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Published: Thursday, 3/22/2001

Buckeyes may benefit if Henson bows to George

Ohio State may have discovered a method to finally overthrow Michigan next season in football.

It has to do with the acquisition of Wolverines quarterback Drew Henson, a projected All-American and leading Heisman Trophy candidate.

That's the buzz in Ann Arbor these days with New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner, an OSU “accomplice,” trading with Cincinnati to get Henson back as a Bronx Bomber and put him under contract before Henson can drop a few bombs on the Buckeyes next November.

Steinbrenner, who attended Ohio State, along with his wife, Joan, a Columbus native, recently donated $1.5 million to Ohio State to help fund renovation of a band room in Ohio Stadium. George also has a box reserved in Ohio Stadium.

And remember two years ago when Ohio State played Miami in the Kickoff Classic in East Rutherford, N.J.? The Buckeyes were guests of Steinbrenner and the Yankees.

Guess who threw out the first pitch at a Yankees game that weekend? Steinbrenner's good buddy, John Cooper.

The OSU coaching staff kidded Steinbrenner at the time, telling him he should call up Henson, who was then playing in the Yankees' farm system in the summer. He was traded to the Reds last July.

Had George responded at the time, Coop might still be the Buckeyes' coach.

None of this would have happened under former Yankees president Lee MacPhail. He's a Michigan grad. Maybe TV journalist Mike Wallace, another UM alum, has some immediate openings for OSU football-playing communication majors.

So much for conspiracy theories.

Henson is between a pillow and a soft place. He's not sure whose millions he wants to accept. Talk about leverage.

The major issue he faces is whether to play baseball or football. Issue No. 2 is whether he wants to leave Michigan or stay for his senior year, a very successful season possibly leading to a No. 1 pick in the NFL draft.

The Yankees, reportedly, want to bring him in as a rookie third baseman in 2002 to replace Scott Brosius, who is in the final year of his contract. Steinbrenner is reportedly throwing a multi-year contract at UM's passer worth about $4 million a year.

Henson's NFL potential has greatly amplified the Yankees' interest. They would like to lock him up now so pro football is no longer an option. As a last resort, the Yankees might allow Henson to play football next season.

Henson's other option is to defer everything until the end of next football season.

“I do not want to rush my life away,” he said just last week. “Those things that are there will still be there. I have not played a full season yet. There are plenty of things still out there for me to accomplish.”

When the Yankees signed Henson out of Brighton, Mich., High School for $2 million, Michigan fretted that he wouldn't show up. When the NFL projected him as possibly the first quarterback to be chosen in last year's NFL draft, he said he would stay at Michigan. Now comes the latest seduction as Henson's star power soars.

His best option is to finish his career at Michigan. Steinbrenner can wait. So can the Houston Texans, who would get the first pick in the next NFL draft.

Then take Steinbrenner's money and run, Drew, if you haven't already been traded to the Bayone Butchers of the Eastern Seaboard Industrial League.

Michael Woods is the Blade's science editor. Email him at mwoods@theblade.com.



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