New ESPN 300 Recruiting Rankings

As you know there are four major recruiting services and ESPN happens to be one but not one many like or use because they are shaky at best. Anyhow they have released their new top 300 players for 2015 and all 3 OSU recruits are on it.

Eric Glover-Williams- is ranked 96th and 6th best athlete in the country and 4th best recruit in Ohio for 2015.

Jamel Dean- is ranked 108th in the country and 11th best CB in the country and 23rd best player in Florida.

Ben Edwards- is ranked 170th in the country and 11th best Safety in the country and 32nd best player in Florida.

It is early in the recruiting process and OSU has a small class right now but once again OSU is primed to have a extremely highly ranked class.

Numbers Crunch: 2015 OSU Recruiting Class Size

Last year I did the Numbers Crunch post to keep up to date numbers on the class size based on SRs, early NFL draft entries, transfers, and players kicked off the team. The post was successful and at the very least gave everyone a guide to use. This year will be no different as it is back. So lets take a look at what the numbers look like.

Seniors

Curtis Grant
Michael Bennett
Braxton Miller
Jeff Heuerman
Joel Hale
Daryl Baldwin
Antonio Underwood
Doran Grant
Steve Miller
Evan Spencer
JT Moore
Rod Smith
Devin Smith

Player Transfers

Mike Mitchell- February
Jayme Thompson- April

Players kicked off the team

none

Players leaving early for the NFL

none

Additional Scholarships

3- added back from the NCAA punishments putting OSU back to 85

Total

As of April 16, 2014 = 18 is the magic number right now.

2014 OSU Spring Football – Questions Answered, Questions Remain (Part 2)

Part one reviewed the least concerning areas for Ohio State after the conclusion of spring practice. This article will focus upon the top five concerning areas for Ohio State, heading into summer workouts. Have any position groups changed from before spring practice? Let us review…

5. Defensive Back: One of the biggest changes, after spring practice. Previously ranked as the third most concerning area, I would lower this area after spring practice. Even though there are two open positions at cornerback and safety, my reasoning for feeling better about the defensive backfield lies in the more aggressive approach that was evident during the spring game. Instead of playing off the wide receivers, Ohio State’s defensive backs were pressing right from the line of scrimmage. Throw in the dominant Ohio State defensive line that figures to continually pressure opposing quarterbacks, and it would seem likely that the defensive backs will be in a great position to excel, despite their inexperience.

4. Wide Receiver: Another position group that moved, and this actually increased in concern following spring practice. Talent is on the roster, yet it was evident in the following comments by Ohio State Head Coach Urban Meyer following the spring game where his thoughts were about his wide receivers after the spring game ~ “We’re not where we need to be. I think we’re better that we were two years ago, and I’m hoping we’re a better notch than we were last year. We got a ways to go…Receiver, I can’t name you one that’s going to start. Which is concerning, but it’s comforting to know I can name about six that have the ability. Those would be Devin Smith, Johnnie Dixon, Michael Thomas, I think Jalin Marshall, before he got hurt he was having a great spring, Dontre Wilson and Evan Spencer; we have some depth there.”. Keep an eye and ear open for news about this position group over the summer workouts and fall camp.

3. Linebacker: A position group that has improved since before the spring practices, yet remains in the same area of concern. While rising junior Joshua Perry has earned a starting outside linebacker position, battles for the other two spots remain between rising senior Curtis Grant and true freshman Raekwon McMillan for the middle linebacker job, and Darron Lee and Chris Worley are both in the mix at the walkout linebacker spot. Considering Ohio State opens up the 2014 season at Navy, a triple option attack, it will be crucial for Ohio State’s linebackers to play disciplined; will that be possible with such inexperience at this position?

2. Backup Quarterback: Another position group that has been elevated since spring practice began, and it truly has less to do with the spring game than the reality of the situation. Rising redshirt sophomore Cardale Jones has emerged as the top backup quarterback, with rising redshirt freshman J.T. Barrett third string. While Coach Meyer seemed pleased with Jones’ development over the course of the spring practices, it must be asked – is Jones truly ready to lead Ohio State if rising senior Braxton Miller is injured this upcoming season?

1. Offensive Line: The biggest concern I had heading into spring practice, and nothing has changed since spring football concluded. In the words of Coach Meyer, “Offensive line, we’ve got to really go, we gotta really go from here. I saw Jamarco Jones, Demetrius Knox is coming in, Brady Taylor. Those are three bodies that are going to be coming in in June and I look them right in the eye and said “You’re not red shirting; you’re playing,” and that’s hard for an offensive lineman, so we’re gonna — that’s an area that we have got to get back to where we — maybe not where we were, but close…On offense you got Pat Elflein and our left tackle, Taylor Decker, and everyone else is wide open, no other spots taken.”. My first thoughts, as I read those comments? Be grateful that Ohio State was able to retain offensive line coach Ed Warriner.

**
Thomas Edison once stated, “Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.”. Ohio State fans can rest easy knowing that the Ohio State coaching staff and players will seize these opportunities to work over the coming summer months.

2014 OSU Spring Football – Questions Answered, Questions Remain

Before Ohio State’s 2014 spring practices began in March, I posted questions ranked from least concerning areas to most concerning areas as I perceived them. Are the categories in the same sequence? Let’s find out.

10. Special Teams Units: Ranked tenth coming into the spring practice, and I believe this important area still ranks low in terms of concerns heading into the summer. During the spring game, Ohio State Head Coach Urban Meyer did not practice kickoffs, and punt returns all resulted in fair catches. Furthermore, with the influx of freshmen talent who will arrive in June, it would be reasonable to expect a number of freshmen to compete for playing time in this often over-looked area.

