The Terrelle Pryor in the NFL Debate Verdict

June 16, 2011

Read the opposing arguments from Babe Ruthless and Bleacher Fan.

We got things back up and running this week with a passionate debate about Terrelle Pryor and his possible future in the NFL. Pryor is a polarizing athlete who most folks have a solid opinion about one way or another in regards to his future, and his immediate future apparently includes a spot in the upcoming NFL supplemental draft. Most sane people believe he isn’t worth a first round pick (Drew Rosenhaus obviously is not included in this group), but that was not the focus of this debate.

I asked Babe Ruthless and Bleacher Fan to debate, if they were NFL general managers, whether or not Pryor was worthy of a roster spot on an NFL team.

Bleacher Fan has had somewhat of a front row seat to Pryor over the past three years (being a resident of Ohio), beginning with Pryor putting off his announcement of where he would take his talents until over a month after signing day. Bleacher Fan effectively paints Pryor as a spoiled, selfish, prima donna, which is the impression that many fans outside of Buckeye Nation possibly already had of Pryor before all of this controversy started.

Putting aside the character issues, Bleacher Fan then questions the impact Pryor can make on an NFL team. Some NFL analysts are not sure he can cut it as a quarterback, so there is speculation thanks to his size he may line up at another position (possibly a receiver). That is because his passing numbers, despite his win-loss record, pale in comparison to some of his contemporaries.

Babe Ruthless, though, commends Pryor on his hiring of Rosenhaus (who exemplifies what Babe is all about), and really simplifies the debate by saying that there isn’t much risk by offering a mid to low round pick for Pryor.

Babe also questions how Pryor all of a sudden got labeled as being such a bad guy. Sure, he is the face of this ongoing Ohio State scandal, and he has driven all kinds of various cars from a local dealership, including this beauty that he drove to one of the last meeting he attended as a member of the Ohio State football team. He is going to have that stigma attached to him probably for the rest of his life. But there are worse things.

I count myself as someone who wasn’t necessarily in Pryor’s corner during his time in Columbus. I was never blown away by his numbers, or by his performance on the field as a quarterback. I nonetheless recognized, and still recognize, the fact that the guy is a tremendous athlete.

It is also important to note that with the ongoing NFL lockout (perhaps you’ve heard), there hasn’t been any OTA’s or any contact between players and coaches (at least on record). However, there have been workouts organized by the players. And while rookies such as Cam Newton have been getting acquainted with their teammates and are adjusting quite well, we really don’t know what kind of shape Pryor is in. He could be out of shape, or he could be in excellent shape, since he spent much of the spring running from the NCAA (BA-ZING)! All we have to go on is a few tweets from Chad Ochocinco, and is that supposed to be convincing?

What helped decide the debate, though, was a point raised by Babe Ruthless – What is there really to lose on taking Pryor, if it is done with a low pick? Obviously, no team is going to risk a high pick on this “project,” but why not a sixth or seventh-round pick? Is next year’s draft outlook for any team severely altered by losing a seventh round pick? It’s a LOW risk HIGH reward move, and because of that, Babe Ruthless wins the debate.

Terrelle Pryor would be worth a low round supplemental pick, and should be offered a chance to come in and compete for a roster spot. If he makes it, there will be all kind of extra publicity for the team. If not, then there is no big loss.

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The Terrelle Pryor in the NFL Debate

June 14, 2011

Read the opposing arguments from Babe Ruthless and Bleacher Fan.

We took a little break, but TSD is back (thankfully, my co-writers weren’t “childish” and “ignorant” about my sinus infection and really bad cough). There were several topics that we could have tackled in our debate this week, such as “What is the best LeBron James joke”, but we decided to take a deeper look into the situation involving former Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor.

After signing with Drew “Next Question” Rosenhaus yesterday, Pryor has officially terminated his amateur status, which made yesterday an extremely difficult day for Sports Geek (kidding, of course). Pryor promises to get some interest in the upcoming NFL supplemental draft, as he indicated he has no interest in playing in the CFL.

My question for Bleacher Fan and Babe Ruthless is simply this:

If you were General Manager of an NFL team, would you give Pryor a shot at making the roster by picking him in the supplemental draft?

Bleacher Fan will argue that Pryor should not be given a shot, while Babe Ruthless will argue that Pryor warrants a legitimate opportunity.

