Bobby Carpenter was surprised it happened to Jim Tressel, but not the least bit surprised that it happened.
Although the scandal that cost Tressel his job as Ohio State’s football coach went far beyond some of his players seeking and accepting extra benefits, that is surely where it all started.
And Carpenter doesn’t see any immediate end to it in college sports.
“It’s not a coach problem and I’m not sure I want to call it a player problem, although I guess it is,” the Detroit Lions linebacker said. “But I really see it as a generational problem.
“Football has always been a microcosm of society and in today’s society kids seem to have a sense of entitlement even when the rules say otherwise. It’s extremely difficult for college coaches now. It has to be hard to handle guys these days.”
Carpenter is hoping Luke Fickell, OSU’s interim head coach, is up to the task.
Carpenter and James Laurinaitis were among Fickell’s ex-players, and Mike Vrabel was one of his former teammates on hand for Fickell’s introductory news conference last week in Columbus. All would like to see the one-time Buckeye nose tackle get the gig on a full-time basis after the 2011 season.
“I hope so, but I don’t have any say because I don’t give that kind of money,” Vrabel, a longtime NFL standout now with Kansas City, said with a laugh.
It’s hard to tell what Fickell might have to accomplish to impress those who do have that kind of influence. Whatever the parameters, it won’t be easy.
In addition to replacing the departed Terrelle Pryor at quarterback, Fickell will play the first five games without four suspended starters and those games include a trip to Miami (Fla.) and a home game against Michigan State, one of the Big Ten’s tri-champs last season.
Later, the Buckeyes will play back-to-back road games at Nebraska and Illinois with home dates against Wisconsin and Penn State. The season-ending clash with Michigan will be in Ann Arbor.
How many potential losses do you count? Three? Four? More?
A 9-3 record could be the result of a spectacular coaching job. A 9-3 record could also prompt OSU to hand Urban Meyer a blank check and beg him to fill in the amount.
Then there is the ongoing NCAA investigation that will come to a head on Aug. 12 when a large Ohio State contingent, plus Tressel, gets grilled by the NCAA’s Committee on Infractions. If the Buckeyes get the book thrown at them, which certainly is possible, the NCAA will vacate wins, a Big Ten title, and bowl revenue from 2010 and OSU will face a bowl ban as well as recruiting and scholarship sanctions for the 2011 season and, perhaps, beyond.
I have heard no such speculation, but if the Buckeyes are banned from the postseason, will the Big Ten allow them to be eligible for the Legends-Leaders conference championship game which, if so, might hamstring the league’s chances of getting two teams in the lucrative BCS bowl series?
Any NCAA sanctions probably would not be announced until late September, maybe October, so there will be storm clouds hovering over Fickell’s head from start to finish.
Carpenter, however, feels the interim coach has the right stuff, although he’s a different mix from his predecessor, who he served under for nine seasons.
“Coach Tressel is maybe a little more cerebral,” said Carpenter, an OSU defender from 2002-05. “Luke is more emotional. He’s a tough guy and that’s the imprint he’ll want to put on this program.”
If Fickell is tough enough to survive these incredible circumstances, challenges, and odds, then the job could be his.
Contact Blade sports columnist Dave Hackenberg at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6398.