9. H-Back/Pivot/Hybrid/Slot: An area that was ranked eighth heading into spring practice, it seems to be in fairly capable and competent hands. Coach Meyer withheld rising sophomore Dontre Wilson from the spring game, and Wilson should have ample opportunities to play H-Back when the season begins next August 30th. Rising redshirt freshman Jalin Marshall and true freshman Curtis Samuel should also have chances to contribute in this area; Samuel had several moments during spring practice that impressed Coach Meyer.

8. Tight End: Ranked ninth, I elevated this area for two relatively minor reasons. First, rising senior Jeff Heuerman missed a considerable portion of spring practice a foot injury that required surgery, and will keep Heuerman in a cast and walking boot until summer workouts. Secondly, rising redshirt freshman Marcus Baugh had some impressive moments this spring, but is still trying to regain the confidence of the coaching staff. Rising junior Nick Vannett will play considerably this fall. Overall, a solid group, but Heuerman’s absence and injury led me to rank this as an area of more concern after the spring than before the spring practices.

7. Running Back: This position area is in the same location as it was when spring practices began. My concerns rank in the same general area – will the coaching staff be able to keep all of these players happy and involved? Rising sophomore Ezekiel Elliott seems to be the prohibitive favorite going into summer workouts, but rising redshirt sophomore Bri’onte Dunn, true freshman Curtis Samuel, and rising redshirt sophomore Warren Ball all played well throughout the spring. Throw in rising senior Rod Smith, who had a strong spring, in the words of Coach Meyer, and perhaps you can see why I question how the coaching staff will be able to keep all of these players involved and happy.

6. Placekicker: Another adjustment, post-spring practice. This battle will continue throughout the summer, but true freshman Sean Nuernberger may have a slight lead over rising senior Kyle Clinton. Nuernberger was able to successfully kick both field goal attempts from 52 yards, while Clinton was unable to do so. It is early in the process, but considering Nuernberger is a scholarship player, it would seem plausible that Nuernberger may have the edge on this spot going into summer workouts.

Part two will focus upon the five areas of highest concern, as Ohio State leaves spring practice behind and prepares for summer workouts and fall camp.

The 2014 Ohio State Spring Game: Youth Will Be Served

“Youth will be served, every dog has his day, and mine has been a fine one.”

~ George Borrow

Attending the Ohio State spring game has always been one of my favorite spring time events. The very first spring game I attended was in 1996, eagerly anticipating how the newly-signed quarterback Mark Garcia would do in his Ohio State debut, as he battled Stanley Jackson for the starting quarterback position. Little did anyone know a third quarterback by the name of Joe Germaine would outperform both quarterbacks in the spring game, giving fans in attendance an early glimpse at one of the best quarterbacks in Ohio State football history.

Another fond memory was the 2003 spring game. Not only was Ohio State basking in the glory of the 2002 national championship, but fans were treated to an aerial duel between Justin Zwick and Troy Smith. It was the unofficial beginning of the quarterback battle for the 2004 starting job.

My wife and three children will be joining me for this spring game. I have taken my wife before, and my sons came with me three years ago, but this will mark my daughter’s first visit to Ohio Stadium. I am also planning on meeting up with Shannon Sommers as well at Ohio Stadium…

Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer has already stated that true freshmen Curtis Samuel and Johnnie Dixon figure prominently in Ohio State’s upcoming season; the spring game will give fans that first look at both as Buckeyes. Freshman linebacker Raekwon McMillan and freshman placekicker Sean Nuernberger will also be counted upon this fall; I am anxious to see how both perform for what should be a pretty decent crowd.

The player I am most anxious to see? Linebacker Darron Lee, who has been starting all spring. Lee has been consistently cited by Coach Meyer for his aggressiveness and intensity all spring. Considering the level of disappointment that Coach Meyer and the fans had of the 2013 linebackers, watching Lee’s performance will be foremost for me at the spring game.

A close second? Cornerback Eli Apple. Apple redshirted in 2013, but has recently had his black stripe removed, symbolizing that he is now a player that will be relied upon in game situations. Like the linebackers, the 2013 secondary left much to be desired. Apple and Gareon Conley have been playing well this spring, and will be challenging for playing time this season.

Yes, youth will be served during the spring game. Youth may also be served this coming season.

Honoring All Americans

Are you going to the Spring game Saturday? Hope so I know I am. We will get to watch Ohio State honor be honoring their four most recent first team All Americans. Johnathan Hankins and Bradley Roby for their 2012 seasons and also Ryan Shazier and Jack Mewhort for the 2013 season. It’ll be great to be there and be a part of honoring them. Also the losing team from the Spring game will have to cleanup and landscape Buckeye Grove after which Hankins, Roby, Shazier and Mewhort will have trees planted in their honor.

Sad to see these guys leave but they have bright futures ahead of them in the NFL and hey maybe I’ll be fortunate enough to watch one play in the Dawg Pound. Don’t forget before the game there will be a mens lacrosse match pitting Ohio State against TTUN. Go Buckeyes and hope to see you there Saturday.

Spring Practice Update: Defense Two Deep Predictions

Before reading this I think we all need to take a deep sigh of relief and remind ourselves that last year’s secondary will not be returning. Yes, losing Bradley Roby does not help, but inheriting Chris Ash should off-set Roby’s loss. With some of Ash’s new schemes, he has caused a bit of a shake-up in the linebackers room and a new name has emerged as a starter. Continuing the trend from back to front I’m going to take a look at some of the depth and rotation new d-line coach Larry Johnson Sr. is creating. Don’t worry Noah Spence, Adolphus Washington, Michael Bennett, and Joey Bosa will still have the green light to reek havoc with offensive lines across the Big Ten. However, Johnson is focusing on creating depth this spring. Let’s take a look at all of these position changes and battles.