Take a look at it from all angles and give me your best argument on what to do with Pryor.

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The Terrelle Pryor in the NFL Debate… Size Isn’t Everything

June 14, 2011

Read the opposing argument from Babe Ruthless.

On February 6th, 2008, every high school football senior in the country with hopes of playing at the next level had to make a decision. It was National Signing Day, where those recruits commit to the college program they wish to be a part of.

Every recruit, that is, except one.

A quarterback out of Jeannette, PA, by the name of Terrelle Pryor thought he was special, and that the rules of everyone else didn’t apply to him. And so, while everyone else was announcing their intentions for the fall, Pryor decided that he would not make his announcement until more than a month later, on March 19th.

We should have seen it coming then.

Terrelle Pryor has fallen right in line with many other phenom talents who are targeted at a too-early age as the next great athletic superstar. Throughout their formative years, when most kids are learning very important life lessons about maturity, responsibility, and accountability, these teenage “superstars” are instead being told they are ‘special’. Exceptions and excuses are made on their behalf for their mistakes, and before you know it, they are shut off from the rest of the world, living within the bubble of “I am better than everyone else.”

Think about the recent antics of other children (which is exactly what they are) who were thrust far too soon into the limelight that is sports stardom – LeBron James and Bryce Harper quickly come to mind. All of these amazingly talented athletes may be physically prepared for the rigors of top-tier athletic competition, but none have shown the maturity necessary to cope with those rigors, and none have demonstrated an ounce of consideration for anyone around them, DESPITE the fact that they all play TEAM SPORTS.

Still, we hope with each new kid brought to us by ESPNU or as the ‘next great thing’ that THEY will be different. We continue to blindly believe the myth that age naturally brings wisdom and maturity, when so many before them prove time and again that is just not the case in sports. We believe that a kid who hasn’t even gone to prom yet can manage a multi-million dollar lifestyle, when most adults aren’t capable of it.

And with every new revelation made about the misdeeds of Pryor and his cohorts while at The Ohio State University, it becomes more evident that he has continued to behave as though the rules just did not apply to him. HE was the superstar, and everyone else should be grateful that HE is a part of their system.

So it came as a surprise to no one when he once more ducked out on accountability and consequence by running away from the NCAA.

Once again, while his so-called ‘team’ will be suffering the wrath of the NCAA, Pryor gets to just walk away, untouched by sanctions that will largely (if not entirely) be levied specifically because of his actions.

Terrelle Pryor is special, and the rules don’t apply to him.

Does that sound like someone an NFL General Manager, Head Coach, or FAN would want on their organization?

Character issues to the side now (which are more than enough to turn any NFL GM off to the prospect of Pryor as a member of their organization), there are plenty of reasons from a performance standpoint that would ALSO be reason to look the other way when Pryor and new agent Drew Rosenhaus come knocking at your team’s door.

Yes, Terrelle Pryor is a physically gifted athlete. He undeniably has the build required to play in the NFL, and is an all-around athlete. His combination of size and speed are what got him noticed in high school, and what led the Buckeyes to an amazing 33-6 record during his three-year tenure with the program.

But for Pryor, the REAL story is not in the wins, but in the losses. His poor decision making ability in many of those games led to very costly turnovers, some of which decided the outcome of games.

When Pryor is leading a juggernaut team against the bottom-feeders of the NCAA, it is easy for him to look good. The talent of the team around him, and the support of a stifling defense that was the hallmark of Ohio State football under Jim Tressel, all compensated for Pryor’s inability to make good decisions.

He extends plays far too long, creating opportunities for the defense to force turnovers, and he forces passes into areas that should not be tested. That is why his ratio of barely more than two TD passes for every interception pales in comparison to TRULY successful quarterbacks of recent years such as Cam Newton (4.3 TDs to every INT), Sam Bradford (5.5 TDs per INT), or even fellow Buckeye Troy Smith (4.2 TDs per INT).

With very few exceptions, any time that Terrelle Pryor found himself in a pressure situation with the game resting on his shoulders, he failed to deliver. Instead, he USUALLY committed a costly mistake which actually hurt his team more than if he had done nothing at all.

And to top it all off, the projection for his pro potential is not even at the position he played in college. You see, everyone knows that he can’t hack it as an NFL QB, so they are instead HOPING that his size, speed, and strength will make him a successful weapon somewhere (anywhere) on the field.

