The Grind Can Grind You Down

In the BCS era from 1998-2013, there was only one team that won the BCS Championship Game in back-to-back seasons. Alabama took down LSU in 2011 and then Notre Dame in 2012.

Nobody else managed the arduous task of repeating.

One team that seemed poised to do so, however, was the 2003 Ohio State squad. Coming off an unexpectedly triumphant 2002 campaign, they returned 14 players talented enough to be taken in the 2004 draft, including first-round selections Chris Gamble, Michael Jenkins and Will Smith. Quarterback Craig Krenzel was still there to lead the offense. More than half their defensive starters were back.

And as if seeing the same teammates who had helped them beat Miami 31-24 in double-overtime wasn’t enough to remind OSU’s players that a crystal trophy had just been added to their trophy case, the highlights continued to air on ESPN, and seemingly everyone in Columbus had purchased a national championship sweatshirt.

“Since OSU hadn’t won a title since the 1968 season, it’s easy to see why there was a great degree of excitement,” says linebacker Bobby Carpenter. “There were parties for about a month afterwards, and it felt as if 2003 would be exactly the same.”

“People were talking about the victory,” adds receiver Roy Hall. “Students talked about it. Professors used the game as an example of what ‘hard work and perseverance’ can create. Restaurant servers and shoe store employees asked endless questions about what it was like in Arizona.”

As if to add a punchline, Hall points out he had redshirted the previous season, and he wasn’t sure how people knew who he was.

Imagine then how other members of the team felt surrounded by a nearly constant drone of celebration and higher expectations.

Coach Jim Tressel was, by comparison, relatively quiet on the matter. Although he didn’t discuss it much, he did one day hang a sign next to his office door that read, “Complacency will come to collect.”

“Every player noticed it at some point and knew exactly what it was referencing,” says Carpenter.

Most polls had the Scarlet and Gray ranked second as the season started, behind favorite Oklahoma. The Buckeyes would finish with a record of 11-2 and ranked fourth by the Associated Press.

For most teams, a fourth-place finish would be a remarkable achievement. For a team with the lofty goals of Ohio State, it was a disappointment.

“It was tough,” admits corner Dustin Fox. Had it been made harder by the previous year’s success? “I think so,” he concedes.

“The target was on our back. We had so much talent, so you couldn’t really hide. That’s a parallel for this year’s team.”

There are other parallels. Beyond the talent and a title that appeared to have been won a year ahead of schedule, there was—and is again—a soap operatic quality to aspects of the Buckeye’s offseason.

Ohio State in 2003 was dealing with the media buzz surrounding Maurice Clarett. Although a much happier circumstance than Clarett’s NCAA drama, the 2015 Buckeyes have a three-way quarterback derby that has already been the subject of much talk and speculation.

Coach Urban Meyer’s version of “complacency will come to collect” is “the grind.” He has repeatedly used the phrase to describe the upcoming campaign.

Those who have been there before say “the grind” is a spot-on description for what happens next.

“It is a deadly accurate truth,” says Carpenter.

“Yes,” agrees Fox. “It gets harder.”

So what would they recommend to Joey Bosa, Ezekiel Elliott and the rest of the 2015 Buckeyes as they look to climb back up the hill, in fact, maybe an even bigger hill now that the BCS has been replaced by a playoff?

“You can’t listen to the noise,” says Fox. “You can’t be smelling yourself to much. Enjoy the ride.”

Don’t, however, try to enjoy it alone.

“Sticking with your teammates is key,” offers linebacker AJ Hawk.

Meanwhile, Hall had this advice: “Every second that a player spends thinking about how great they were last year, or when they will get drafted next year is a second that the competition gets better than them.”

The grind indeed.