Secondary
As the Buckeyes took the field this spring the only true returning starter in the secondary was going to be Doran Grant. However, as the practices have gone by the unit has taken shape very quickly. Vonn Bell, Tyvis Powell, Armani Reeves, Cam Burrows, and Gareon Conley have all been names that have cracked the rotation at their respective positions. Vonn Bell was lost early in the spring due to injury, but coaches have liked what they have seen out of Cam Burrows at safety in the past few practices. The way the safeties in Ash’s defense are asked to cover receivers it’s not surprising that Burrows has made the position change from corner to safety with some ease. Bell should re-take the starting spot once he returns from injury, but Burrows will not be completely excluded from the defensive rotation with the quality of spring he has had.

Armani Reeves is the starter opposite of Doran Grant. As much as it hurts me to say that, that seems to be where the coaching staff is going at least in the base defense. When going to nickel, Reeves moves over to the nickel corner and either Eli Apple or Gareon Conley come in as the opposite corner. Speaking of Conley and Apple, that battle for the #3 corner has turned in to the hottest position battle the past couple of practices. Both Apple and Conley had themselves excellent scrimmages last Saturday. Apple caught a lot of headlines losing his black stripe finally, but Conley had an equally excellent practice.

Judging from Reeves performances last season, I believe in Reeves to be a very solid nickel corner, and Apple or Conley should be competing for the #2 outside corner. However, being the mere blogger that I am, I can only suggest and dream.

Linebackers
The big story line coming in to spring was whether or not Raekwon McMillan would challenge Curtis Grant for the starting middle linebacker spot. Whether that was a legitimate opportunity or not, it has motivated Curtis Grant and according to Meyer the senior linebacker is having his best spring as a Buckeye. McMillan is still battling to get any reps with the ones. Cam Williams split some reps with Grant with the ones and McMillan was limited to just playing with the twos this past Saturday. It seems like the new scheme Chris Ash has brought in has actually helped Grant. Grant does not have to play in coverage too often and is able to play downhill like he prefers. His leadership has improved and I believe he will be the starting middle linebacker. The McMillan hype seems to be dying down and now he is in a battle for the number two linebacker with Cam Williams.

The story that has surfaced out of spring practice from the linebacker room has been of Darron Lee. Yes, Darron Lee the 3 star recruit who played quarterback, safety, and wide receiver in high school, is your new outside linebacker at Ohio State. Why? Lee’s versatility, athleticism, and more importantly his relentless effort have coaches raving about the kid. He goes from point A to point B as fast as he can even though according to Coach Meyer “he doesn’t know what he doesn’t know.” The kid has played fast, hard, and will be filling a similar role that Ryan Shazier had last season. Lee has become the unheralded star of spring practice and the more reps he earns, the more Lee will find his way to the spotlight.

Defensive Line
The starting defensive line for Ohio State is set in stone. Even though Noah Spence will be suspended for the first two games of the 2014 season, he along with Joey Bosa should man the edges with Bennett and Washington plugging up the middle. It is the depth where there is constant battle and rotation. Larry Johnson Sr. would like to rotate 8 to 9 players on the defensive line. However, good luck picking between Steve Miller, Tommy Schutt, Donovan Munger, Michael Hill, Tyquan Lewis, Chris Carter, Tracy Sprinkle, and Rashad Frazier. Something has happened with Jamaal Marcus where he did not practice Saturday and has somewhat disappeared in the rotation after a stellar Orange Bowl performance. Tyquan Lewis seems to have impressed coaches enough to overtake Marcus as Lewis started the spring with the number two’s.

Needless to say, LJ Sr. has a ton of talent to work with and his dream of having defensive line shifts could easily become a reality this fall.

Predicted Two Deep Post Spring Practice
LE- Noah Spence
Steve Miller

DT- Adolphus Washington
Tommy Schutt/Michael Hill/Tracy Sprinkle

DT- Michael Bennett
Donovan Munger or Chris Carter

RE- Joey Bosa
Tyquan Lewis

SAM-Darron Lee
Chris Worley

MIKE-Curtis Grant
Camren Williams

WILL-Joshua Perry
Trey Johnson

CB-Armani Reeves
Eli Apple

CB-Doran Grant
Gareon Conley

FS-Vonn Bell
Cam Burrows

SS- Tyvis Powell
Ron Tanner

Spring Practice Update: Predictions of Offense Two Deep

The 2014 Ohio State offense could truly live up to the title of Dream ’14 if they sort through early spring injuries and youth. Replacing the best offensive line-running back tandem in the country from last year has been the biggest question mark surrounding spring practices. However, with those two areas of concern in the forefront it has brought some light on the area of the Buckeye offense that will have to carry them early in the season, the outside play-makers. Let’s take a look at a few of the battles that are being watched closely by the coaching staff.

Offensive Line
Three of the five spots along the line have been virtually locked up with Taylor Decker and Darryl Baldwin securing both tackle spots, and Pat Elflein being named as the starter at right guard. Left guard may be the most wide open position battle left to be decided until this fall. Incoming freshman Demetrius Knox will have the opportunity to compete for the job with Antonio Underwood (Jr.) and Joel Hale (Sr.), both of whom are currently fighting for the job. Since Knox did not enroll early he will have to wait until the fall to get in to the mix. Jacoby Boren is taking the majority of the reps with the ones at center and I imagine he will continue to get the nod as he has been bred for this position for the past two seasons behind Corey Linsley.

Prior to the 2012 season Ed Warinner and his unit faced several questions regarding the performance of his unit and its potential. As you all know, the 2012 offensive line unit turned in to one of the teams most consistent groups. I fully expect Warinner to provide similar results for this years unit.

