What USC's sanctions mean for Ohio State, plus more Mailbag
Key difference between USC, Ohio State cases: athletic department's role
Even with Charlie Weis, Florida could be in for an ugly year on offense
Big East is pursuing Villanova out of loyalty, but should be targeting UCF
Before we get to the football, thanks to the many of you who wrote in with wedding well wishes and marital advice (some of which I'll share below) in advance of the big day (May 29). A couple of people even mentioned on Twitter that we'll soon share the same anniversary. It seems there are a lot of happily married Mailbag readers -- and a few very bitter ones, too.
As for the football: Last week's Mailbag ended with a plea from reader Brad in Charlotte, N.C., to try to shift our focus back to the games on the field and away from all the controversy surrounding it. The best I could do was pledge to maintain balance. And then the latest Jim Tressel news dropped.
I'm sure the USC faithful are clogging your e-mail queue demanding that Ohio State get similar, if not greater, sanctions for the Tressel mess. Which is why I ask: Do the high-profile sanctions at other big-time programs influence the severity of NCAA discipline on similar programs? Does the NCAA have the stones to take down the Big Ten's flagship program?
-- Tom Vasich, Costa Mesa, Calif.
There are a lot of NCAA conspiracy theorists out there, and the bizarre decision last December to let Ohio State's Tattoo 5 suit up for the Sugar Bowl certainly did nothing to quell them. But it's important to remember that the NCAA staffers who make the real-time decisions to withhold or reinstate a player's eligibility are entirely different people than the university administrators who serve on the Infractions Committee and who ultimately hand out sanctions in cases like Ohio State's or USC's. The perception that committee members are afraid to go after big-name schools is pretty baseless. Over the years, we've seen them hand down severe sanctions to numerous high-profile programs -- USC, Alabama, Miami, Oklahoma -- that were contending for national titles and contributing heavily to the visibility of the sport.
But committee members do not live in a bubble, and a case involving one school might affect their thinking regarding another. In fact, that's one reason I believe USC's pending appeal over the Reggie Bush sanctions (which has now dragged on well beyond the usual timetable) may be successful. From the day the punishment was announced, the sanctions seemed unnecessarily harsh, considering they involved the indiscretions of a single player and rogue parties with no ties to the school. It seemed the Committee was making an example out of the Trojans because of the case's high-profile nature (as evidenced by Chairman Paul Dee's "high profile players demand high profile compliance" line). Since then, we've seen numerous other cases involving "high profile players" (Cam Newton, Terrelle Pryor) in which the school paid little or no price, and that could be in the back of the minds of those on the Appeals Committee.
But USC fans will be disappointed if they think Ohio State is about to suffer a similarly harsh fate. The Bush ruling was an indictment of USC's entire athletic culture, particularly in regard to compliance, which the NCAA obviously felt was lacking. The school has since beefed up those areas considerably under AD Pat Haden. Conversely, Ohio State's case was arguably a model of compliance. The school itself uncovered the infamous e-mails incriminating Jim Tressel and reported them accordingly. The Notice of Allegations revealed Monday targeted no one in the athletic department outside of Tressel, who conducted a one-man cover-up to protect his players' eligibility. Those players have been punished, and Tressel will be too, but I don't see mass scholarship cuts or a bowl ban in OSU's future.
Do you see any validity in Beano Cook's recent prophecy that Jim Tressel will get fired/resign and then Ohio State will hire Urban Meyer? To me it seems an ideal and perfect fit for Ohio State. Maybe too perfect though...
-- Nick, Des Moines, Iowa
Beano's hardly alone on this one. There was a time in March when I was getting calls and e-mails daily from people who supposedly "knew someone" in Columbus who had told them that Tressel was about to step down and Meyer was already buying a house in Upper Arlington. Apparently Meyer's daughter has been hearing much the same thing. Obviously neither is true -- yet.
If we do get that far, Meyer, an Ohio native and former Buckeyes assistant, would be everyone's presumed front-runner, provided he's ready to get back into coaching after just one year away. But how often do these "perfect fit" fantasies actually come true? If they did, Jim Harbaugh or Les Miles would currently be coaching Michigan, and Florida would have hired Bob Stoops about five times by now.
Stewart, it feels like Florida is trying to mold its offense around John Brantley with its conversion to a pro-style offense. The Gators earned a lot of wins and hardware with the spread and captured most of their offensive recruits with that allure. I understand new coaches are in charge, but does it seem crazy to do this when you have the recruiting prowess to get nearly any QB to fir your offensive scheme?
-- Bart Prorok, Auburn
Brantley only has one year of eligibility left, so Will Muschamp isn't doing this for him. Having worked for a national championship coach (Nick Saban) who runs a pro-style offense, and being perhaps a bit scarred from Texas' inability to produce a running game while he was there, Muschamp has decided that the vision for his program involves an NFL offense, and he's brought in a renowned NFL coordinator (Charlie Weis) to run it. That's certainly his prerogative, and it may well pay dividends down the road. But it's going to make for a rough transition.
Meyer recruited to the spread, and as a result, Florida isn't swimming with big running backs or NFL-caliber tight ends. The offensive line was a mess in the spring game, though that isn't a new development. The fact that Florida is coming off a season in which it struggled offensively is a big reason Gator fans are willing to embrace such a radical change. But last year notwithstanding, Meyer was wildly successful with the spread -- and now Muschamp is scrapping it for something totally different. To me, it feels similar to when Bill Callahan installed the West Coast at Nebraska or Rich Rodriguez tried to switch Michigan from pro-style to spread. Even with Weis' acumen and Florida's recruiting prowess, this transition year could be ugly.