Tressel still has supporters, including his boss

53 Comments

There are many people — yes, looking at you Mike Bianchi, Beano Cook — who have been very open with their feelings that they don’t think Jim Tressel will last as Ohio State’s head coach beyond the 2011 season.  Some, including Buckeyes legend Chris Spielman, question whether or not the beleaguered/embattled coach will be on the sidelines at all in 2011.

Given the track record his attorney hopes will help see him through the troubled NCAA waters he’s currently traversing, however, Tressel is not without his supporters both inside and outside the football program.

Most importantly and above all else, Tressel still appears to have the backing of OSU athletic director Gene Smith.

Oh, definitely, no question,” Smith said when asked at the Big Ten meetings in Chicago if he still supported his football coach. “I haven’t changed, I haven’t changed. But I’m not talking about the case beyond that.”

Smith’s not alone.  While his opinion doesn’t really matter in the grand scheme of things, Nebraska athletic director Tom Osborne was effusive in his praise of Tressel.

“I know Jim quite well and I knew him back in Youngstown [State, where Tressel coached before OSU],” Nebraska athletics director Tom Osborne said during a recent visit to Cedar Rapids. “My impressions of Jim are No. 1, he’s a very sound football man. He’s very good and knows what he’s doing.

“He’s a very principled man, which has got to be very painful to have your integrity called into question when, basically, that’s the way you’ve lived your life. So, what all happened, why he did what he did, I don’t know. But I do know I would trust the guy.

“I don’t think he’s someone who’d deliberately cheat or try to buy a player. He would never do that. I hope he does [survive the current turmoil], because I think the sport will be diminished without him.”

Not to pick nits with the classy Osborne, Tressel’s not accused of deliberately cheating or trying to buy a player, unless you consider covering up violations committed by a handful of his players to be the former.

Be that as it may, and as noted by Marc Morehouse in his solid “Tressel = Elephant in the room” piece for the Cedar Rapids Gazette, some of those in attendance would prefer to let others speak on Ohio State’s “situation”.

“You need to talk to Ohio State about that,” Wisconsin athletics director Barry Alvarez said. “I’m not going there. I’m not going there.”

Even as some won’t go there, Tressel still has his supporters.  For that, the coach is grateful.

“Coaches are great, they understand all of the challenges everyone has, just as you peers understand yours,” Tressel said during brief remarks to the media.

As for Tressel’s future, the coach will begin parallel preparations over the next couple of months — one for getting his team prepared for a 2011 season in which he will be suspended for the first five games, another for his legal team to prepare his defense in front of the NCAA Aug. 12.

As has previously been reported, Tressel has retained the services of Gene Marsh to represent him when he appears before the NCAA.  Marsh was a member of the NCAA’s infractions committee for nine years, including two as its chairman, before specializing in compliance issues as an attorney for the Alabama law firm of Lightfoot, Franklin & White.

As he continues to make the interview rounds in support of his newest client in a talk with the Columbus Dispatch, Marsh chastised the media for, unlike his contemporaries in the Big Ten, piling on the poor coach.

“This case has had no small amount of incredible piling on by media who otherwise – their sole credential is blankety-blank dot-com,” Marsh said. “All is fair in love and war, and people are free to write what they want. But it’s almost as if some people think if they write one more article, it will be the straw that broke the camel’s back.”

That’s not the way it plays out in the room, Marsh said.

“This is a serious matter with serious people involved,” Marsh said. “They are not going to get all jazzed up or get their head turned by some dot-com writer somewhere.”

Of course, Marsh is absolutely correct.  The NCAA is not going to get all jazzed up over the media pile-driving Tressel’s battered and bleeding coaching body.  What they might get all jazzed up about, though, is… oh, I don’t know… the head coach of a Div. 1-A football program lying to them and covering up violations.  S0mething along those lines, in that neighborhood.

Instead of worrying about how the media’s playing their own version of the blame-and-sanction game, Marsh needs to be concerned about his client’s future, one that may or may not include a show-cause.

And regardless of how much public support he gets from his contemporaries.

Jim McElwain hints at playing three quarterbacks vs. Michigan

Getty Images
5 Comments

Considering his opponent won’t so much as release a simple roster, there’s no reason whatsoever for Florida head coach Jim McElwain to say anything of consequence.

Still, it sounds as if No. 17 Florida may play all three of its quarterbacks next Saturday against No. 11 Michigan (3:30 p.m. ET, ABC).

“You’re going to see a bunch of them in there playing. The three guys have done a really good job. Not naming a starter right now,” McElwain said. “I think that there’s some things that they all bring to the table that are really good. Now the key to us is putting them in those positions that play to their strengths.

“Will all of them play? I don’t know yet. Will a couple of them play? I don’t know yet. I know we will have somebody at the position. This is not — don’t read into this that we’re not happy where they’re at. It’s really more so the competition has really brought out some good things. It’s going to be … ultimately the guy the team moves with the best, the guys that create positive plays on third down and get the ball in the end zone [that we go with].”

The three of them, by the way, are graduate transfer Malik Zaire, junior Luke Del Rio and redshirt freshman Feleipe Franks. In a world governed by the truism of “If you have two quarterbacks you don’t have any,” it’s not exactly a good sign that none of Zaire, Del Rio or Franks have separated themselves from the others.

