I have always thought that John Cooper might have had a longer honeymoon with Ohio State fans had he been taken aside by someone at the university and given a quick primer on school tradition. It might have avoided such early gaffes as the comment that predecessor Earle Bruce had “left the cupboard bare” in terms of talent and the team had “too many slow, white guys.”
There was also the ill-advised television commercial with the Cooper family congregating in a hot tub and the coach referring to Ohio Stadium as “Buckeye” Stadium. But I digress.
The same things appear to be happening north of the border where non-Michigan man Rich Rodriguez continues to get publicly schooled in maize and blue tradition. The latest came recently when Rodriguez assigned the team’s No. 1 jersey to incoming freshman J.T. Floyd. Anyone with even a passing interest in U-M football tradition should know that former Wolverine Braylon Edwards endowed a scholarship for the No. 1 jersey, making it something that much be achieved.
Rodriguez’s reply was that he didn’t know about Edwards’ endowment.
“I plead ignorance on that,” he said, “but I’m educated now. If I could fix all the problems as easily as I fixed that one, we’re in a good place.”
The coach fixed the problem by taking away the No. 1 jersey from Floyd and saying that no one will wear the number this fall.
As for the other “problems” to which Rodriguez alluded … well, let’s just remember Cooper’s record in his first season in Columbus was 4-6-1 and the Buckeyes didn’t win a Big Ten championship until his sixth year at the helm.
BIG TEN WEEKS OFF
After playing a straight-through schedule the last couple of years, 10 of the 11 Big Ten schools will take a break during the 2008 season. Most of the off weeks are staggered although Michigan, Illinois and Wisconsin will each take the weekend of Sept. 20 off while Ohio State and Penn State will be off Nov. 1 – perhaps not coincidentally the week following their nighttime game in Ohio Stadium.
Only Purdue will not have the benefit of a week off this season although the Boilermakers will begin their 2008 campaign a week later than everyone else – so technically, they could count the Aug. 30 weekend as their off week.
Also, since this is my blog, one of my pet peeves is when people call these “bye” weeks. There is no tournament being played; therefore, it cannot be a bye. It is a week off; therefore, it is an “off” week.
Now that that’s off my chest, I found another 2008 scheduling quirk. Wisconsin wraps up its Big Ten schedule a week before everyone else and plays its season finale Nov. 22 at home against Cal Poly.
I realize not everyone can schedule a traditional season finale the caliber of Ohio State-Michigan. But a Division I-AA team?
Well, at least Cal Poly may give the Badgers a game. If last year’s 7-4 record is any indication, the Mustangs will show some offense. They scored 35 or more points in six games last season and topped 50 three times.
GOOD NEWS FOR A CHANGE
Former Penn State cornerback Adam Taliaferro got one step closer to getting back into sports when he graduated from law school last week.
In the time flies category, it has been almost eight years since Taliaferro suffered a severe neck injury while making a tackle during a game at Ohio State. Doctors initially feared he would never walk again after he was motionless on the field for several minutes.
But Taliaferro has recovered to the point where, when he is walking, some people don’t “even recognize I have the injury, which is good.”
Taliaferro graduated from the Rutgers School of Law-Camden and will begin a job in September at Montgomery McCracken, a Philadelphia law firm at which he has interned.
Taliaferro will be working in the labor and employment division, but he said there is flexibility to pursue opportunities in the firm’s sports and entertainment department in the future. He is interested in becoming a sports agent.
GET THERE EARLY
Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel will be signing copies of his new book, “The Winners Manual: For The Game of Life,” at the Barnes & Noble on North High Street (that used to be Long’s Bookstore for you oldtimers) on July 16 between 7 and 9 p.m.
Evidently, B&N expects Tressel to draw a rather large crowd – line wristband distribution begins that morning at 9 a.m.
A couple of outstanding Buckeyes celebrate birthdays today – Jim Lachey and Katie Smith.
James Michael Lachey was born June 4, 1963 in St. Henry, Ohio, and earned All-American honors at Ohio State in 1984. He went on to become a first-round selection in the 1985 NFL draft by San Diego and played 11 pro seasons with the Chargers, Raiders and Redskins, earning three Pro Bowl selections and a championship ring when Washington beat Buffalo in Super Bowl XXVI. Lachey, of course, is now part of the Ohio State Football Radio Network, providing color commentary on game days with play-by-play man Paul Keels.
Katherine May Smith was born June 4, 1974, in Lancaster, Ohio, but grew up in Logan where she first began to hone her athletic skills. Smith is undoubtedly the finest women’s basketball player in Ohio State history and you could make the case for putting her on a list with folks such as Archie Griffin, Jack Nicklaus and Jesse Owens as the finest athletes the school has ever produced.
