Sports Outside the Beltway

Ohio State’s Jim Tressel Resigns

Jim Tressel has resigned as head coach of the Ohio State football team.

Columbus Dispatch (“Coach Jim Tressel out at Ohio State“):

Ohio State football coach Jim Tressel has resigned, university sources told The Dispatch today.

Less than three months after President E. Gordon Gee and Athletic Director Gene Smith said they fully supported their embattled coach, mounting pressure, a pending NCAA disciplinary hearing and new revelations about the culture of the program forced the university to act on their once-revered coach, sources said.

Neither Gee, Smith nor Tressel could be reached immediately for comment.

Sources said assistant coach Luke Fickell, who had been named to coach the first five games of the season while Tressel served his suspension for withholding information from the university compliance office and the NCAA, will serve as interim coach of the Buckeyes all of next season.

The Dispatch has obtained a memo Gee sent to OSU trustees this morning:

“I write to let you know that later this morning we will be announcing the resignation of Jim Tressel as head coach of the University’s football program. As you all know, I appointed a special committee to analyze and provide advice to me regarding issues attendant to our football program. In consultation with the senior leadership of the University and the senior leadership of the Board, I have been actively reviewing the matter and have accepted Coach Tressel’s resignation.

“My public statement will include our common understanding that throughout all we do, we are One University with one set of standards and one overarching mission. The University’s enduring public purposes and its tradition of excellence continue to guide our actions,” Gee wrote.

Ohio State’s football program came under fire in December when six players were suspended by the NCAA for selling or trading uniforms and other memorabilia to a Columbus tattoo-parlor owner. The NCAA also drew criticism for allowing the players to participate in the Sugar Bowl instead of serving their suspensions immediately.


He leaves Ohio State with an impressive coaching resume, having led the school to its fifth national title as well as directing impressive runs of Big Ten championships and victories over archrival Michigan.

The coach who came to Ohio State from Division I-AA Youngtown State University leaves OSU as one of the most recognizable figures in college football and all sports with a record of 106-22 at OSU. His winning percentage of .828 was better than the legendary Woody Hayes (.761).

It’s been drip . . . drip . . . drip since this scandal first broke a few months ago. Tressel’s eventual ouster had become inevitable, so his resignation now saves both himself and his program additional agony. It’s a little late in the day to switch coaches but Ohio State is one of the five or six best jobs in the country; they’ll have little trouble finding a good coach.


Emory Bellard, creator of wishbone offense, dead at 83

The Wishbone, along with the I formation, were forms of offensive setup when I first started watching college football in the late 1970′s. Alabama won several national championships using the wishbone. Oklahoma ran it to perfection also. I remember how Florida State couldn’t stop the Sooners offense led by JC Watts and Billy Sims in the 1980 Orange Bowl. The Sooners grinding down FSU on the way to a 24-7 win. Sometime in the 80′s the amount of the schools that used the wishbone began to decline. The only two Division I schools I know that use it today are Army and Air Force.

I don’t remember Bellard any where near as well as the offense he created. He left a mark on College Football history. RIP.

Emory Bellard, a former Texas A&M and Mississippi State coach credited with developing the wishbone offense when he was an assistant at Texas, has died. He was 83.

Cathy Capps, director of the Texas A&M Lettermen’s Association, said Bellard died early Thursday at a care facility in Georgetown in Central Texas. She said Bellard had Lou Gehrig’s disease.

Bellard was on Darrell Royal’s staff at Texas in 1968 when the Longhorns developed a multiple running back formation that came to be known as the wishbone.

Bellard later led the Aggies to a 48-27 record in seven years before resigning during the 1978 season. He was 37-42 in seven seasons at Mississippi State.


Jim Harbaugh 49ers New Coach

Jim Harbaugh, the most coveted coach on the market, is leaving Stanford for the San Francisco 49ers.

AP‘s Janie McCauley:

A person with knowledge of the situation says Jim Harbaugh is leaving Stanford to coach the San Francisco 49ers.

The person spoke on condition of anonymity to The Associated Press on Friday because the team has yet to announce the hire.

The team has scheduled an afternoon news conference in San Francisco.

Harbaugh, who will replace fired coach Mike Singletary, also had been considering an offer from Stanford to stay put.


Jim Harbaugh agreed to a five-year, $25 million contract to become the San Francisco 49ers’ head coach Friday, according to team and league sources.

The 49ers announced a news conference scheduled for 6:30 p.m. ET, but did not indicate the reason.