Running Back
Entering the off-season, it was strongly believed that Ezekiel Elliott had the inside track to the starting running back role. However, Rod Smith has proven in practice that he too deserves reps as he has been running extremely violent in between the tackles, and has provided the punch that the Buckeye offense lost with Hyde’s departure. A name also surfacing in the running backs room has been Curtis Samuel. Samuel has been placed in the running backs room and could very well earn his share of touches. With the emergence of Samuel, running backs coach Stan Drayton will have the ability to pull from a variety of backs. Elliott is more of an all purpose back, Samuel can serve as a speed back, and Rod Smith can be the power back the offense needs for the inside zone read. Brionte Dunn and Warren Ball will be competing with Rod Smith for time in the power back role. At this point I expect Dunn and Ball to be on the outside looking in again.

At the end of spring practice, I’m expecting Elliott and Smith to split carries. Elliott has put on an extra 25 pounds this off-season, however adding weight and running with it are two different things. We will see how Elliott uses his new found bulk. If he can run violently and still maintain his shiftiness in space I would expect him to receive the bulk of the reps, as he could very easily be an every down back.

Wide Receiver
This may be the most intriguing battle on offense. The wide receiver group will be one of the youngest on the team, but arguably the unit with the most talent. Devin Smith and Evan Spencer are the returning starters on this unit, but Spencer has been held out of spring practice in order to recover from surgery. Incoming freshman Johnnie Dixon has left a considerable impression on all coaches. He possesses great hands, speed, and has done everything the coaches have asked. Michael Thomas, the spring game all-star, has surfaced as the starter opposite of Devin Smith due to Evan Spencer’s absence. Corey Smith has also had a very productive spring. He too also has phenomenal hands and could possibly be the best route runner in the bunch.

Devin Smith, Michael Thomas, Corey Smith, and Johnnie Dixon are the top four receivers right now and I do not expect that to change. James Clark and Jalin Marshall have had set backs due to injury this spring, and Jeff Greene is still battling to see more reps. Greene could get in on red zone situations due to his size, but currently he is pretty far down the pecking order. The spring game should prove to be a fun preview as to what to expect this fall from the more talented and competent receiving core.

Post Spring Practice Two Deep Prediction
QB- Braxton Miller
Cardale Jones

RB- Ezekiel Elliott
Rod Smith

WR(X)- Devin Smith
Johnnie Dixon

WR(Z)- Michael Thomas
Corey Smith or Evan Spencer

TE- Jeff Heuerman
Nick Vannett

LT- Taylor Decker
Evan Lisle

LG- Antonio Underwood
Joel Hale

C- Jacoby Boren
Billy Price

RG- Pat Elflein
Chase Farris

RT- Darryl Baldwin
Kyle Trout

College Sports: Where Students Pay for Yahoo Play

Recently Ohio State athletics was thrust into the collegiate pay for play debate in a deliciously ironic way. Shortly after Ohio State’s Logan Stieber won his third NCAA wrestling title, sports writer Dan Wetzel gained his usual amount of national recognition by noting that Stieber’s efforts, for which he is not paid, triggered an $18,000 contractual bonus to Ohio State’s Athletic Director Gene Smith.

Dan Wetzel is at least two things: a sports journalist for Yahoo! Sports and a clear advocate for drastic change in the collegiate athletic model. Right on cue, he made his points that collegiate amateur status is a difference without distinction. The Smith payment not only dramatizes his point that college athletics is a professional enterprise (one feels he can only barely hold back from also calling it a criminal enterprise), but it shows, in Wetzel’s fantasy, a gross hypocrisy of the current state of affairs by rewarding a fat cat like Smith who, no doubt in Wetzel’s mind, sat on his couch drinking a rum and coke while the (literally) starving wrestler beat up an overmatched Devin Carter of Virginia Tech (after also demolishing wrestlers from Missouri, Oklahoma State, Harvard and Penn State).

Wetzel, presumably a nice and likable guy with some real talent, often asks for critical thought on the larger subject (a point I find ironic given that after asking him to do exactly that a year or so ago, I started receiving trolling tweets from Yahoo!’s mini-lawyer legal “specialist”—who, while representing Yahoo! has a history of trolling and badgering people on Twitter— mocking my professional credentials and hitting me with some form of humorous seventh grade political economic babble). Unfortunately Wetzel offers up little of his own critical thought though you can understand why. I applauded Wetzel for diving into the Penn State and Steubenville dramas, but you will never see a guy like Wetzel actually breaking such stories (for example, it has been my understanding the Penn State story was busted open by a female journalist who does not cover sports).

Sports journalists who need to make a living to pay for their family’s well-being have one primary need—access to athletes. Yes, coaches, administrators, referees, fans are all important. But what gives a guy like Wetzel the cache and insider importance is access to athletes. No matter where you look in sports journalism that is the one common thread. Yes, Wetzel can jump on Aaron Hernandez and Jerry Sandusky after the court system has caught them in their midst and made them dead to a sports journalist, and of course Wetzel can go after a high school football program that would otherwise be completely below the sphere of influence that puts bread on his table (or in the case of Yahoo!’s paralegal—fast cars—how is that for a cliché?).

But a guy like Wetzel would never survive with the reputation of an investigative journalist looking to expose the unknown acts of bad athletes or coaches. Athletes are mostly like any other large group of people—there are the very good and the very bad people, even if it just might be that the athlete population might have a little more than its share of bad guys. No, Wetzel’s job is to bring sports to the public but to do that he has to have the trust of athletes. Not only is he not going to be looking for dirt, one has to believe he is going to actively support their attitudes toward the sports world.