So if I were General Manager of an NFL franchise, and was presented at the supplemental draft with the opportunity to draft a low-character, poor decision making, selfish, prima donna attention-seeker who will have to learn an entirely new position because everyone already knows he cannot be successfull at the only position he has experience in, my answer is a resounding ‘NO THANK YOU!’

The best thing for Pryor AND for the NFL would be for him to spend a few years in either the CFL or the UFL, developing some strong character traits, and proving to the world that he is more than just hype and bad publicity.

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The Terrelle Pryor in the NFL Debate… Yes, There Is Life After College Football

June 14, 2011

Read the opposing argument from Bleacher Fan.

Life gave Terrelle Pryor lemons, and earlier this week he started making lemonade.

Well maybe that’s not entirely accurate. Perhaps it could be better stated that, life blessed Terrelle Pryor with incredible athletic gifts and placed him in an extremely enviable position to showcase those talents, and then his greed and ego caused the downfall of his career, his coach’s job, and his college football team’s chances for the immediate future….but really isn’t it just a matter of semantics?

In spite of his marred reputation and indiscretions, Terrelle Pryor has a lot of upside left to his football career and now he’s trying to start fresh in the NFL. He is off to a great start by signing the best agent in sports, Drew Rosenhaus . Seriously, I mean that. Rosenhaus could sell crazy pills to Gary Busey. But I digress.

So now, armed with the apex predator of all agents and a new penitent attitude, Pryor throws his hat in the ring for the NFL supplemental draft. Today’s debate examines the question, does Pryor warrant a shot of making an NFL teams roster following selection in the supplemental draft?

The answer is a resounding YES! Terrelle Pryor is an obvious talent, maybe not a prototypical NFL quarterback, but a football talent none the less. There is hardly a debate on this issue at all.

If this debate was about whether teams should build a franchise around Pryor, then I would admit that would be some obvious concerns for NFL General Managers to consider. And again, if this debate was about whether teams should spend a first round pick in the supplemental draft on him, I would acknowledge the fact that there are just too many questions for this to be a no brainer. BUT, neither of those are the issues Bleacher Fan and I are asked to tackle. We simply have to decide whether Terrelle Pryor, a stand out QB from the ultra competitive Big Ten, deserves a potentially mid to late round draft pick to then compete for a spot on the team roster. I simply cannot see any justification for teams to overlook him in such a low risk high reward scenario.

First of all, Terrelle Pryor is not a seriously bad guy. He didn’t shoot himself in the leg at a strip club like Plaxico Burress. He didn’t fight and kill dogs for pleasure like Michael Vick. He didn’t allegedly sexually assault multiple women like Ben Roethlisberger. No, Pryor did what more modern athletes than we’d probably care to admit do year after year. He took benefits that an amateur athlete cannot receive. We saw this play out on a much higher profile scenario with Reggie Bush last year which ended up costing him the most noteworthy of his amateur accolades, the Heisman Trophy. It was a black eye for Bush and his former college the University of Southern California but not so much for his pro team the New Orleans Saints. Sure the scandal was a distraction but it didn’t really seem to impact the day to day success of Saints football. Pryor is sure to carry some distraction and baggage to any team that signs, but it will be more of a hiccup in his integration to the pro game than a barrier to playing winning football. So while Pryor may not bring the drama and problems of a Vick or Roethlisberger he may bring some of their talent and athleticism.

Secondly, what do teams have to lose at this point? The supplemental draft works similarly to a silent auction that allows teams to declare what round they would be willing to take Pryor, and then surrender a pick in the following year’s draft if they have the highest bid. This means that any team could take a flyer on him with a seventh round bid. While I feel certain that won’t win him, it does mean that any team in the league could snatch a mobile quarterback to come in and fight for a roster spot. There are plenty of teams that still have holes at the QB position and many more that could stand to bolster their bench with proficient signal caller with the skills of Pryor.

This whole debate centers on the question of whether teams should take Pryor, but it is really a given that they will. The debate should really have been about determining the round he WILL be drafted. Drew Rosenhaus is prognosticating that his latest client will go in the first round. While I believe this is more posturing and price inflation than true projection, I would not rule it out that he will go for a pick in the top half of the draft.