Earlier Friday, a source told ESPN senior NFL analyst Chris Mortensen that Stanford was the favorite to retain Harbaugh’s services.

On Thursday, Harbaugh met with top Stanford officials — including university president John Hennessey — so that the school could make its best offer to try to retain him. The university reportedly increased an offer it had made to Harbaugh in December.

The 49ers met with Harbaugh Wednesday, and a source said that on Thursday night, after news broke that Harbaugh would not go to the Miami Dolphins, San Francisco was willing to increase its offer.

This makes great sense.  While he’s a Michigan grad whose best days as a pro were with the Chicago Bears, Harbaugh’s a California guy.

The Stanford job is a much better one than the newly vacant Michigan one.  Sure, it’s his alma mater and it’s one of the storied programs in the history of college football.  And it would pay more.  But the expectations are unreasonable and he’d have to uproot his family.   Stanford is already a top program.  If he wanted to stay in college, Stanford was the obvious choice.

And, yes, $7 million or whatever from the Miami Dolphins would have been a sweet deal.  But that would have engendered all manner of animosity from other coaches, fuming that a first-timer was making all that money.  And expectations would have been through the roof.   The fact that they were openly courting him while Tony Sparano is still the coach didn’t help matters.

He can take over the 49ers, a franchise with a proud history of its own, without moving to a new house.  His kids can stay in the same school.   And, while $5 million isn’t $7 million, it’s not exactly chopped liver.


Florida Gator Coach Urban Meyer to step down

He did the same thing a year ago but came back for the 2010 NCAA Football season. From ESPN-

Urban Meyer is stepping down as football coach at Florida, the school’s athletic director announced Wednesday.

“I fully grasp the sacrifices my 24/7 profession has demanded of me, and I know it is time to put my focus on my family and life away from the field,” Meyer said.

“I will profoundly miss coming to campus every day to coach this team, but I will always be a Gator at heart,” he said.

A news conference was scheduled for 6 p.m. ET on Wednesday.

Meyer will coach his last game for Florida in the Outback Bowl against Penn State on January 1st in Tampa.

The Gators, who won two national championships and two Southeastern Conference titles under Meyer, had a disappointing season in 2010, going 7-5 (4-4 SEC).

Meyer has been a three-time national coach of the year. 2010 was a frustrating year for Meyer(as it was for almost all of Florida college football). I suspect Meyer is real this time around in quitting but I expect him to return some day.


One last time with feeling- Nebraska beats Kansas State 48-13

The Cornhuskers will join the Big 10 next season. From AP-

Instead of resenting No. 7 Nebraska for leaving the Big 12, maybe Kansas State should thank the Cornhuskers.

Who wants to keep playing a team that always beats you silly?

Quarterback Taylor Martinez rushed for 241 yards and four touchdowns and Nebraska ended a 99-year rivalry in the same lopsided fashion it began, thrashing the slower, outmanned Wildcats 48-13 on Thursday night.

Martinez, a redshirt freshman, pushed his five-game rushing total to 737 yards and also threw a 79-yard scoring pass for the Huskers (5-0), who head off for the Big Ten next year with an domineering overall record against Kansas State (4-1) of 78-15-2.

Unbeaten in their first four games and with senior running back Daniel Thomas averaging 157 yards per game, Kansas State fans had hoped to send the Huskers out the Big 12 door with a loss.

But the Wildcats were helpless against such offensive and defensive speed and the night belonged to Martinez. He broke the team record for rushing yards by a quarterback and tied the team mark for rushing TDs by a quarterback while Thomas was held to 63 yards on 22 carries.

“Pretty much everything we ran was clicking pretty good,” Martinez said. “I was making the right reads. I just do what I can do — make plays.”

Martinez rushing performance was the best ever by a Cornhusker QB but only the 8th best by any Nebraska player.

Kansas State until fairly recent had the worst record of any Division I school. So the lopsidedness of their series with Nebraska isn’t very surprising.


Former NFL head coach Don Corryel dead at 85

The father of the modern NFL passing game, had a lifetime record of 111-83-1 as a head coach. From AP-

Don Coryell, the innovative coach whose Air Coryell offense produced some of the most dynamic passing attacks in NFL history, has died. He was 85.Don Corryel

The San Diego Chargers confirmed Coryell died Thursday at Sharp Grossmont Hospital in suburban La Mesa. The team did not release the cause of death, but Coryell had been in poor health for some time.

“We’ve lost a man who has contributed to the game of pro football in a very lasting way with his innovations and with his style,” Hall of Famer Dan Fouts, the quarterback who made Air Coryell fly, said from Oregon. “They say that imitation is the highest form of flattery — look around, it’s there.”

