Two-time Heisman Trophy winner Archie Griffin gave Ohio State University's new head football coach, Jim Tressel, a ringing endorsement during a visit to Toledo yesterday.
Of course, that should come as no surprise considering Griffin is OSU's associate athletic director overseeing football, among 17 sports.
“I think Jim is going to do a great job and I think he's the type of coach who can last a long time at Ohio State,” Griffin said before addressing the Salvation Army's annual luncheon at the Wyndham Hotel. “He genuinely cares about the players and their futures. They sense that and I think they'll give their all for him.”
It could be argued that the Buckeyes gave their all for former coach John Cooper, as well, but that too many of them left too soon, gutting his program of much of its talent and greasing the skids to 6-6 and 8-4 seasons.
Since 1995, 14 OSU players have been first-round NFL draft picks, and more than half of them left Columbus with a year of eligibility remaining.
Most recently, cornerback Nate Clements and defensive tackle Ryan Pickett, both juniors, made themselves eligible for the NFL draft and were taken in the first round.
“We've lost quite a few players in recent years and them leaving early certainly didn't help the program,” Griffin said. “It's the price you pay for recruiting good players, I guess.
“But if a kid has a chance to go early in the first round there isn't a whole lot you can argue with. It's a tough game with a short lifespan, so young people have to take those opportunities.
When you're talking about players like Orlando Pace and Nate Clements, all you can do is wish them the best and tell them you hope they come back to complete their degree work. If a kid is probably a lower-round pick, you try to sell him on waiting, playing another year and improving his draft chances.”
Griffin and others of his era (1972-75) did not have that option because NFL rules stated that a player must have completed four years in college before becoming eligible for the draft. The NFL currently has a three-year rule and is the only major professional sport to enforce even that much of a restriction.
“I think the NFL's preference would be to have the same rule today as when I played,” Griffin said. “And I know colleges certainly would prefer players stay in school at least until they've exhausted their eligibility.
“But I think we've gone beyond the point of any such restrictions, at least legally. I'm sure it won't be long before somebody goes to court to challenge the NFL's three-year rule.”
Greater numbers of defections, coupled with tighter limitations on football grants-in-aid, could make it even tougher for Tressel to keep a program on sound footing.
For now, though, the new OSU coach is enjoying the honeymoon period that all Buckeye football coaches have enjoyed prior to their first loss.
“Well, his honeymoon might last longer than that,” Griffin said, chuckling. “I think Jim has worked hard going around the state to meet people and has already endeared himself to Ohio State fans.”
Tressel will be in Toledo today for a number of appearances, including a luncheon speech before the Lucas County chapter of the OSU alumni club.
It is quite possible, though, that no OSU representative makes more appearances around the state than Griffin.
“If I ever stopped to add them up, I probably wouldn't do as many,” he quipped.
Yesterday, the Salvation Army kicked off its “Kids' Needs Have No Season” campaign that will mobilize the organization's famous kettles during weekends in June.
Funds raised will be used to provide needy kids with some 27,000 lunches this summer.
Griffin charged no fee for his appearance yesterday, saying that “I love the work the Salvation Army does. You look at their food distribution programs, prison ministries, drug and alcohol programs and this is one association that really works to make the world a better place.”