Solving the QB concerns was an issue for many teams in the 2011 NFL Draft. Cam Newton, Blaine Gabbert, Jake Locker, and Christian Ponder were all taken in the 1st round. While Pryor’s name certainly rivals one or two of these quarterbacks, the point here is that he doesn’t even have to. Pryor simply needs to demand enough attention to demand one draft pick from one team for me to win this debate, and I believe that is a given. The Texans, Jets, Ravens, Bears, and Chiefs all used late round picks trying to better their QB situation. It would be crazy to believe these are the only teams than need to strengthen their passing game, and it would be even more ludicrous to believe that all NFL teams are satisfied with the rosters.

I feel certain that Bleacher Fan will rattle off a laundry list of character defects and skill deficiencies that would cause teams to doubt Pryor’s effectiveness as a pro QB, but all draftees face similar second-guessing and scrutiny. If that was really enough to deter NFL GMs, Cam Newton would not have been the overall first pick in the draft.

Pryor may not pan out to be a star, but he certainly deserves a chance to prove he can be one.

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The Suspended Players Starting A Bowl Game Debate Verdict

January 5, 2011

Read the opposing arguments from Loyal Homer and Babe Ruthless.

There is no doubt that the suspended players for Ohio State played a substantial role in the team’s performance in the Sugar Bowl. But the supposed redemption for the Big Ten that Ohio State was playing for is tainted because of the players the program agreed to use to meet the goal. Players that broke rules and should have been suspended for the Sugar Bowl were allowed to play and defer the start of their suspension until the 2011 season. This debate decides if the players should have been allowed to play, or if they should have been forced to begin their suspensions immediately.

Loyal Homer points out a disturbing fact that is unavoidable – the Sugar Bowl CEO, Paul Hoolahan, gleefully recounts his successful attempt to the lobby the NCAA in an effort to ensure Ohio State’s most notorious and talented players would play in one of the most high profile games of the season. Sponsors had to get what they paid for, television ratings had to be high. So, the only logical move is to ensure the top stars are available to play, or else risk a disaster of a game and a business opportunity squandered.

While I understand what Hoolahan did and his reasons, it undermines the integrity of college football. For the NCAA, it either stands for enforcing rules that preserve the amateur athlete and the sanctity of the sport, or it is willing to compromise its principles to make some extra money. The NCAA chose the money, but I choose Loyal Homer as the winner of this debate.

I reject the notion put forth by Babe Ruthless that college football – and its celebration season known as The Bowl Season – is reduced to a pure cash cow. Money is an unavoidable part of the college football business in modern times, but it should not force the sport to morph and evolve in a way that makes it indistinguishable from professional football. The decision to sacrifice earned punishment for wrongdoing in favor of television ratings and pleasing sponsors makes college football no different than professional football. Simply, that is a sad fact. Emphasis on the sad.

The idea of the punishment is correct on the part of the NCAA. The basic belief system seems in place. Babe Ruthless is correct that the players did something wrong and should be suspended. But, I disagree with the Babe that college football must be all about the money. If the punishment is just, then carrying it out must also be. The NCAA made a mistake by letting these players play in the Sugar Bowl.

I also part ways with Babe Ruthless when he attempts to draw a connection between suspended players and sponsored bowl games. There is nothing wrong with bowl games securing sponsorship. But that sponsorship – or any business interest – should never influence which players play in a game. Regardless of suspension or not, sponsorships and money should never dictate which players take the field – on college or pro sports.

To Babe’s last point – the suspensions are not about the players gaining unfair advantage. It is about amateur athletes selling items they earned through their relationship with the NCAA and then receiving special benefits from a local business because of their status. Those are clearly stated NCAA rules and the players are all in violation. The rules are clear, the punishment just.

The BCS is here, for better or worse. The existence of the system mandates an emphasis on financial payout. If a program is going to be a member of the BCS, then it must also resign itself to a pursuit of money. That is what Ohio State has done, but that does not make it right.

Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel should have suspended the players for the Sugar Bowl anyway. No doubt he would be pressured not to, but rules are rules. The players broke the rules, and must serve their punishment. Instead Tressel abided by the NCAA ruling, then trumped it by using the pending suspension – and stay of execution for the bowl game – to leverage those players into staying for the 2011 rather than turn professional. It is a disappointing move from a coach and community leader many revere as much for integrity as for sweater vests. If those players turn pro, it seems now all he has are the sweater vests.