But the texture is even more delicious. Do you think Wetzel cares about a wrestler—even as great a wrestler as Logan Stieber? I saw no indication Wetzel even bothered to talk to Stieber before he wrote his piece. Wetzel writes what, 100, 200 articles a year? How many are on college wrestling? How much aligned do you suppose Wetzel is to the views of a Logan Stieber? In his original piece, did Wetzel know or even care that Stieber is thankful for the opportunity he has—to compete on a great stage for a great university and to receive a great education, and that he is thankful to Gene Smith for making that happen?

Probably not. The Logan Stieber story is an uncomfortable truth in the Wetzel narrative. Perhaps Wetzel is from the school of socio-political school of thought that there is always more money—that vast resources can be taken from one outlet and be replaced—perhaps from the StubHub money/ticket tree. If the Wetzel fantasy were to become reality, large collective sums would be taken from those who “use” and are enriched from collegiate football players and given to abused football and basketball players who in Wetzel’s world “earn” the money.
In reality, that money would be taken, not from Gene Smith or the NCAA (well money might in fact be taken, but not enough to fulfil the fantasy). No, the money would be taken from the athletic budgets of the very rich athletic programs of Ohio State. It would also be taken from the nearly poor programs like the University of Maryland—in such bad shape financially it had to abandon the ACC where it was a charter member. How do you think programs such as wrestling, baseball, soccer, etc. will fare after such a wealth transfer? But wait, it gets worse.

There is a thing called Title IX. I suspect this is a complicated matter but the basic premise of Title IX is to create a certain parity in financial commitment to men’s and women’s athletic opportunities. It is kind of hard to imagine there could be a new transfer of sums to even one men’s program without a similar increase for women’s sports. So the carnage to other men’s programs practically doubles. Maybe an Ohio State could survive, maybe not. But what about poor Northwestern, Purdue, Minnesota, Cal, Bowling Green, etc? In the future could a Virginia Tech maintain a program so that a future Devin Carter could go face to face with the future Logan Stieber?
Wrestlers who follow in the footsteps of Logan Stieber may in fact be able to compete for an NCAA title in the world hoped for by Dan Wetzel, but the number of competitors might dwindle to what—5? Twelve?

Do I have concern for the victims in Dan Wetzel’s narrative? Of course I do. If one comes from a poor background—as I did—s/he may well suffer the anguish and uncertainty that I did when my father apologized that he could not give me the money I needed in addition to my summer earnings to close the gap of the cost of education as an athlete not on scholarship. Would I support compassionate need based-stipends to bridge the gap? Of course I would, but you still have the question of where does the money come from, who would get hurt and how do you avoid creating a chasm between programs that can afford and those that cannot?

Should the NCAA institute its own compassionate program funded by a tax on coaching salaries such that those who benefit the most financially from the system provide the bridge over the gap for those that struggle the most under the current system? But is that all we are really talking about? Maybe the NCAA could permit high profile athletes to sign endorsement deals that would require significant allocations to such a fund. What would the Title IX implications of any such funding efforts?

While we are talking about someone’s fantasy, how about embracing one of mine—that the pool of fatcats who make a living off the athletes—journalists from say Yahoo!—pay for their access by contributing to the fund that can be used to ease their pain. Gene Smith is hired in part because of his participation in the world of sports. But he is also asked to employ the tools of the CEO of an enterprise vastly more complex than most companies. If anyone is a professional in sports here and if anyone with little other portfolio is making money off the efforts of college football and basketball players—it is Dan Wetzel. Let’s be fair—ask him to open his accounts and what he makes off sports, and then compare it to the complexity of his duties. Strictly fantasy of course, but if he wanted to be totally pure on this issue, he should deal with the inherent conflict of the sports journalists who are so offended by the current system.

Am I blind to the fact that schools sometimes take advantage of athletes that have brought honor to their school? No—the stories, alleged or not, of Ohio State’s treatment of Jesse Owens have always deeply bothered me. A little conscience and consideration go a long way and I support any journalist who is trying to bring any amount to the world of sports. For that reason I have some sympathy for the unionization efforts at Northwestern (I would have more if I thought our nation’s labor laws actually foster a constructive environment, but too often the result seems to be more focused on the rights of labor leaders and not on the expansion of opportunity).

But my point is that of the hundreds of thousands of collegiate athletes who participate annually, as the commercial says, only a very few will go pro in their sport. The vast majority are people like me who had the opportunity to compete in collegiate athletics, who witnessed how vital all sports are to a college campus, who feel they received a lifetime of benefit from that participation and who in fact were students who depended and will to depend on their career as students to provide for them over the huge expanse of life to be traversed after hanging up the cleats—or singlets.

What people like Wetzel really are decrying is the lack of opportunity below the level of our highest sports leagues. There are very few football “minor” leagues and for those that exist, hardly anyone watches and no meaningful money can be made—let’s just guess it might be what–$200 per game? I am just going to hazard a guess that of the 10,000 or so Division I football players each year, maybe 5 or 6, or some very small number like that could go directly into the NFL from high school. Without a college campus, where would the others go? I would guess they would fight for a few spots in the minor leagues. I would guess the minor leagues would become a little more successful, but much beyond, for example, what minor league baseball players enjoy?

The vast majority of collegiate football players never make it to the NFL and those who do labor in a difficult world and often wash out after a few years. The rest would be consigned to the obscurity of the minor leagues but for college football. Collegiate football players—largely being of minor league quality for much of their collegiate career—become celebrated heroes not for their athletic prowess in isolation. Rather, their talent gets a stage provided solely by a university that alumni and the entire community embraces and supports. The entire university is connected by a long and common experience and identity that is a community asset, not a club owned by an owner. A university is a vast interconnection owned by all and embraced by many.

