It is possible that the celebratory bonfires have already started in Ann Arbor, Madison, Evanston and maybe even South Bend, Indiana. I can see it now, a pile of scarlet and grey sweater vests crumpled and stacked over a pile of flaming tinder. Some will sound the death knell for Ohio State hoping to end its relative dominance of college football in the Midwest and much of the country.
If you've got your torch lit you will find, however, as your Buckeye friends will tell you, that Ohio State Football doesn't go up in smoke very easily. Certainly the Horseshoe is feeling empty today but I don't think Buckeye fans are overly worried. Just sad.
Those who follow college football and sports overall know that yesterday, on Memorial Day, it was announced that Jim Tressel had resigned as coach of Ohio State's football program after being at the helm for a decade. Tressel coached from 2001 to the present, leading the Buckeyes to a national championship in 2002, with title runs yearly. Meanwhile OSU pumped out six consecutive ten win seasons, dominating the Big Ten from 2005 to now. Jim Tressel and his staff can definitely be credited for re-seating Ohio State among the elite in American football.
Tressel's resignation comes on the back end of a burgeoning mini-scandal, coming from allegations that current and former players hocked championship regalia --rings, awards, and other items--presumably to collectors for services and sums of cash.
First off, as a fan of Ohio State, I'm not going to minimize what the players did to get the Buckeye establishment in hot water. Some of the scandal has been dealt with, but I'd expect more suspensions of players, a loss of scholarships, and other actions that could hurt the program, even if temporarily.
And I know I won't be the first to say that for players at a top school to pawn football memorabilia for tattoos and pocket change is not only unsportsmanlike, but pretty damn low-rent.
Supposedly, where Tressel really went wrong was not reporting violations properly when he got wind of them. Who knows whether coach was trying to "protect the kids" as one Buckeye alumni group suggests, or whether it was just the thought that what's done is done and let's move on.
Sure, the haters will pounce. Some armchair pundits I heard yesterday have already mentioned Maurice Clarett, Ohio State's once talented but ill-tempered walking behavioral problem from several years ago, throwing him into the conversation. I suspect the point of digging skeletons out of the Buckeyes' closet is to paint Ohio State as some sort of corporate behemoth of corruption, implying that Tressel was nothing more than OSU's version of the evil Mr. Burns.
Keeping it in perspective, however, I'd say worse things have happened in college football.
Four years ago The University of Colorado settled a string of sexual assault allegations with a payout of $2.8 Million, reportedly paid in part by state funds. No criminal charges were fully followed through, even though CU's program had a reputation for recruiting prospective players by pitching the scene as a place to sow their oats and go wild. CU's football program and the university have handled plenty of sexual assault allegations going back almost 20 years.
In the same vein, scandal came to Notre Dame after the suicide of a girl who was allegedly raped by a Notre Dame Football player. The girl did, as it was reported, take her own life only a few days after the allegation and suffered from depression. Still, in the old Catholic archdiocese tradition of sweeping it under all the rug, Notre Dame handled the blemish to Touchdown Jesus and the school's reputation by sitting on their hands, hoping it would all just go away.
Feel free to send me hate mail on this if you wish. I grew up Catholic and was an altar boy, and I'm as bothered by Notre Dame's chicken handling of the matter probably as much as their best fans are. Yet, no matter who you support as a fan or an alum, it is reasonable to expect more from our players, coaches and institutions.
Players fail at living up to our expectations of conduct, and even storied coaches and institutions fail again and again. Yet the only thing that remains strong and true 100% of the time is the fans and their love of and commitment to sport.
What is important to remember for Big Ten football fans is that ultimately it is them that make college football in the Midwest great, and that their fervor makes the college football games a thrilling experience. It's fair to say that the Buckeye Nation remains secure enough in their fandom not only to take it to the grave, but to keep the Big Ten alive and trembling, no matter who coaches next season.
Andy Frye writes about sports and life here and shoots his mouth off all day on Twitter at @MySportsComplex.
The Simpsons character, Mr Burns depicted courtesy of Fox was found (ironically) at BuckeyePlanet.com