Zaire showed flashes but was eventually benched at Notre Dame and just arrived on campus this summer. Del Rio, a 2-time transfer before arriving at Florida, was the Gators’ starter coming out of training camp last season but fought through injuries throughout the season. And Franks is a 6-foot-5 former 5-star recruit that many thought would have grabbed the job by the horns by now.

While every team turns over from one season to the next, Florida finished 105th nationally in yards per play last season while Michigan’s defense placed second. With top playmaker Antonio Callaway serving a suspension, Florida will look to put the ball in the hands of whomever can move it, even if three of them happen to play quarterback.

Tracy Claeys discusses protests that led to his firing from Minnesota

Getty Images
2 Comments

Chances are you haven’t heard Tracy Claeys‘s name mentioned in a while. The former Minnesota interim-turned-full time head coach was let go in January and has not been picked up by a new staff in the months since.

But Minnesota released an outside report last week that defended the school’s decision to suspend 10 players amid a sexual assault investigation and pinned the subsequent team-wide threatened boycott of the Holiday Bowl on “weak leadership” of the coaching staff. The Gophers played and won that Holiday Bowl, but it wasn’t enough to save Claeys’s job.

On Wednesday, Claeys penned an essay in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune that both defended his tenure as the Golden Gophers’ head coach and admitted mistakes in a saga that would have swallowed many a head coach’s career.

Last September, I suspended five players for a reported sexual assault. When law enforcement authorities the following month declined to file any charges, the university reinstated those players. At the time, I was congratulated by our athletic director for my handling of this issue and promised that I would remain the head football coach in 2017.

But university officials soon conducted their own inquiry and in December resuspended the five players and suspended five more — again, even though prosecutors had determined there was no basis for formal charges.

Members of our Football Leadership Group and others on the team felt strongly that administration officials had overstepped their authority and that the accused players were treated unfairly and denied protection under due process. To amplify their argument and shine light on what players felt was a flawed and unjust process by the university, the team voted to boycott the Holiday Bowl.

It was a decision that moved us directly into the national spotlight. Unfortunately, some misunderstood or misinterpreted the players’ decision to boycott the Holiday Bowl. They felt that our team and coaches were condoning or downplaying sexual misconduct or assault. Nothing could have been further from the truth.

In light of this new report, are there things I would have done differently? Certainly. First and foremost, I would have remained on campus with my team and coaches rather than attend a Holiday Bowl news conference in San Diego. I’m confident that my presence would have better directed the conversation with our players and that I could have steered them toward something other than a decision to boycott the game.

 I also would have refrained from using social media to state my support of the team’s decision. This was too complex and important an issue to address in a 140-character message. It generated more questions than it answered and likely created more problems than it solved.
Claeys was 11-8 in his one and a half seasons as Minnesota’s head coach, his first head coaching job. Assuming he does not get hired in the next week and a half, the 2017 season will be Claeys’s first out of the game since launching his career as a student trainer at Kansas in the early ’90’s.

Kirk Ferentz and wife donate $1 million to Iowa children’s hospital

Getty Images
3 Comments

Kirk Ferentz may be the but of a bunch of contract-related jokes, but no one jokes about the man’s character.

And for good reason.

The University of Iowa’s Stead Family Children’s Hospital announced Wednesday that Kirk and his wife Mary have donated $1 million to create the Savvy Ferentz Program in Neonatal Research, which will aim to improve the survival rate for premature babies. The Ferentzes made the donation in honor of their granddaughter Savvy, who was born in 2014 at 22 weeks gestation.

“We knew Savvy was born too early,” Mary said in a statement. “We also knew they do extraordinary things at UI Stead Family Children’s Hospital that would give her a fighting chance. We were thankful we had that.”

The Stead Family Children’s Hospital claims higher survival rates for infants born at 24- and 25-weeks than the average U.S. hospital, and the Ferentzes hope their donation will further increase those rates.

“The University of Iowa has long been a leader in neonatal research and in providing high-level patient care, particularly to this most vulnerable population,” Iowa pediatrics professor Dr. Jeffrey L. Segar said. “This gift from the Ferentzes will help us capitalize on our strengths, advance our research, and, most important, make an impact on the lives of many Iowa children and their families, now and far into the future. We are deeply grateful for their support.”

Kirk Ferentz will begin his 19th season as Iowa’s head coach next Saturday against Wyoming (noon ET, BTN).

Texas TE Andrew Beck now out for entire 2017 season

Getty Images
Leave a comment

As it turns out, it’s much worse than originally thought for one playing member of the Texas football program.

Nearly a week ago, Andrew Beck went down during practice with what was later diagnosed to be a broken foot.  At the time, it was thought that the tight end would miss anywhere from 6-8 weeks, which would’ve put him back, at the latest, early October.

Fast-forward to Wednesday, however, and the Longhorns announced that Beck will be sidelined for the entire 2017 season because of the injury.  The senior will undergo surgery at some point this week to repair the damage.  He’s already undergone two previous foot surgeries and sat out the spring because of issues in that area.

The good news is that Beck has yet to use his redshirt season, which means he could return in 2018 as a fifth-year senior.

Beck started 13 games the past two seasons, including three in 2016.  Last season, he caught four passes for 82 yards and a pair of touchdowns.  Entering summer camp, he had been expected to be the Longhorns’ starter.

With Beck out, that onus will likely fall on Kendall Moore, a graduate transfer from Syracuse.