It is that connection that celebrates the talents of a young man or woman who chooses to become part of the community—if he and his or her colleagues were to go compete with and against each other in a minor league system they would receive no more notice than a talented guy like Matt Barnes receives when he plays summer basketball with other NBA players in the San Francisco rec center on the Kezar Stadium football grounds.
So when you compare the value of a four year full paid scholarship (which I never got and which Logan Stieber is very grateful for—as Wetzel noted, schools are only allowed ten 9.9 equivalent wrestling scholarships for a team that has 30 or more wrestlers) to $200 per game, the financial reward to nearly all collegiate football players is not only a handsome payoff, it results in an education to carry them well past the three year NFL playing career average of those fortunate to make it to the League. And while we are at it—just what do you think the health care commitment of a minor league system would be? How do you suppose the training and safety equipment of a minor league team would be compared to a major college football program? Again, this community “abusing” athletes seems to be providing resources, assets and opportunities that far outweigh those that would be otherwise available to the vast majority of even the elite of college football.

And there is one more point. Even for the small numbers of football and basketball players who can achieve NBA or NFL status—they need a place to get ready. Just as only a few collegiate English majors can achieve a common “ultimate” goal of teaching in a university English department, those that can achieve professional sports status learn their craft in the same old university tradition—working their butts off in their chosen lab. Who has sympathy for the vast majority of English grads who labor countless hours studying only to end up working in an unrelated field having gotten nothing from their studies but broader life lessons? How is it much different from the committed football and basketball stars at both ends of the spectrum—except that English majors have no hope of the four year-long interview platform that big time collegiate sports offers to students and prospective employers.

So when you add it all up—the rewards of a scholarship, a place to live, food to eat, a facility and program to teach you what you came to learn, and the platform on which to achieve and become known for long after you are done playing—who really is taking advantage of whom?
Yes, I am sure you could legislate drastic reductions in the salaries paid to Gene Smith even though he has to oversee dozens of programs, hundreds of employees and hundreds of millions of dollars of plant and equipment. I am sure you could wipe out lavish dinners, drinks and perks leaking out of the college bowl system. You could squeeze every villainous fat cat you can get your hands on. We are in an Occupy world where there is a belief that you somehow can enrich the downtrodden by slicing up the people at the top.

The truth is, the end result would be to greatly diminish an asset we all cherish and benefit from that goes way past the few hours a year we spend in front of the TV watching our favorite college football team. We could do all that only to really punish the great number of athletes who survive on much less so that we can give it to a very few who already enjoy a pretty good deal relative to what they could accomplish by never setting foot in a classroom.

At that summer job I referred to, I cut grass and did maintenance for the Westerville Parks and Recreation Department. My boss was a middle aged guy named Dale DeBolt. In the mid-fifties, Dale had been offered a full football scholarship to the University of Wisconsin, but instead he “went pro”—i.e., joined the Navy. Forever acknowledging his mistake he longed for what would have been his had he embraced the opportunity to earn a degree and escape the drudgery of overseeing college students with futures that only added to his inner torture. Dale would have had hardly any more chance of playing at a pro sports level than the vast majority of other Division 1 football players—but he would have had a life he could have been proud of rather than the one I saw him struggle with.

I am just going to guess that Dan Wetzel has never talked with Logan Stieber, while Gene Smith has on many occasions. I am also going to state that while it is nice Dan Wetzel can notice how far at the bottom of the food chain wrestling, baseball, soccer and similar programs are compared to basketball and football, his “critical thinking” either has not extended to the ramifications to those programs, a campus or the mission of a university, or he simply does not care—and why should he—writing about wrestlers is not going to improve the quality of the car he drives. But Logan knows that Gene Smith went out of his way to ensure a new state of the art wrestling facility is put into the near term university plan, a facility that whether Dan Wetzel wants to embrace it or not, will benefit honest to God student athletes.

Dan Wetzel could embrace the power of a world where opportunity is there for the taking. Rather, he chooses to fire away with the pen of hypocrisy at the very people fighting to preserve that opportunity.

So at the end of it all, when Dan Wetzel writes a stacked piece about a program he shows little regard for without bothering to even express the views of his subject, then I ask, who really is the one taking advantage of Logan Stieber?

College Sports: Where Students Pay for Yahoo Play

Recently Ohio State athletics was thrust into the collegiate pay for play debate in a deliciously ironic way. Shortly after Ohio State’s Logan Stieber won his third NCAA wrestling title, sports writer Dan Wetzel gained his usual amount of national recognition by noting that Stieber’s efforts, for which he is not paid, triggered an $18,000 contractual bonus to Ohio State’s Athletic Director Gene Smith.

Dan Wetzel is at least two things: a sports journalist for Yahoo! Sports and a clear advocate for drastic change in the collegiate athletic model. Right on cue, he made his points that collegiate amateur status is a difference without distinction. The Smith payment not only dramatizes his point that college athletics is a professional enterprise (one feels he can only barely hold back from also calling it a criminal enterprise), but it shows, in Wetzel’s fantasy, a gross hypocrisy of the current state of affairs by rewarding a fat cat like Smith who, no doubt in Wetzel’s mind, sat on his couch drinking a rum and coke while the (literally) starving wrestler beat up an overmatched Devin Carter of Virginia Tech (after also demolishing wrestlers from Missouri, Oklahoma State, Harvard and Penn State).