Birthday greetings also go out today to sex therapist Dr. Ruth Westheimer, veteran actor Bruce Dern (Laura’s dad), author Robert Fulghum (“All I Really Need To Know I Learned In Kindergarten”), actress/singer Michelle Phillips (the last surviving member of the Mamas & the Papas), former Saturday Night Live doofus Horatio Sanz, Houston Astros outfielder Darin Erstad, and Academy Award-winning actress/humanitarian Angelina Jolie. (Betcha didn’t know the lovely Ms. Jolie had an Oscar, did you?)
DON’T LET THE DOOR HIT YOU ON YOUR WAY OUT
I have told only a few close friends but now I’m ready to go public. I had better see some improvement this season from the Cincinnati Bengals or I swear I’m going to start cheering for the Cleveland Browns.
First, some historical background. Now that I am officially in my second half-century, I can remember when there were no Bengals. When I was growing up, I was a Browns fan. I just missed the Jim Brown era (and all the championships, of course), but I rooted for guys like Leroy Kelly, Gene Hickerson, Walter Johnson and Gary Collins.
Then when the Bengals came into existence in 1968, I switched my allegiance. I really didn’t have a choice. In those days, you got three channels on your television set and the Bengals were shown every Sunday in place of the Browns. That began a 40-year allegiance to a team that was competitive for most of its first 25 years and went to two Super Bowls.
But the years of losing and excuses for losing has worn on me. When Marvin Lewis was hired as head coach in 2003, and took the Bengals to the playoffs in 2005, I thought it was the beginning of a new era. Since then, however, the team has leveled off under Lewis, the coach has fallen into a kind of me-against-the-media mentality and the roster has been filled with the worst kind of law-breakers, delinquents and underachievers.
Now, we get word that mercurial wide receiver Chad Johnson is ready to return to the team after blasting Lewis, quarterback Carson Palmer and everything else he could think of that was Cincinnati-related during the offseason. This, of course, was a ploy as he tried to get a new, fatter contract from the Bengals or force a trade to a team that would pay him more money.
“Look how well I’ve done while talking every week and calling people out and making things so hard on me with all this attention,” Johnson said. “I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what I could do if I just played and didn’t talk? Things would be a whole lot easier on me. And think of the numbers I could put up. Then what would people say about me?”
That would have been nice to contemplate – a season where Johnson simply went out and did his job. Of course, that wouldn’t be Johnson, who later displayed his true feelings.
“It’s the reinvention of Ocho Cinco,” he said. “I’m dead serious. People need to take me as I am because I just don’t give a (expletive) anymore. That’s how I’d sum up my attitude for the next season.”
And this is how I’d sum up my attitude as far as the Bengals are concerned. Ship this bum to Oakland for whatever the Raiders are willing to pay and get some players in uniform who want to play in Cincinnati. Otherwise, I’m more than ready to begin familiarizing myself with Ohio’s other NFL team.
SOME SI COVER TRIVIA
Who was the first college football player to make the cover of Sports Illustrated? That would be Iowa offensive guard Calvin Jones, who was on the cover of the Sept. 27, 1954 issue.
Jones, who was born in Steubenville, Ohio, was recruited heavily by Ohio State head coach Woody Hayes and verbally committed to the Buckeyes. But before the fall of 1952, two friends who had accepted scholarships to play at Iowa stopped by Jones’ house to say goodbye. Jones reportedly told his friends, “Wait a minute. I’m coming with you.” The sudden switch – maybe one of the first-ever “de-commitments” – triggered a Big Ten investigation but Iowa was cleared of any wrongdoing.
Jones went on to become Iowa’s first (and still only) three-time All-American, and the first African-American to win the Outland Trophy, taking home the award in 1955. He played professionally one year in the Canadian Football League with Winnipeg and made the CFL All-Star Game. He was on his way to attend the 1957 Rose Bowl between his alma mater and Oregon State when the plane in which he was riding crashed, killing all 62 people aboard.
The Hawkeyes dedicated their first Rose Bowl appearance to Jones’ memory and won the game, 35-19. Afterward, the team sent the game ball to Jones’ mother in Steubenville.
Iowa later retired Jones’ jersey No. 62, one of only two numbers the school has retired. The other was No. 24 which belonged to Nile Kinnick for whom the Hawkeyes’ stadium in Iowa City is named.
Now … who was the first Ohio State football player to grace the cover of Sports Illustrated? The answer comes tomorrow.
** Beating Michigan and winning a third straight Division I-AA national championship sure helps sell tickets. Appalachian State officials announced Monday they’ve sold about 10,000 season tickets for the 2008 season, up 62 percent from last year.
** Adam Dunn Trade Rumor No. 57: Boston has reportedly made overtures to the Reds about the availability of Dunn, whose contract in Cincinnati runs out following the 2008 season. Why are the Red Sox interested? Because David Ortiz just went down with a partial tear of the extensor carpi ulnaris tendon sheath. (Translation: serious wrist injury.) Might be fun to watch the Big Donkey play balls off the Green Monster – but seriously, if Manny Ramirez can do it, Dunn probably can, too.
** And finally, an oldie but a goodie you can use next time to toast your friends: “Here’s to our wives and girlfriends … may they never meet.”