Integrity matters most when it is the hardest to show. It is not until situations get difficult that true colors shine through. In this case, the NCAA, the Big Ten, and yes, even Jim Tressel, showed what matters most – money. If that really is the case, let’s just stop masquerading around squawking about the honor of the sport.

For BCS haters, Ohio State’s willingness to oblige the system only makes it stronger, and that fact should be upsetting. Ohio State blew a chance to show it stands for something. It had an opportunity to show the world that blind, lemming-like pursuit of the BCS payout was not all that mattered. Until high-profile programs stand up for what’s right, the BCS will continue to gain strength, and the amateur nature of college football will become a distant memory.

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The Suspended Players Starting A Bowl Game Debate

January 4, 2011

Read the opposing arguments from Loyal Homer and Babe Ruthless.

Here we are, at the nexus of Midwestern values and the insatiable desire to win a football game.

Last week Ohio State suspended five of its best players – quarterback Terrelle Pryor, wide receiver DeVier Posey, running back Dan Herron, offensive tackle Mike Adams, and defensive end Solomon Thomas – for selling memorabilia earned by their relationship with Ohio State’s football program for their own personal profit.

Before you get started… this is not a debate about paying college kids for their services. It can’t be, because when you study the facts you realize between free education, books, housing, meals, and a stipend… they DO get paid. So let’s dispense with that business right now.

This debate is about whether the players – who will sit out the first five games of NEXT season – still be allowed to play in the bowl game for this season. Knowing the players each have the opportunity to turn pro rather than receive their punishment, should Ohio State or the NCAA force the players to begin their suspensions now?

Any BCS football program relies on national exposure to retain strong recruiting and earn a financial payout that helps to foot the bill for the school and the conference every season. Is it worth it to sacrifice integrity on the altar of winning?

Yes, this debate is about more than just “should the five Ohio State players play in a bowl game.” It is about the integrity of coaches, players, and college football as a whole.

This should be simple.

Today’s question for our resident debaters is: Should Ohio State allow the five suspended players to play in the 2011 Sugar Bowl?

Loyal Homer will argue that integrity matters and the players should begin their suspensions immediately while Babe Ruthless argues the stakes of this game are too high to sit players when the NCAA and the schools are dependent upon the payday from national advertisers.

I am on the fence on this – push me off.

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The Suspended Players Starting A Bowl Game Debate… Bucks Eye Integrity

January 4, 2011

Read the opposing argument from Babe Ruthless.

I think we were all kind of shocked when we found out that the NCAA had suspended five players, including star Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor, for the first five games of the 2011 season when an investigation concluded that he and four teammates sold miscellaneous team memorabilia like team jerseys, rings, and the coveted “golden pants.” Like the apparent idiot that I am, I immediately assumed that they would also be sitting out the Sugar Bowl matchup against Arkansas. But I forgot we are presently living in an era where the NCAA likes to play, “Can You Top This?” They are inexplicably allowing the five culprits to play, and I have yet to find a valid reason why. These suspensions should begin IMMEDATATELY!

When reading the original press release by the NCAA, one phrase originally jumped out at me. The release states the players “did not receive adequate rules education during the time period the violations occurred.” Now, even the biggest Ohio State fans I know – Bleacher Fan and Sports Geek – have to admit this is a load of Buckeye crap (Editor’s Note: Yes, they do). If these kids weren’t aware that this would be a rules violation, I don’t know who it makes look worse, the Ohio State compliance department or the student athlete? Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith contends that players weren’t educated about the consequences of selling such items until November 2009, well after the items had been sold. Yet, Georgia Bulldog fans may recall that several players of their favorite team sold SEC championship rings after the 2003 season. It wasn’t against NCAA rules at the time, but the NCAA soon altered its rules. Perhaps Smith and the compliance department at the university missed the memo.

Something else bothers me about this entire situation. Sugar Bowl CEO Paul Hoolahan is on record saying that he lobbied Ohio State really hard to make sure they did everything possible to get the five guys eligible to play in the bowl game. He had a game to sell. He had sponsors to please. He had television ratings to get. I respect that aspect of it. He is, after all, just doing his job.