Wetzel, presumably a nice and likable guy with some real talent, often asks for critical thought on the larger subject (a point I find ironic given that after asking him to do exactly that a year or so ago, I started receiving trolling tweets from Yahoo!’s mini-lawyer legal “specialist”—who, while representing Yahoo! has a history of trolling and badgering people on Twitter— mocking my professional credentials and hitting me with some form of humorous seventh grade political economic babble). Unfortunately Wetzel offers up little of his own critical thought though you can understand why. I applauded Wetzel for diving into the Penn State and Steubenville dramas, but you will never see a guy like Wetzel actually breaking such stories (for example, it has been my understanding the Penn State story was busted open by a female journalist who does not cover sports).

Sports journalists who need to make a living to pay for their family’s well-being have one primary need—access to athletes. Yes, coaches, administrators, referees, fans are all important. But what gives a guy like Wetzel the cache and insider importance is access to athletes. No matter where you look in sports journalism that is the one common thread. Yes, Wetzel can jump on Aaron Hernandez and Jerry Sandusky after the court system has caught them in their midst and made them dead to a sports journalist, and of course Wetzel can go after a high school football program that would otherwise be completely below the sphere of influence that puts bread on his table (or in the case of Yahoo!’s paralegal—fast cars—how is that for a cliché?).

But a guy like Wetzel would never survive with the reputation of an investigative journalist looking to expose the unknown acts of bad athletes or coaches. Athletes are mostly like any other large group of people—there are the very good and the very bad people, even if it just might be that the athlete population might have a little more than its share of bad guys. No, Wetzel’s job is to bring sports to the public but to do that he has to have the trust of athletes. Not only is he not going to be looking for dirt, one has to believe he is going to actively support their attitudes toward the sports world.

But the texture is even more delicious. Do you think Wetzel cares about a wrestler—even as great a wrestler as Logan Stieber? I saw no indication Wetzel even bothered to talk to Stieber before he wrote his piece. Wetzel writes what, 100, 200 articles a year? How many are on college wrestling? How much aligned do you suppose Wetzel is to the views of a Logan Stieber? In his original piece, did Wetzel know or even care that Stieber is thankful for the opportunity he has—to compete on a great stage for a great university and to receive a great education, and that he is thankful to Gene Smith for making that happen?

Probably not. The Logan Stieber story is an uncomfortable truth in the Wetzel narrative. Perhaps Wetzel is from the school of socio-political school of thought that there is always more money—that vast resources can be taken from one outlet and be replaced—perhaps from the StubHub money/ticket tree. If the Wetzel fantasy were to become reality, large collective sums would be taken from those who “use” and are enriched from collegiate football players and given to abused football and basketball players who in Wetzel’s world “earn” the money.
In reality, that money would be taken, not from Gene Smith or the NCAA (well money might in fact be taken, but not enough to fulfil the fantasy). No, the money would be taken from the athletic budgets of the very rich athletic programs of Ohio State. It would also be taken from the nearly poor programs like the University of Maryland—in such bad shape financially it had to abandon the ACC where it was a charter member. How do you think programs such as wrestling, baseball, soccer, etc. will fare after such a wealth transfer? But wait, it gets worse.

There is a thing called Title IX. I suspect this is a complicated matter but the basic premise of Title IX is to create a certain parity in financial commitment to men’s and women’s athletic opportunities. It is kind of hard to imagine there could be a new transfer of sums to even one men’s program without a similar increase for women’s sports. So the carnage to other men’s programs practically doubles. Maybe an Ohio State could survive, maybe not. But what about poor Northwestern, Purdue, Minnesota, Cal, Bowling Green, etc? In the future could a Virginia Tech maintain a program so that a future Devin Carter could go face to face with the future Logan Stieber?
Wrestlers who follow in the footsteps of Logan Stieber may in fact be able to compete for an NCAA title in the world hoped for by Dan Wetzel, but the number of competitors might dwindle to what—5? Twelve?

Do I have concern for the victims in Dan Wetzel’s narrative? Of course I do. If one comes from a poor background—as I did—s/he may well suffer the anguish and uncertainty that I did when my father apologized that he could not give me the money I needed in addition to my summer earnings to close the gap of the cost of education as an athlete not on scholarship. Would I support compassionate need based-stipends to bridge the gap? Of course I would, but you still have the question of where does the money come from, who would get hurt and how do you avoid creating a chasm between programs that can afford and those that cannot?

Should the NCAA institute its own compassionate program funded by a tax on coaching salaries such that those who benefit the most financially from the system provide the bridge over the gap for those that struggle the most under the current system? But is that all we are really talking about? Maybe the NCAA could permit high profile athletes to sign endorsement deals that would require significant allocations to such a fund. What would the Title IX implications of any such funding efforts?

While we are talking about someone’s fantasy, how about embracing one of mine—that the pool of fatcats who make a living off the athletes—journalists from say Yahoo!—pay for their access by contributing to the fund that can be used to ease their pain. Gene Smith is hired in part because of his participation in the world of sports. But he is also asked to employ the tools of the CEO of an enterprise vastly more complex than most companies. If anyone is a professional in sports here and if anyone with little other portfolio is making money off the efforts of college football and basketball players—it is Dan Wetzel. Let’s be fair—ask him to open his accounts and what he makes off sports, and then compare it to the complexity of his duties. Strictly fantasy of course, but if he wanted to be totally pure on this issue, he should deal with the inherent conflict of the sports journalists who are so offended by the current system.

Am I blind to the fact that schools sometimes take advantage of athletes that have brought honor to their school? No—the stories, alleged or not, of Ohio State’s treatment of Jesse Owens have always deeply bothered me. A little conscience and consideration go a long way and I support any journalist who is trying to bring any amount to the world of sports. For that reason I have some sympathy for the unionization efforts at Northwestern (I would have more if I thought our nation’s labor laws actually foster a constructive environment, but too often the result seems to be more focused on the rights of labor leaders and not on the expansion of opportunity).

