-year-old who was being touted as one of the best prospects in the game. He lived up to the promise.
But while I’m writing about the Hall of Fame, I want to touch on the curious case of Jeff Bagwell, the former Houston Astros first baseman who received only 41.7 percent of the vote Tuesday in his first season of eligibility.
I expected he would do better, but worry that he might be another victim of baseball’s Steroids Era, which has all but wiped out the Hall of Fame hopes of Mark McGwire and Rafael Palmeiro, both of whom suffered embarrassing HOF voter totals this year.
Bagwell has never been implicated in the steroids scandal; never tested positive or been called before Congress. As far as I know, he’s as clean as a whistle, except that a portion of his career was unfolding during rampant steroids use.
Bagwell finished his career with 449 homers, 1,529 RBIs, 1,517 runs, 2,314 hits and a .297 average. Those are Hall of Fame numbers even for a first baseman. He could steal a base when needed and finished in the top 10 of the MVP voting 10 times, winning the aware in the strike-shortened season of 1994.
I’m wondering if that strike, which wiped out the World Series and damaged baseball’s integrity, also struck a death knell to Bagwell’s Hall of Fame chances.
He was having an incredible season in ’94. At the time of the strike, Bagwell was batting .368 with 39 homers, 116 RBIs, 104 runs and a 1.201 OPS. And he had done all that in only 110 games.
Bagwell was always in the lineup during his career, playing 150 or more games in 10 of his 15 seasons. So, let’s say he would have played in 48 more games in 1994. Had he continued on his offensive pace, he would have finished with 56 homers, 172 RBI, 211 hits and 149 runs. It would have been one of the greatest offensive seasons in baseball history and certainly more strong ammunition for a Hall of Fame bid.
Lou Gehrig, baseball’s Iron Horse and the first baseman for the New York Yankees from 1923-39, is one of the greatest players in history, a first-ballot Hall of Famer. His best season, arguably, came in 1931 when he batted .341 with 46 homers, 184 RBI, 163 runs and a 1.108 OPS.
Bagwell’s 1994 season might have been comparable, perhaps even better.
I’m not saying Bagwell is as deserving as Gehrig. I do think, however, that Bagwell belongs in the Hall of Fame and I’m surprised he didn’t get more votes.
* I give up on Oakland Raiders owner Al Davis.
I know, I’m late to the party. Most people, even the most loyal black-and-silver followers, gave up on Davis long ago.
But how does he justify firing Coach Tom Cable during a season in which the Raiders improved from five wins to eight and went 6-0 in the AFC West. Wasn’t it obvious to everyone that Oakland was an improved team in 2010?
I’m not saying Cable is Vince Lombardi. But I think he did enough this season to keep his job. The Raiders are a mess and won’t be any better until Davis is finished as owner.
My Facebook Friend
Lisa is a very good friend. She has a good heart. Her brain? Hmmm.
Just kidding, as far as I know Lisa is a very bright woman, too. And a lot of fun. She is a Derby-ite, so there’s that connection. But I’ve only gotten to know her in recent years. We run into one another occasionally and always have a good time. She’s funny and, as we well know, I’m pretty cool, too. However, I’m still waiting on Lisa’s wedding gift.
Here’s Lisa on Lisa and our Facebook friendship:
I first became acquainted with Lutz when I was interviewed for an article about the Twins the first year our team made the NBC World Series. And my first thought when I met with him at Lawrence-Dumont Stadium was “He certainly looks different in his newspaper photograph than he does in person!”
Since then, Lutz and I have spent time together at an annual golf tournament that is held to benefit people with disabilities. While you might be thinking Lutz represents that segment of the population, we actually invite him because we need someone to come in last in the flights. And since he is a poor journalist, we know he isn’t there to be benevolent at the live auction. However, he does always buy the mulligans which we appreciate.
Lutz and I also share common friends. And while he won’t readily admit it, like me, Lutz also hails from Derby. But by far, the favorite part of my friendship with Lutz is our Facebook relationship. It is there that we have the best conversations. Usually they are dripping with sarcasm and disrespectful jabs at his advanced age, but they are good conversations nonetheless. And for the most part, Lutz and I rarely speak of sports. Which is why we have the perfect friendship.