[+] EnlargeDon Coryell
George Rose/Getty ImagesThe innovations of Don Coryell, left, gave birth to Air Coryell, the inspiration for the modern-day offenses that dominate the NFL.

Coryell was one of the founding fathers of the modern passing game. He coached at San Diego State from 1961-72 and went 104-19-2. He left the Aztecs for the St. Louis Cardinals in 1973. With Jim Hart at quarterback, the Cardinals won division titles in 1974 and ’75 behind Coryell.

Fouts said he became friends with Coryell after the two were finished with football.

“It’s not just me,” Fouts said. “All his players, Aztecs, Cardinals, Chargers, to a man, would tell you that he was their friend.”

Coryell returned to San Diego when he was hired by the Chargers on Sept. 25, 1978, the same day a Pacific Southwest Airlines jet crashed into a North Park neighborhood after colliding with a small plane, killing all 137 people on the two planes and seven people on the ground.

“It’s crazy that when you look back at the history of this city, he got hired on the same day as that PSA crash,” said Hank Bauer, who was a running back and special teams star with the Chargers then. “That really was one of the darkest days in this city’s history and it became one of the brightest days in the history of sports.

“He walked in and met our team for the time and he was just this little bundle of energy, flying around the meeting. He said, ‘You know what? We’re going to have fun, and we’re going to cry and laugh and battle our [behinds] off, but we’re going to have fun.’ We had fun for a lot of years.”

From 1978-86, Air Coryell — led by Fouts — set records and led the NFL in passing almost every season. Coryell guided the Chargers to the AFC championship game after the 1980 and ’81 seasons, but he never reached the Super Bowl.

The lack of a Super Bowl on his resume may have hurt Coryell last winter in voting for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He was a finalist for the first time, but was not selected for induction.

Corryel was the first coach to win 100 games at both the pro and NFL level. He deserves to be inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame. RIP Coach.


Nebraska and Colorado Bolt Big 12: Who’s Next?

The long-predicted collapse of the Big 12 athletic conference — and perhaps college sports as we know it — seems about to happen.

Nebraska is going to the Big Ten and Colorado to the Pac-10, with many other teams expected to flee as well as the big football powers race to establish 16-team super-conferences.

The Boulder (Colo.) Daily Camera reported early Thursday morning that the University of Colorado has officially accepted an invitation to join the Pac-10 and will make the announcement publicly at a 1 p.m. ET press conference on Friday. The Camera says multiple people with knowledge of the move confirmed the news.

Colorado’s addition would give the Pac-10 a total of 11 schools, but speculation persists that the league will also look to bring in Texas, Texas A&M, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Texas Tech to give the conference 16 teams.

The Texas schools seem to hold the keys to the survival of the Big 12 in some form:

Texas and Texas A&M officials are scheduled to meet to discuss the future of their athletic programs and the Big 12 amid speculation the league could be raided by rival conferences and broken apart.

Texas athletic director DeLoss Dodds has said he wants to keep the Big 12 together.

Thursday’s meeting at an undisclosed location comes on the heels of reports that Nebraska could be ready to bolt the Big 12 for the Big Ten and Colorado could move to the Pac-10.  Baylor and Texas Tech officials have said that even if the Big 12 breaks apart, they want to remain with Texas and Texas A&M as members of the same conference.

That’s going to be difficult, however.   Texas and A&M are big prizes in college football and Tech has had some recent success.  Baylor . . . not so much.

Still, the Big Ten has, despite the name, had eleven members since Penn State joined in 1993.  Adding Nebraska brings them to 12 and adding the four Texas schools would bring them to the magic 16.   Thing is, they’d much rather have Notre Dame than Baylor.

It’s hard to get particularly nostalgic for the Big 12, itself an amalgamation of the old Big 8 and the carcass of the venerable South West Conference.  It’s only been competing since 1996.  But we appear ready for an arms race for the good football schools that will destroy some of the smaller conferences and, quite possibly, the NCAA.

Sportswriter David Moulton:

Nebraska leaving the Big 12 for the Big Ten is the college sports equivalent of the Archduke Ferdinand being assassinated. His death set off a chain reaction that led to World War I. Nebraska’s shot has set off a chain reaction that will ultimately lead to the death of the Big 12, the Big East, the athletic irrelevancy of major universities and all their sports not named football.

How could this happen?