But my point is that of the hundreds of thousands of collegiate athletes who participate annually, as the commercial says, only a very few will go pro in their sport. The vast majority are people like me who had the opportunity to compete in collegiate athletics, who witnessed how vital all sports are to a college campus, who feel they received a lifetime of benefit from that participation and who in fact were students who depended and will to depend on their career as students to provide for them over the huge expanse of life to be traversed after hanging up the cleats—or singlets.

What people like Wetzel really are decrying is the lack of opportunity below the level of our highest sports leagues. There are very few football “minor” leagues and for those that exist, hardly anyone watches and no meaningful money can be made—let’s just guess it might be what–$200 per game? I am just going to hazard a guess that of the 10,000 or so Division I football players each year, maybe 5 or 6, or some very small number like that could go directly into the NFL from high school. Without a college campus, where would the others go? I would guess they would fight for a few spots in the minor leagues. I would guess the minor leagues would become a little more successful, but much beyond, for example, what minor league baseball players enjoy?

The vast majority of collegiate football players never make it to the NFL and those who do labor in a difficult world and often wash out after a few years. The rest would be consigned to the obscurity of the minor leagues but for college football. Collegiate football players—largely being of minor league quality for much of their collegiate career—become celebrated heroes not for their athletic prowess in isolation. Rather, their talent gets a stage provided solely by a university that alumni and the entire community embraces and supports. The entire university is connected by a long and common experience and identity that is a community asset, not a club owned by an owner. A university is a vast interconnection owned by all and embraced by many.

It is that connection that celebrates the talents of a young man or woman who chooses to become part of the community—if he and his or her colleagues were to go compete with and against each other in a minor league system they would receive no more notice than a talented guy like Matt Barnes receives when he plays summer basketball with other NBA players in the San Francisco rec center on the Kezar Stadium football grounds.
So when you compare the value of a four year full paid scholarship (which I never got and which Logan Stieber is very grateful for—as Wetzel noted, schools are only allowed ten 9.9 equivalent wrestling scholarships for a team that has 30 or more wrestlers) to $200 per game, the financial reward to nearly all collegiate football players is not only a handsome payoff, it results in an education to carry them well past the three year NFL playing career average of those fortunate to make it to the League. And while we are at it—just what do you think the health care commitment of a minor league system would be? How do you suppose the training and safety equipment of a minor league team would be compared to a major college football program? Again, this community “abusing” athletes seems to be providing resources, assets and opportunities that far outweigh those that would be otherwise available to the vast majority of even the elite of college football.

And there is one more point. Even for the small numbers of football and basketball players who can achieve NBA or NFL status—they need a place to get ready. Just as only a few collegiate English majors can achieve a common “ultimate” goal of teaching in a university English department, those that can achieve professional sports status learn their craft in the same old university tradition—working their butts off in their chosen lab. Who has sympathy for the vast majority of English grads who labor countless hours studying only to end up working in an unrelated field having gotten nothing from their studies but broader life lessons? How is it much different from the committed football and basketball stars at both ends of the spectrum—except that English majors have no hope of the four year-long interview platform that big time collegiate sports offers to students and prospective employers.

So when you add it all up—the rewards of a scholarship, a place to live, food to eat, a facility and program to teach you what you came to learn, and the platform on which to achieve and become known for long after you are done playing—who really is taking advantage of whom?
Yes, I am sure you could legislate drastic reductions in the salaries paid to Gene Smith even though he has to oversee dozens of programs, hundreds of employees and hundreds of millions of dollars of plant and equipment. I am sure you could wipe out lavish dinners, drinks and perks leaking out of the college bowl system. You could squeeze every villainous fat cat you can get your hands on. We are in an Occupy world where there is a belief that you somehow can enrich the downtrodden by slicing up the people at the top.

The truth is, the end result would be to greatly diminish an asset we all cherish and benefit from that goes way past the few hours a year we spend in front of the TV watching our favorite college football team. We could do all that only to really punish the great number of athletes who survive on much less so that we can give it to a very few who already enjoy a pretty good deal relative to what they could accomplish by never setting foot in a classroom.

At that summer job I referred to, I cut grass and did maintenance for the Westerville Parks and Recreation Department. My boss was a middle aged guy named Dale DeBolt. In the mid-fifties, Dale had been offered a full football scholarship to the University of Wisconsin, but instead he “went pro”—i.e., joined the Navy. Forever acknowledging his mistake he longed for what would have been his had he embraced the opportunity to earn a degree and escape the drudgery of overseeing college students with futures that only added to his inner torture. Dale would have had hardly any more chance of playing at a pro sports level than the vast majority of other Division 1 football players—but he would have had a life he could have been proud of rather than the one I saw him struggle with.

I am just going to guess that Dan Wetzel has never talked with Logan Stieber, while Gene Smith has on many occasions. I am also going to state that while it is nice Dan Wetzel can notice how far at the bottom of the food chain wrestling, baseball, soccer and similar programs are compared to basketball and football, his “critical thinking” either has not extended to the ramifications to those programs, a campus or the mission of a university, or he simply does not care—and why should he—writing about wrestlers is not going to improve the quality of the car he drives. But Logan knows that Gene Smith went out of his way to ensure a new state of the art wrestling facility is put into the near term university plan, a facility that whether Dan Wetzel wants to embrace it or not, will benefit honest to God student athletes.

Dan Wetzel could embrace the power of a world where opportunity is there for the taking. Rather, he chooses to fire away with the pen of hypocrisy at the very people fighting to preserve that opportunity.

So at the end of it all, when Dan Wetzel writes a stacked piece about a program he shows little regard for without bothering to even express the views of his subject, then I ask, who really is the one taking advantage of Logan Stieber?