For a game in late September, the stakes couldn’t be much higher for Ohio State and Wisconsin. The Buckeyes are riding a nation’s best 16-game winning streak and positioning itself for a return to the BCS title game stage; the Badgers, aside from one controversial loss, is taking on the look of a team poised for a third consecutive trip to the Big Ten championship game.
Add in a primetime kickoff and 100 thousand-plus fans in the Horseshoe in Columbus, it should make for an electric college football atmosphere.
The Buckeyes, though, decided to add to that big-game atmosphere by inviting the best basketball player on the planet as its guest.
LeBron James, born in Akron and a dyed-in-the-wool Ohio State fan, will be on the OSU sidelines Saturday night at the request of head coach Urban Meyer. While he won’t give a pregame speech as previously reported, Meyer is still ecstatic that a player he tried to recruit while on the coaching staff at Notre Dame — James was an all-state wide receiver in high school — will be at the Columbus stadium for what’s easily his team’s biggest game of the season thus far.
“Give me all kinds of LeBrons,” Meyer said. “You just see the way he articulates, his look, the way he treats people, the focus. We use him in those leadership meetings we use, those videos, his face is plastered all over them. First of all, our guys all admire him. And the head coach really admires him.”
James’ connection to Ohio State runs deep. If he had not decided to go straight from high school as the No. 1 overall pick of the 2003 NBA draft, he likely would’ve played basketball for the Buckeyes. Earlier this year, James was given a locker in OSU’s hoops locker room.
(Photo credit: Ohio State athletics)
There’s a sizable sliver of a silver lining involving the health of Florida’s most productive defensive lineman.
Earlier this week, it was reported that Cece Jefferson would be sidelined for four months after undergoing surgery on his right shoulder earlier this week; such a timeline would’ve had the lineman out until the middle of August, after summer camp had started. Thursday, however, brought word that Jefferson is instead expected to be recovered in time for the start of camp in early August.
It should be noted that, as of yet, the football program has not publicly addressed Jefferson’s status moving forward.
Jefferson was a consensus five-star prospect, rated as the No. 2 strongside defensive end in the Class of 2015; the No. 4 player at any position in the state of Florida; and the No. 7 player overall on 247Sports.com’s composite board.
This past season, Jefferson led the Gators with 13.5 tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks. After considering early entry into the 2018 NFL draft, the 6-1, 242-pound lineman opted to return to Gainesville for one more season.
Not surprisingly, the memorials are pouring in for the passing of a College Football Hall of Famer.
Friday morning, the four daughters released a statement through Ohio State announcing that their father, former Buckeyes head coach Earle Bruce, had passed away at the age of 87. Shortly thereafter, OSU released a statement from its current head football coach on the man who had battled Alzheimer’s for years.
“I’ve made it clear many times that, other than my father, Coach Bruce was the most influential man in my life,” Urban Meyer said. “Every significant decision I’ve made growing up in this profession was with him involved in it. His wife [Jean] and he were the role models for Shelley and me. They did everything with class. He was not afraid to show how much he loved his family and cared for his family.”
Others expressing their condolences included Jim Harbaugh of rival Michigan as well as Iowa State, where Bruce was the head coach from 1973-78 before taking over in Columbus in 1979, and the Cyclones’ current coach for good measure.
Koda Martin‘s collegiate playing career has taken a familial turn.
On his personal Twitter account Thursday night, the offensive lineman announced that he would be transferring from Texas A&M. Not only that, but Martin confirmed that he already has a new college football home — Syracuse.
Martin’s dad, Kirk Martin, was named as the quarterbacks coach at Syracuse earlier this year. Last summer, Koda Martin married Jazzmin Babers, who happens to be the daughter of Orange head coach Dino Babers.
Whether it’s coincidence or not, Martin’s move from College Station comes two weeks after a heat stroke he suffered during an Aggies spring practice session left him near death according to a social media post from his father.
As Martin will graduate from A&M in May, he’ll be eligible to play for the Orange in 2017. The upcoming season will be the lineman’s final year of eligibility.
Martin had started 14 games for the Aggies the past two seasons, including 10 last season as a redshirt junior.
Colorado State’s athletic department coffers will be a little more full thanks to one development this week.
CSU announced Thursday a 15-year agreement with Public Service Credit Union for the naming rights to the university’s year-old football stadium. The long-term agreement will result in the school being paid $37.7 million over the life of the deal. Per the school, “annual escalator clauses for inflation, as well as a signing bonus,” are also included in the agreement.
The on-campus stadium opened in July of last year at a cost of $225 million, with the first game played in August of 2017.
“This is a partnership that makes so much sense for our university community and for Public Service Credit Union, and we’re thrilled to announce this new agreement,” said CSU president Tony Frank in a statement. “Our stadium will carry the name of a Colorado-based business that shares our commitment to creating opportunity and opening doors for people at all income levels. Our mission and our values as a university align so well with those of PCSU, and the investment by the credit union and its members in our campus and programs will bring great visibility to how much they accomplish as a visionary community partner.”
According to the school’s release, the new naming rights deal, when combined with the field naming rights deal previously announced, actually compares reasonably well with some of the agreements reached by Power Five programs.
The agreement, which when added to the $20 million given in 2016 to name Sonny Lubick Field, brings the total naming rights revenues at Colorado State to $57 million for the stadium. This is comparable to the recently announced $69 million United Airlines Memorial Coliseum at University of Southern California and the $41 million Alaska Airlines Field at Husky Stadium at the University of Washington.
Interestingly, Lubick, the legendary former Rams head football coach, currently serves as the vice president of community outreach for the credit union.