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Snapp Remembered By His Colleagues

Several leaders of the College Sports Information Directors of America (CoSIDA) have released statements on the passing of Steve Snapp, who worked at Ohio State from 1973 to 2011, much of that time, as a bridge between the media and the university. Although, his influence was clearly felt beyond the OSU community…

“Steve Snapp was the ultimate professional who represented Ohio State and his profession with great dignity and class. He will be missed by the many athletic administrators, coaches, student-athletes, media representatives and colleagues around the country in sports information who’s lives he touched in such a positive fashion.”
— Doug Vance, CoSIDA Executive Director

“We all appreciate Steve’s tremendous service to Ohio State athletics, and to the media and visiting coaches, staffs and student-athletes who came to compete at Ohio State. Our thoughts are with his family and colleagues at this time.”
— Eric McDowell (Union N.Y.), 2014-15 CoSIDA President

“Steve Snapp was a forerunner in our athletic communications who brought prestige to our profession. He was excellent at building relationships and he was persuasive in introducing Ohio State to the national media. I learned a great deal from him as an example and as a coworker.”
— Shelly Poe (Auburn University), CoSIDA immediate past president and former Ohio State staff member

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Hat Tip of the Week 5-20-15

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Nick Foligno Joins The Fan

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Craft Camping

Chicago has been at the center of the NBA universe of late, and not just because LeBron and company invaded the Windy City last night to advance to the Eastern Conference Finals.

The league’s combine is still going on there, and that’s not the only place busy scouts have been able to check out prospects, as there is another event going on in town.

The NBA D-League held their annual “Elite Mini Camp” this Monday and Tuesday. Twenty-nine of the thirty-seven players who participated in the camp last year landed on an NBA Summer League roster, meaning it is an important couple days for those hoping to take their career to another level.

And who stood out at this year’s Elite Camp?

On both Monday and Tuesday camp director Bob MacKinnon as well as other camp coaches cited former Buckeye Aaron Craft as one of the top performers. Craft

Craft is hoping he’s finally developed an NBA-caliber jump shot, as that may be the one thing holding him back at this point. He did make 26 of his last 70 three-point attempts in the D-League.

Speaking of Craft, anecdotes from a soon-to-be-released book regarding Nebraska coach Tim Miles have been released. One of the stories about the Huskers head man that has been shared was the time he went up to Craft grinning and told him that, while his niece had a crush on him, “The rest of us call you Aaron Crap.”

To find out Craft’s reaction, click here.

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Big Ten Attendance, 2013 & 2014

Big Ten Attendance

Notes: Penn State had a new coach, and Maryland and Rutgers saw bumps in attendance after playing as members of the Big Ten for the first time in 2014. Purdue saw a major drop, but that’s due in part to the fact that they removed seating in order to renovate the stadium. Michigan also saw a fairly substantial decrease, but that should turn around with Jim Harbaugh taking over in Ann Arbor.

Ohio State averaged 104,933 fans in 2013 and 106,296 in 2014.

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The Cheaters Guide to Defense

It seems like every time an athlete or team is accused of cheating, you hear the exact same defenses. So in the event someone you root for gets in trouble, we’d  like to save you some effort with this handy dandy cheat sheet:

  • Everybody is doing it! Okay, maybe not everybody, but almost everybody. At least a majority, right? We can’t prove that, but you know it’s true. In fact, the only reason our team was the one that got caught is…
  • Everybody hates us! We’re totally able to be impartial regarding our beloved team. You on the other hand, are biased and clearly not credible. The charges against us? They’re a total hatchet job. That’s right. We’re being scapegoated here, especially since…
  • You don’t have any real evidence! We’ve watched Law & Order. We know how this works. Where’s your video? Oh, there’s video? Umm…Where’s your DNA? There’s always DNA! This case is circumstantial at best. And don’t you know that “innocent until proven guilty” is applicable both to courtroom dramas and real life? That’s definitely the standard of proof here. And even if you could prove it…
  • We’re great anyway. Face it. We would have beaten you even if we had been playing by the rules. Hey, since our cheating raised the question of how great our accomplishments truly are, we might as well be the one to answer the question, right? Really great. We’re awesome. Not only are we innocent until proven guilty, we’re also incredible until proven mediocre. Finally…
  • The rule is stupid! Sure maybe at one time everybody agreed this is how the game should be played, but we know better now, don’t we? And can’t we all just admit that the only proper response to a stupid rule is to break it? Civil disobedience, man. Fight the power!

So there you have it. And may the best team at avoiding getting caught win.

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