When practice doesn’t make perfectWritten by Dave Woolford | | firstname.lastname@example.org
The NCAA, in its boundless judiciousness to separate good from evil, right from wrong and evenhandedness from underhandedness, has decided to pursue its investigation into reports that Michigan football coach Rich Rodriguez and his staff forced players to train beyond NCAA imposed time limits on and off the field.
Rich Rod running a sweatshop?
It would seem that UM has an air-tight defense if for no other reason than its defense is anything but air tight. If the Wolverines sneak in more practice hours than the 20 per week allowed by the NCAA, why is their defense so supple that it’s no better than seventh in the Big Ten in any defensive category?
And if they are working overtime, why have they gotten more defenseless as recent games have progressed?
Michigan has been outscored by a combined 75-12 in the second half of its past three games heading into its contest at Wisconsin on Nov. 14. That stretch includes totally blowing chances for a sixth win against Illinois and Purdue.
Why has OSU coach Jim Tressel more or less supported Rodriguez by stating that it’s almost impossible to keep athletes out of the workout areas when they want to toil a little extra to enhance their performance?
Could it be because just about every college football program bends the same rules? Or could it be that Tressel doesn’t want to create a ruckus as the Buckeyes prepare to deep six Michigan for the sixth consecutive time on Nov. 21, the carnage starting at noon in Ann Arbor.
Poor Wolverines. If they are practicing after hours, it seems practice makes imperfect in their case.
If the NCAA had any compassion at all, it would sympathetically realize that if any young major college football team in America needs extra practice, it’s Michigan with almost 70 percent of its ranks comprised of underclassmen.
UM, by not being able to win a sixth game and become bowl eligible with its accompanying extended season, has to get some extra work in somehow.
College football, in general, and the Big Ten, in particular, has to protect the Ohio State-Michigan rivalry that was declared the No. 1 North American rivalry in all of sports by ESPN in 2000.
The Game has deteriorated in prominence in more recent years because of OSU’s dominance.
Last season, Michigan presented the worst team in school history record-wise, finishing 3-9 with the Buckeyes winning for the seventh time in the past eight games between the two rivals for the first time since the rivalry started in 1897.
Coaches have been hired in the past to win The Game and fired when they didn’t. If Rodriguez is fired, it will be because he can’t win just about any big game. Forget his 0-1 record against OSU, while Tressel is 7-1 versus Michigan. Talk about job security.
Tressel now has a higher calling, according to the Buckeye Nation. He is expected to contend for national championships on a yearly basis.
Michigan has become the regular-season final fodder as OSU packs for a prominent bowl game. Meanwhile, the Wolverines are attempting to just vacate the second echelon of the Big Ten.
The late Michigan coach Bo Schembechler said, when he got the head coaching position at UM in 1969, “Men, we were hired here for one reason and one reason only, to beat Ohio State.”
But Michigan was upset by Michigan State that same season. That prompted Schembechler to confront his troops the following spring and state, “Well, actually men, we’re here to beat two teams.”
That was when it was the “Big Ten And Little Eight.”
When both teams dedicated a portion of their daily practice sessions to preparing for each other starting in the spring. That practice has run its course. The national focus on The Game has produced has lost some of its flavor.
Gone, at least for now, are the colorful days when, for instance:
The late Woody Hayes after beating Michigan 50-14 in 1968 was asked why he went for the two-point conversion following OSU’s final touchdown.
“Because I couldn’t go for three,” he heatedly stated.
It has been the biggest margin of victory by either team, although the Buckeyes came close to surpassing that spread last season in their 42-7 triumph over UM.
Schembechler, in referring to The Game, said, “Can you imagine waiting a whole year for one football game? To have your mood for the next 365 days depend on how you did that one cold Saturday afternoon in November?”
Or former Ohio State coach Earle Bruce once emphatically describing The Game by stating, “If you win, it lets you walk the main streets of Columbus, Ohio. If you lose, you go to the alleys, buddy.”
Former Ohio State coach John Cooper going 2-10-1 against, “That team up North,” costing him his job, even with OSU president E. Gordon Gee describing the tie as one of Ohio State’s, “Greatest victories.”
And former Buckeye quarterback Troy Smith being such a huge factor in OSU’s current winning streak against UM and capturing the Heisman Trophy his senior year, thanks in very large part to The Game.
In three appearances against the Wolverines, Smith totaled 1,051 yards and nine touchdowns. Amazingly, the Wolverines’ total net yardage in those same three games was also 1,051 yards.
If The Game is to continue being The Game maybe Michigan should be allowed a little more practice time.
You have to empathize with Rich Rod. The poor guy was originally chastised for leaving West Virginia and now some Wolverine fans are chastising him for coming to Michigan.
Talk about a sweatshop.