By Dave Wischnowsky–
Four years ago, when Terrelle Pryor – then the most celebrated prep quarterback in the country – signed with Ohio State, he was hailed by the sweater-vested faithful as a conquering hero whose arrival in Columbus guaranteed a national championship.
But as the Buckeyes now limp toward their gimpy QB’s final collegiate go-around, fans are facing the harsh reality that Pryor’s career has instead generated more bad ink (and tattoos) than it has good press.
And we’re still waiting for that first national title.
(Don’t hold your breath, Brutus.)
On Tuesday evening, Pryor was the gag gift that kept on giving as Ohio State announced that it has now (wrist) slapped head football coach Jim Tressel with a two-game suspension and $250,000 fine for withholding information for nine months about players – including, of course, his star QB – who had committed NCAA violations by trading memorabilia and autographs for tattoos at a local ink parlor.
To its credit, the university self-reported Tressel’s violation to the NCAA and self-imposed the punishments, but OSU could (and sure as heck should) still receive more severe penalties after the NCAA reviews the case.
You know, kind of like the additional penalties that Indiana University ultimately received from the NCAA after it self-imposed sanctions and fired head basketball coach Kelvin Sampson in the wake of the scandal-ridden Eric Gordon era. The reason I bring up Gordon’s name today is because, on Tuesday, when this latest chapter in OSU’s Jerseys-For-Tats scandal was unfolding in Columbus, a friend of mine shot me a text message in which he astutely compared IU’s Gordon saga to the Buckeyes’ current Pryor-related troubles.
“The Terrelle Pryor era reminds me of the Eric Gordon era,” my buddy Danny opined. “A lot of excitement, no major accomplishments and it will ultimately hurt the team in the long run.”
In 2007 – after Sampson convinced Gordon to break his promise to attend the University of Illinois (an issue that I wrote at length about last week) – the 6-foot-4 superstar shooting guard rolled into Bloomington on a tidal wave of hype.
IU students were donning “Got Gordon?” T-shirts. Hoops pundits were trumpeting the powerful inside-out punch of Gordon and Indiana big man D.J. White. And Hoosier Nation was predicting a Big Ten title – and maybe even a national one?
Well, none of it happened.
Gordon, White & Co. did rack up an impressive 25-8 record in 2007-08, but they didn’t win the Big Ten (third place behind Wisconsin and Purdue), didn’t win a Big Ten Tournament game (Minnesota upset them 59-58 in the quarterfinals) and didn’t win an NCAA Tournament game (Arkansas routed the Hoosiers 86-72 in the first round).
Yes, IU got Gordon, all right. And then essentially got nothing for it.
Nothing but trouble, that is.
On Feb. 22, 2008 – before the season had ended – Sampson was forced out as head coach. The school then self-imposed sanctions and the NCAA opted to tack on three additional years of probation. The following season, the Hoosiers saw their record plummet to 6-25 under new coach Tom Crean and the program hasn’t sniffed a measure of hoops respectability since.
Ohio State, meanwhile, has experienced a great deal more success with Pryor than IU did with Gordon. The quarterback has led the Buckeyes to three Big Ten championships as well as victories in the Rose Bowl and Sugar Bowl.
That’s nothing to sneeze at for most schools, but considering the expectations in Columbus and for Pryor – i.e., national championships – those achievements aren’t up to snuff.
Now, sure, Pryor still has a season (or part of one) left to lead the Buckeyes to his supposedly promised glory. But he’s also coming off foot surgery, isn’t eligible to play the first five games of 2011 and now, thanks in part to his ink-stained actions, his coach also won’t be around for two of them (at least).
When it comes to chaos, right now, the Buckeyes rank behind only the Miami Heat and Charlie Sheen. And they’re gaining on them.
I’ve been saying for months that Ohio State – the winners of six consecutive Big Ten titles – is overdue for a letdown in 2011. After this week’s revelations, it certainly looks like that’s coming. But the Buckeyes, along with Indiana, are also a reminder that when it comes to college sports – and signing high school superstars – fans had better be careful about what they wish for.
Because you just might get it.
You can dot the “i” with that warning.
The IU, too.
Do you agree with Dave? Post your comments below.
If nothing else, Dave Wischnowsky is an Illinois boy. Raised in Bourbonnais, educated at the University of Illinois and bred on sports in the Land of Lincoln, he now resides on Chicago’s North Side, just blocks from Wrigley Field. Formerly a reporter and blogger for the Chicago Tribune, Dave currently writes a syndicated column, The Wisch List, which you can check out via his blog at http://www.wischlist.com.