The roots began four years ago when the Big Ten went looking for more money from ESPN for their product. ESPN said “No.” The Big Ten said, “If you don’t give us more money, we’ll have to start our own network.” ESPN didn’t, so the Big Ten did. The Big Network kicked off in 2007 and regionalized the conference — a bad move which would have to be corrected by expansion — while also becoming a cash cow.


Despite all this incompetence, the only moves that had to take place were the Big Ten, Pac-10 and Big East becoming 12-team conferences. Why? Because BCS bylaws state that to have a conference championship game in football (big $$$) you need 12 teams. The only question that mattered became, who would the Big Ten add?

Immediately, Nebraska raised its hand. The Big Ten would offer them triple their current TV revenue. Of course, they didn’t really want to replace Oklahoma, Texas and Kansas with Indiana, Illinois and Northwestern. Nebraska just wanted more money. Who controls the money in the Big 12? Texas. When Nebraska asked one final time last week to get TV revenue shared equally, the Big 12 (i.e., Texas) said “No.”


Yet despite everything that had transpired the last four years, the school that could have stopped all of this as late as 48 hours ago was Notre Dame. Because they were the only school the Big Ten wanted. If Notre Dame earlier this week, had said to the Big Ten, “OK, you win. Instead of all this crazy expansion talk, blowing up conferences, and us being on the outside looking in, what if we agree to join your conference? Will you then stop the madness?”

On last night’s PTI, Tony Kornheiser suggested that the upshot of all this will be maybe four major conferences, each with 16 teams — thus, 64 total — driving the bus.  And, with all the major football schools in four conferences, who needs the NCAA and it’s pesky rules about academics — much less sharing the massive television revenue with weak sister schools with lousy football teams?

Interestingly, the first of the super-conferences, the vaunted Southeastern Conference (SEC), is keeping its powder dry at the moment. But longtime Atlanta Journal-Constitution hand Tony Barnhart thinks this may be the calm before the storm.

There are also reports out there that very quietly, Mike Slive and his folks at the SEC could still invite Texas and Texas A&M if the Big 12 breaks up. Would Oklahoma and Oklahoma State come along? Yes, I know about the Pac-10 offer to the six Big 12 teams (Texas, A&M, Texas Tech, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Colorado). But as one official put it to me yesterday: Do you think DeLoss Dodds (the Texas athletics director) would rather send his women’s softball team to Pullman, Washington (home of  Pac-10 member Washington State) or Tuscaloosa, Ala? I know all about the academic arguments in favor of the Pac-10. I’ll believe it when I see it.

Notice that Baylor’s not on that list, either.

Who cares, though, really?   Big-time college football is about money, after all.  And even with geographically spread-out conferences, schools would only have to take long road trips a few times a season.    But, oops, there are other sports!   Baseball and basketball play much longer schedules and many, many more games each season.   And basketball coaches, like Kansas’ Bill Self, are not happy.

The decisions being made in the ivory towers of presidents’ offices and conference commissioners’ meeting rooms are driven solely by the promise of a potential pigskin-inspired financial windfall.

Nowhere is that more evident than at 1651 Naismith Drive, where Kansas has gone from storied, tradition-laden program of lore to afterthought. If the rumored Pac-16 models are to be believed, the University of Kansas could soon be a sports vagabond, left searching for a new conference home to cobble together.

The Jayhawks would have plenty of company but that Kansas — Kansas — is hanging by a thread tells you just how much of an ugly stepchild basketball has become in this process.   “We play on Naismith Drive; the father of coaching [Phog Allen] was our second coach; Adolph Rupp and Dean Smith went to school here; the most dominant player in the game in Wilt went to school here,’’ KU head coach Bill Self said. “And it’s not like we haven’t lived up to it lately. … But here we are potentially trying to find a home? I don’t get that.’’

But, of course, he does.   Football is the money machine in college sports and Kansas is only occasionally a major player in that sport.


Report: Big Ten Makes Expansion Offers To Four Colleges

If this report from a Kansas City sports radio station is to believed, the Big Ten Conference is thinking big when it comes to expansion:

big_ten_mini_pennant_set_23109bigThe Big Ten Conference has extended initial offers to join the league to four universities including Missouri and Nebraska from the Big 12, according to multiple sources close to the negotiations.

While nothing can be approved until the Big Ten presidents and chancellors meet the first week of June in Chicago, the league has informed the two Big 12 schools, Notre Dame and Rutgers that it would like to have them join. It is not yet clear whether the Big Ten will expand to 14 or 16 teams but sources indicated Missouri and Nebraska are invited in either scenario.  Notre Dame has repeatedly declined the opportunity to join the Big Ten.  If Notre Dame remains independent, Rutgers would be the 14th team.  The Big Ten would then decide whether to stop at 14 or extend offers to two other schools.  If Notre Dame joins, sources say an offer will be extended to one other school making it a 16-team league.