However, what he said bothered me. He said, “I made the point that anything that could be done to preserve the integrity of this year’s game, we would appreciate it.” Integrity…hmm. Who has integrity in this case? Not Ohio State. Not the five players. Certainly not the five players. Is there anyone outside Big Ten country who is pulling for Ohio State now? If there was before December 23rd, there isn’t now.

I’m anxiously awaiting the opportunity to read the argument from Babe Ruthless. Are we supposed to feel sorry for these players? Were we supposed to feel sorry for A.J. Green when he took $1,000 for selling his Independence Bowl jersey?

I can’t see valid justification for these Ohio State players playing, and no, giving Ohio State a fair shot at finally beating an SEC team in a BCS bowl game is not valid justification. The NCAA once again got it wrong!

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The Suspended Players Starting A Bowl Game Debate… Bowl Games Really About Benjamins

January 4, 2011

Read the opposing argument from Loyal Homer.

The 2010 college football regular season is in the books, and it has made me realize one thing—I miss Tim Tebow!

Since the universally admired Florida quarterback departed for the NFL, college football has been a parade of negative headlines. The pre-season NCAA probe into illegal contact with agents, the Cam Newton inappropriate benefits controversy, and the Reggie Bush Heisman relinquishing melodrama were all tabloid quality mainstays of the media that defined college football in 2010. So it should come as no great surprise that the 2010 Bowl season should be overshadowed by yet another scandal.

Five Ohio State players, including QB Terrelle Pryor, have been busted for selling championship paraphernalia and receiving improper benefits at a tattoo parlor. The NCAA investigated the matter and ruled that all five players must be suspended for the first five games of the upcoming 2011 season (Ohio State is appealing the ruling to reduce the suspension). Although the case against the players was fairly straightforward, and the action against them swift, it left many pondering the question, “Why didn’t the NCAA suspend them from the Sugar Bowl?”

The answer is simple, but discomforting to many. College football is all about the money.

At one time collegiate sports were a bastion for the STUDENT-athlete, but for most schools those days are long gone. Football programs are revenue generators and major attracting forces for potential clients… I mean students. There is so much wealth and revenue wrapped up in college sports that today’s game no longer tries to hide its commercialism.

Just looking at the names of bowl games clearly illustrates the profit driven commercialism of the modern “amateur” game. Bowls names, such as the Meineke Car Care Bowl, the Chick-Fil-A Bowl, Bowl and the Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl have virtually no connection with the sport other than a cooperate sponsorship, and that is to say nothing of the formerly sacred bowls – such as the (Discover) Orange Bowl, (AT&T) Cotton Bowl, and Rose Bowl (Presented By VIZIO) –which have sold out their naming rights to maximize revenue. Even the national title game bears the imprint of big business with its new moniker the Tostitos BCS National Championship Game.

My point in all this name nonsense is that there is nothing wrong with a sport making money, but it seems that the NCAA is in a ludicrous state of self denial continuing to purport the antiquated image of non-professional, uncompensated athletes in the profit driven big business of sports. We see it time and time again in college sports. Each year it seems that more and more college stars are revealed to have accepted some sort of illegal benefit or to have had in appropriate contact with an agent. Why? Because college sports are all about money.

It is that fixation with money that clearly drove the decision to ban the Ohio State five from games next season and not this year’s Sugar Bowl… correction that’s the Allstate Sugar Bowl. The absence of these five players, especially Pryor, would have hurt the competitiveness of Ohio State and in turn undermined the competitive validity of the gme. Watching a Pryor-less Buckeye team take on the Arkansas Razorbacks is a far less compelling game to watch. A less exciting game makes for poorer attendance and poorer ratings. Poorer ratings make for weaker commercial endorsement and the profitability of the whole bowl game decreases as a result.

Paul Hoolahan, Sugar Bowl CEO, validated my argument in his statement about lobbying to keep the suspensions from impacting the bowl game when he said, “I made the point that anything that could be done to preserve the integrity of this year’s game, we would greatly appreciate it… That appeal did not fall on deaf ears, and I’m extremely excited about it that the Buckeyes are coming in at full strength with no dilution.”

