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Thursday, June 9, 2011

What If the Buckeye Stopped Here?

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Artie: Hey, did you see the new athletic director at UW-Milwaukee mentioned the possibility of bringing football back to the school?

Frank:
Yeah, the Panthers haven't been gridders since 1974, but the AD, Rick Costello, told Michael Hunt of the Journal Sentinel, "It's something we'll look at long-term."

Artie:
Well, in the short term I know just the guy Costello should hire as the football coach. He's had a lot of success on the field, but now he's looking for work.

Frank:
Could you be referring to…

Artie:
Of course, Jim Tressel! With the millions he made at Ohio State, he can afford all the parking fines he'll get in the UWM neighborhood.

Frank:
But he just resigned in disgrace for covering up "Tattoo-Gate," in which some of his Buckeyes swapped memorabilia for the inky adornments. We depicted him as Richard Nixon in a sweater-vest a few weeks ago.

Artie:
That's the point. Buy low, sell high, right? Maybe Tressel could be had for a song. UWM had Bruce Pearl before he went bad; why not another great coach after he went bad? Besides, what better way to climb back to glory than getting a new program off the ground?

Frank:
He might get UWM right up to speed in terms of NCAA violations. As we noted, Tressel's programs at Youngstown State and OSU had a history of misdeeds long before this latest mess.

Artie:
Hey, there's always a little price for fame. If he wins games, who cares about a probation decree here and there?

Frank:
Apropos of that, I saw some of ESPN's talking heads debating about who was "more to blame," Tressel or the offending players.

Artie:
What's to debate? It's obviously the coach. He's the guy in charge; he either sets a standard and enforces it or he doesn't.

Frank:
But a reporter in Columbus said there was a backlash there, especially against the top player involved, quarterback Terrelle Pryor. Some fans apparently feel that "Coach Tress" was victimized by his players' bad judgment.

Artie:
Who forced him to cover it up, to not do anything about it and lie to the school in saying he didn't know anything? Sure the players were wrong, but they wouldn't have been wrong for long if Tressel had done his job.

Frank:
As Matt Millen said, "When you're the top guy on the organizational chart, it's on you."

Artie:
Matt ought to know, as any Detroit Lions fan would agree.

Frank:
But he also called the problem "systemic," citing OSU's "compliance" staff—whoever's supposed to keep it clean with the NCAA.

Artie: But who's supposed to be the top compliance guy? The coach.

Frank:
I think there's something to the "systemic" argument, though. At the top-level football and basketball schools, the temptation to make winning the only goal must be mighty strong. Maybe illegal benefits to players, academic cheating or criminal behavior draws a turned back from the administration, the coaching staff and the fans.

Artie:
There's enough stench in this to cover everyone.

Frank:
As for Pryor and the other players, there's talk they'll go into the NFL's supplemental draft.

Artie:
Why not? They might as well start getting paid in the open. And speaking of pay, South Carolina's Steve Spurrier had a novel suggestion last week—pay players $300 a game out of the head coach's earnings.

Frank:
We said a couple of weeks ago that scholarship athletes should get an extra stipend—but that it would have to be for all athletes, male and female, and administered equally by the NCAA.

Artie:
If the Buckeyes were getting a little slice of the huge revenue pie, they could have afforded those tattoos in the first place.

On the Right Road

Frank: Wow, the Brewers sure took our advice and got their act together on the road.

Artie:
A four-game sweep in Florida, which hasn't been kind to them over the years, produced a 5-2 trip.

Frank:
And the first three wins in Florida were all by one run.

Artie:
The whole dang series looked like it was played in front of about 450 people overall.

Frank:
That won't be a problem this weekend when the Brewers play their first home series against the Cardinals.

Artie:
And take over first place in the division.

Frank:
Back to Florida. It's one thing to get a game-winning homer from Ryan Braun, but from Josh Wilson?

Artie:
Two homers for that little guy on the trip! The Brewers picked him up when he was hot.

Frank:
John Axford got three straight saves but continued his high-wire act, with the tying and/or winning run on base every time.

Artie:
Who cares, as long as he gets the "S"? Lots of closers flirt with disaster.

Frank:
So the Brewers came home at 34-26, nine games better than a year ago and only a game and a half behind the Cardinals.

Artie:
Who have injuries to two key guys, Matt Holliday and pitcher Kyle McClellan, who's 6-2. The Brewers are having some luck; in Florida they didn't face Josh Johnson, and Hanley Ramirez was hurt. Things are falling into place!

Collision of Opinions

Frank: Another guy who wasn't able to face the Brewers was Buster Posey. There's been a lot of debate in the aftermath of his horrible injury in a home-plate collision, with some suggesting action to better protect catchers. Do you have strong thoughts?

Artie:
Not really. It happens; this outcry is because it involves the World Series champs and a rising young star. But really, it's just one of those things. The Giants' GM, Brian Sabean, was out of line with his strong criticism of the runner, Florida's Scott Cousins, but he kind of backed away later.

Frank:
I don't say Cousins was trying to hurt Posey, but I think he ran into him unnecessarily. The plate was open to him; Posey was to the side and wasn't blocking it. Cousins could have slid to the foul side and swiped the plate.

Artie:
But you're talking about split seconds to make a decision, and players are taught to break things up if they think the catcher will be in their way.

Frank:
I guess I'm saying that what players are taught should be changed—collide only as an absolute last resort. Err on the side of safety, not the macho stuff.

Artie:
I guess this is something baseball should monitor. And someone they decide is reckless could be fined or suspended.

Way to Go, Coach

Frank: May I take a little space for a personal note involving soccer?

Artie:
You're the only one with anything to say on that subject.

Frank:
Last weekend Bob Gansler, longtime Milwaukeean and former coach for UWM, the Milwaukee Rampage and the U.S. national team, was inducted into the National Soccer Hall of Fame.

Artie:
Even I know that's quite an honor.

Frank:
I got to know Bob in 1990, when he took the U.S. team to the World Cup for the first time in 40 years. Shortly before the team traveled to Italy, the Journal assigned someone to cover the event—someone who knew very little about soccer.

Artie:
Sounds like me, in 1990 and still.

Frank:
My pitch to Bob was something like, "Um, Coach, could you kind of teach me a little about the sport so I have a vague idea of what I'll see?" He graciously gave me a couple of primers on styles of play and the team's personnel. And in Italy he was generous with his time.

Artie:
How'd we do in the '90 Cup?

Frank:
Three losses and out. But when we played mighty Italy the score was only 1-0.

Artie:
Isn't that what it always is?

Frank:
Not quite. Anyway, Bob is a no-nonsense guy, not out to charm anyone, but ask him a question and he gives a thoughtful, precise and instructive answer. He's honest and modest, seeing himself as one of many people trying to build soccer in this country. I really got to admire him in Italy, and I'm happy for his honor.

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