All four are interesting choices, for different reasons.

Notre Dame, of course, is a prize that the Big Ten has been pursuing for years, but it’s always been the one that got away. Given their lucrative television contract and national fan base, remaining independent has always seemed to be to Notre Dame’s advantage. Times are changing, though, and the Fighting Irish aren’t what they used to be. Putting them at the center of a conference where they would be instantly competitive might just be what’s needed to reinvigorate a program still hurting from the Charlie Weis years.

Rutgers seems like a odd choice at first because of it’s geographic distance from the rest of the Conference, but there are two reasons why it makes sense. Under Greg Schiano, the Rutgers football program (and make no mistake, this expansion is mostly geared toward football) has become credible in a way that it never was before. When I attended there in the late 80s and the Scarlet Knights played a rare game against Michigan State, it was an occasion for laughter in Lansing, Michigan. Not anymore. Second, bringing in Rutgers gives the Big Ten access to two of the biggest media markets in the country, which would be a big deal for both football and basketball.

As for Missouri and Nebraska, it’s interesting that the Big Ten would be so brazen about poaching from the Big 12, but both schools would be excellent additions on the football side to a conference that has come to be dominated in recent years by Ohio State and Penn State. Bringing the Tigers and Cornhuskers into the conference, along with Rutgers and Notre Dame, would instantly make football season much more competitive.

All in all, this seems like a smart move for the Big Ten.


Oregon QB Jeremiah Masoli charged with one count of burglary

He is accused of stealing two laptop computers and a guitar. From ESPN-

Oregon quarterback Jeremiah Masoli, who helped lead the Ducks to the Pac-10 Conference title and a Rose Bowl berth last season, faces a burglary charge in connection with a theft at a campus fraternity house in late January.Jeremiah Masoli

The Lane Country district attorney’s office says Masoli and former Oregon receiver Garrett Embry were each charged Wednesday with one count of burglary in the second degree.

Masoli and Embry were scheduled to be arraigned in Lane County Circuit Court on Friday afternoon.


A fraternity member reported that Masoli and Embry stole two computers and a guitar from the Sigma Alpha Epsilon house on Jan. 25.

Police were tight-lipped about the alleged theft, claiming it was under investigation.

Embry has been dismissed from the program for volating rules not related to the burglary.

Since playing in the Rose Bowl, Oregon has been hit by scandal after scandal. Players have been in a brawl, been accused of sexual assault, and more. I’m not going to pass judgment on these people, but will say if Oregon Duck coach Chip Kelly could find his job in jeopardy, Rose Bowl or no Rose Bowl, because of his out of control players. Oregon is a state school and University officials are accountable to the citizens of the state.


Former NFL MVP Merlin Olsen dead at 69

The 1974 League MVP was a great player and not a shabby actor either. RIP.

Merlin Olsen, a Pro Football Hall of Fame defensive lineman who was part of the Los Angeles Rams’ “Fearsome Foursome” line of the 1960s, has died after a lengthy battle with cancer. He was 69.Merlin Olsen

Olsen, who was diagnosed with mesothelioma last year and had been undergoing chemotherapy, died Wednesday night, Utah State assistant athletic media relations director Zach Fisher said.

The burley giant from northern Utah joined Deacon Jones, Lamar Lundy and Rosey Grier on the Rams’ storied “Fearsome Foursome” defensive line known for either stopping or knocking backward whatever offenses it faced. The Rams set an NFL record for the fewest yards allowed during a 14-game season in 1968.

Olsen was rookie of the year for the Rams in 1962 and is still the Rams’ all-time leader in career tackles with 915. He was named to 14 consecutive Pro Bowls, a string that started his rookie year, and was voted to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1982.

Olsen was also an established television actor with a role on “Little House on the Prairie,” then starring in his own series, “Father Murphy,” from 1981 to 1983 and the short-lived “Aaron’s Way” in 1988.

Olsen was a consensus All-American at Utah State and won the 1961 Outland Trophy as the nation’s best interior lineman. The Rams drafted Olsen third overall in 1962 and he spent the next 15 years with the team before retiring in 1976.

Utah State honored Olsen in December by naming the football field at Romney Stadium “Merlin Olsen Field.” Because of his illness, Olsen’s alma mater didn’t want to wait until football season and made the announcement during halftime of a basketball game.


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