He is right. A punch-less Ohio State team would have undermined the entire bowl. Although I believe Mr. Hoolahan was looking at it from purely financial eyes consider the fans stake in the game. Fans that purchased Sugar Bowl tickets did not do so to watch backups play, they came to watch the REAL Ohio State take on Arkansas. Anyone who has ever bought a ticket to watch a sports team play only to find that their favorite superstar attraction is missing, for whatever reason, understands the disappointment I am describing. Recently I purchased tickets to watch the Miami Heat play. Had LeBron James been M.I.A. I would have been S.O.L., and would have been very upset about it. It would definitely impact my future ticket purchasing decisions, and the Sugar Bowl is no different.

Last, I’d like to consider the suspension itself. Players were punished, in essence, for selling their personal effects and getting discounted tattoos. TATTOOS! To channel my best Allen Iverson, we are not talking about cheating or a crime or the game that they go out there and die for and play like it’s their last. We are talkin’ about TATOOS. I simply don’t see the need for such drastic measures over something so very inconsequential. Does anyone really believe that Ohio State has a competitive advantage in signing recruits because of discounted tattoos?

These five guys are being punished enough. The NCAA would only hurt the sponsors and the fans by suddenly taking a principled stand against minor infractions. Where were all these so called principles when the naming rights for bowl games went up for bid anyways? The punishment is fine the way it is. It will be a deterrent to future devious tattoo discounts and will make Ohio State be more accountable for their athletes. But enough is enough; let them play in the Sugar Bowl.

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The Best BCS Bowl Debate – Do You Smell The Roses?

December 21, 2009

Read the arguments from Sports Geek and Bleacher Fan.

The writers here at The Sports Debates had a relatively interesting discussion behind the scenes concerning this debate. We all have reservations about the teams that are playing in the games we are arguing in favor of. Being from the South, it is not very often that you will see me arguing for a game involving teams from the Pac-10. But I am all about watching the best game, and after looking at the five BCS games, I have come to the conclusion that the Rose Bowl is the BEST BCS game.

Ohio State, for all the criticism it takes from Loyal Homer behind closed doors for its inability to win the big game, closes out the decade as one of college football’s top programs. I give credit for that. Ohio State has won six Big Ten titles this decade, and the appearance in the Granddaddy of Them All will be their fifth consecutive BCS appearance. It looked like this season’s team would not make it to a BCS game, as they had two losses by midseason. Quarterback Terrelle Pryor and head coach Jim Tressel have been fighting off critics all season. The criticism reached such a fever pitch that The Sports Debates actually had a debate on the use of Pryor earlier this year. I have never been one to just love the Ohio State brand of football, and yet, after late wins over Penn State and Iowa, here they are again! A solid defense and an opportunistic offense behind a playmaking quarterback is a recipe for a ten win season. A win over the Ducks locks up a top ten finish… AGAIN… and really raises expectations for the 2010 season.

Meanwhile, the Ducks also took the scenic route to Pasadena. We all remember the LeGarrette Blount incident in the first game of the season. I remember watching that game and thinking, “This team is terrible.” But to head coach Chip Kelly’s credit – someone who deserves some coach of the year consideration – the team righted the ship, and here they are! Highlights of the season include an absolute whipping of USC and a thrilling win over rival Oregon State in the Civil War. To people on the East coast, you might not be familiar with Oregon quarterback Jeremiah Masoli, but he is the real deal. I admit I was late on his bandwagon, but I watched him pick apart Southern Cal to the tune of nearly 400 yards. That game convinced me of his talent. Somewhat quietly, I think, he threw for over 2,000 yards and ran for over 650 yards with a combined 27 touchdowns. Assuming he comes back, he could be mentioned as a preseason Heisman Trophy contender next season. It will be interesting to see how he does against a tough Buckeye defense.

The Buckeyes against the Ducks! Is it the sexy, glamorous matchup that fans outside of these two fan bases want to see? Probably not! But it is a game involving two teams who play very different styles of football. It is an opportunity for both teams to try to get some national respect. And after all, it is the Rose Bowl!

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The Terrelle Pryor Growth Debate – It’s the Coaching!

October 29, 2009

Read the debate intro and Sports Geek’s argument that the struggles of Terrelle Pryor are due to his underperformance.

Have you ever tried running with a left shoe on your right foot? Sure, you can still accomplish the basic goal of getting from here to there, and the shoe will protect your foot from sharp steps along the road. The problem, though, is that it prevents you from maximizing your true potential. Ideally, you would like to find a shoe that fits properly, which enables you to truly perform at the highest possible levels.

