The people's court
Michigan-Ohio State rivalry carries over to issues of off-field justice
Posted: Tuesday August 26, 2003 11:36AM; Updated: Tuesday August 26, 2003 2:39PM
Everyone loves some good smack talk, especially when it's coming from opposing sides of a great college football rivalry.
Unfortunately, in the case of Ohio State and Michigan fans, their jabbing takes on an unusual tone this week. Gone are the traditional barbs like "you stink" and "we own you." Replacing them are such lovely phrases as "extra benefits," "misdemeanor assault" and "multiple-game suspension."
What do you think of Lloyd Carr suspending Marlin Jackson for only one game for punching a student in the eye? Seems like Maurice Clarett is getting punished more severely than Jackson for a nonviolent offense. Well, that's Michigan. They're soft on players who commit crime.
How do you rank Jim Tressel's dealings with Clarett against how Lloyd Carr has handled Marlin Jackson? Does one coach come out on top with more integrity?
Oh, this is rich. While I can understand why people like these two and the many others who e-mailed the same sentiments would be inclined to draw a comparison, the misunderstandings are almost too many to mention.
First of all, to suggest that Tressel is taking some sort of moral high ground regarding Clarett is comical. Does anyone really think he would have voluntarily suspended his best player had the NCAA not gotten involved? Of course not.
Secondly, the severity of the crimes has nothing to do with the respective lengths of the players' suspensions. Jurisdiction does.
The NCAA is involved in the Clarett situation because it involves NCAA violations -- mainly, accepting extra benefits, a cardinal no-no to the suits in Indy. However, punching a guy at a party, to which Jackson plea-bargained, is a matter for the courts, not the NCAA. Of course, the player's coach has the discretion to hand out any extra punishment he deems fit. To that end, I do find it a tad strange that Carr was ready to kick Jackson off the team if it was proven, as was originally accused, that he hit the guy with a bottle, but that using his fist somehow lessened it by 11 games.
So to sum up, whether or not you think Michigan was too lenient with Jackson, I wouldn't go using it as ammo that Ohio State is somehow more serious about discipline. For one, we've yet to learn the results of the school's academic inquiry, which, if there proves to be substance, would be a far worse indictment of the program than a player falsifying a police report.
And for another, I guarantee you that if the roles were reversed and the Buckeyes were dealing with Jackson's situation instead of Clarett's, he'd be returning to the field a lot sooner than Oct. 18.
What is the writers' take on Fresno State this year? I've seen them ranked as high as 20th, and as low as 43rd. Their schedule is loaded this year (Tennessee, Oklahoma, Oregon State and Colorado State) and although they are unlikely to come away with a sweep, the Bulldogs aren't ranked high enough for that automatic BCS berth in the likely event that they go .500 or better vs. those teams. I'm not claiming East Coast bias on this one, but more of a mid-major, weaker conference BCS blacklist.
You're right, in fact I just got back from the annual meeting in New York where I and the other writers decide on our blacklist for this season. We decided on Fresno State because we don't like Pat Hill's mustache, Boise State because of its blue turf and Tulane because its president has been stirring up the pot too much lately. No matter how many games these teams win, we've agreed they will never go higher than 19th in the polls.
Seriously, though, as strong as that non-conference schedule is, the Bulldogs still play more than half their games against Louisiana Tech, Portland State, Rice, SMU, Nevada, San Jose State and UTEP. You can't rationally argue that going 11-2 against that schedule would merit getting a BCS bowl spot over an 11-2 team from the SEC or Big 12 team. However, I still contend that if that 2001 team had managed to run the table, it would have easily finished in the top six, and if by some miracle they pull it off this year, with that schedule, I don't know that the Sugar Bowl won't be in the cards.
If Frank Solich wins only seven games this year, is he selling insurance next year?
I don't think there's any question he'd lose his current job, but I don't see laid-back Frank as the salesman type -- which, not coincidentally, may explain his current predicament. Maybe something more representative of his current position. Like overseeing an antiques store. Or working for one of those construction companies that does massive implosions.
Don't you think you should add Tulane's J.P. Losman to your top College QBs list?
Not that any of the guys who did make the list aren't deserving, but yes, in retrospect, I wish I'd found a spot for Losman. The guy's got an absolutely fantastic arm and, barring injury, should be one of the first quarterbacks taken in next spring's NFL Draft. When combined with Mewelde Moore and a couple skilled receivers, you can see why the Green Wave might be one of the surprise teams this season, perhaps winning nine or 10 games. Not bad for a school that just months earlier was considering dropping football.
Why can't Colorado recruit a quarterback? I know the Buffs prefer to run, but someone who can throw must be available.
Ah, but Jon, that's a Gary Barnett hallmark. In 12 years as a major college head coach, Barnett has never had a quarterback who's gotten even a sniff from the NFL (though there's no way of knowing whether Craig Ochs might have become that guy). He prefers an old-school, smash-mouth team, which isn't the worst thing in the world. Last year's Buffs won nine games and the Big 12 North with almost no contribution from the quarterback position.
But I also don't think it's a coincidence that his two best seasons, Northwestern's 1995 Rose Bowl run and the 2001 Fiesta Bowl year at Colorado, featured not only dominant running games but a legitimate passing attack as well. I'll be very curious to see what kind of role Joel Klatt, the former baseball player recently tabbed the Buffs' starter, plays this season.
So what's your take on Oregon's QB situation?
I haven't been there in practice every day, so it's hard for me to say who should get the job between Jason Fife and Kellen Clemens. I just wish Mike Bellotti would pick one already. The worst thing you can do is let this "controversy," which was already starting to rear its head last year, carry over into a second season. It becomes a major distraction, and, fair or not, it gives the impression to the players, fans and even opponents that you don't really have faith in either.
Does Baylor have a future in the Big 12? The football team has gone 4-52 in conference games since the league's inception. And now the Dave Bliss saga will handicap the basketball program. Will the conference conclude that the Bears are in over their heads?
Power brokers within the Big 12 continue to insist they haven't even discussed the possibility of dismissing Baylor. Wins and losses are never the main criteria for conference membership. Ask Vanderbilt.
But you've got to think they might start revisiting their stance once the NCAA has its say on the Bliss situation. Word on the street is that Baylor could be in for the harshest sanctions anyone's seen since SMU, especially if it can be proven that the problems transcended the basketball program and showed the dreaded "lack of institutional control." In that event, if you're talking about a situation where Baylor isn't able to contribute anything in the way of postseason or television revenue for the next several years, then the Big 12 has to take a hard look at cutting ties a la the Big East with Temple.
Stewart Mandel covers college sports for SI.com.