When you do find that shoe that fits comfortably magic starts to happen. The right fit brings comfort, and with comfort comes reliability and consistency of performance. Instead of pain, tension, and stress you are able to move more naturally, and focus on improving the finer points of performance.

Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor must know exactly how that feels.

After being very heavily recruited out of high school, Pryor came into Ohio State amidst very high expectations. At 6 feet 6 inches, weighing 227 pounds, Pryor was compared to Vince Young. Like Young, Pryor has the raw athletic ability of a “dual-threat” quarterback who can run for 20 yards just as easily as he could can throw for it.

For a player who has been compared to one of the most exciting and successful college quarterbacks of this decade, Pryor’s career has not started out so great for Pryor at Ohio State. Pryor, who has shown glimpses of the superstar that he can be, has been responsible for several very costly errors, most of which appeared to be the result of poor decision making. And if you play football in Ohio, errors are very quickly followed by criticism.

Critics seem to forget that Vince Young was not always the quarterback pictured in a cloud of confetti after having just upset the favored Southern Cal Trojans in the BCS National Championship. In fact, during Young’s first season at the helm for the Texas Longhorns he threw almost as many interceptions (11) as he did touchdowns (12), and only accounted for 1,848 passing yards. It took time for Young, who was 21-years-old when he took his first snaps as a starter in Texas, to develop with his team into a quarterback capable of national success.

Now compare Young to Pryor, who was thrust into the limelight at age 18 and asked to lead a national contender into the BCS before he had even finished his first semester of college! Yes, Pryor made mistakes, but many of those mistakes were the result of poor strategy on the field.

What makes Pryor most dangerous is his running ability. Like Young, or former Ohio State quarterback Troy Smith, Pryor has an amazing ability to extend plays because he is elusive and possesses amazing speed (despite his larger frame). The difference for Pryor is that he does not have the same supporting cast around him as Young and Smith had. Consider Young’s offensive teammates. Names like Selvin Young, Bo Scaife, Cedric Benson, and Limas Sweed come to mind. For Smith, names like Chris “Beanie” Wells, Teddy Ginn Jr., and Anthony Gonzalez come to mind. Both rosters were LOADED with NFL caliber talent, and both rosters required opposing defenses to split their focus, freeing up Young and Smith respectively to take advantage of their natural play-making abilities.

Who does Terrelle Pryor have? Beanie Wells was injured for some of the 2008 season with Pryor, so his play cannot be weighted very heavily. Instead, Pryor has a supporting cast of Daniel Herron, Dane Sanzenbacher, Brandon Saine, and Brian Hartline – all of whom are good players, but not quite the same caliber of his predecessor’s supporting cast. Opposing defenses are now able to use one of Pryor’s biggest strengths against him. The primary reason that Pryor was so highly recruited out of high school was because of his improvisational style and ability to make plays under pressure. That style can be very easy when the opponent is a bunch of 15 and 16 year-olds from Anywhere-Pennsylvania High. When an 18-year-old boy is being pressured by the defenses of USC, Penn State, or Texas… improvisation is a little more difficult to pull off.

Pryor’s mistakes have all come at times where he has tried to improvise or extend a play – every single one of them. The problem is that he cannot be expected to do it all by himself. I am not criticizing the rest of the Buckeye’s, but the offense around Pryor is not designed to support a quarterback with his unique talents. It is that simple. Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel coaches in a style that prizes special teams and field position play. Tressel’s coaching style would have him classified as a game manager, taking few chances and relying heavily on solid defense and consistent play to dominate the game by the clock (something the Buckeyes have not been able to do lately). What Pryor needs is an explosive running back that draws all of the attention up front, combined with speedy wide receivers to help him stretch the field. Most importantly, he needs the time to let plays develop. If his wide receivers are unable to get open downfield, it does not matter how long he extends the play, success will never come.

There has to be allowance for a learning curve, not only for Terrelle Pryor but for the whole Ohio State Buckeyes program. The aforementioned Troy Smith (who won the Heisman Trophy his senior year) was actually BENCHED in 2004 because he was unable to succeed under the Buckeye’s game plan. Once the team (and the coach) was able to develop an offense that complemented Smith’s style the coaches could finally maximize Smith’s talents, and saw wild success. If Pryor is going to have that same success then Tressel and the Buckeyes are going to have to figure out a way to truly maximize his talents.

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