In the midst of controversies and investigations, the Ohio State University football team finished 6-7 this past season under interim head coach Luke Fickell.
Before signing autographs at the Eastwood Mall’s Everything Buckeyes on Saturday, former OSU head coach John Cooper and four former Buckeyes shared their thoughts on the team’s first losing season since 1988.
“I thought we should’ve won more games than we did,” Cooper said. “For the most part, we didn’t have our team. Our team was fragmented.”
The NCAA penalized eight OSU players after discovering they had received more than $14,000 in cash and special treatment at a tattoo parlor in Columbus.
Players included OSU running back Dan Herron and former OSU quarterback Terrelle Pryor. Each player was suspended indefinitely for at least five games. Wide receiver DeVier Posey was suspended for the first 10 games of the 2011-2012 season.
In April 2010, a Columbus lawyer tipped off Jim Tressel, then head football coach at OSU and former head football coach at Youngstown State University, about the violations.
On March 8, Tressel confirmed that he was aware of the violations — but did not notify OSU officials. Failure to disclose possible violations is against NCAA conduct.
Tressel was slated to sit out the first six games of 2011, but instead resigned on May 30.
“Jim Tressel was a great football coach and did a great job at Ohio State,” Cooper said. “[He] managed the game probably better than anybody. It’s unfortunate that it ended like it did. He made a mistake, and he paid the price for it.”
Tressel began coaching at OSU after Cooper left in 2001. He compiled a 106-22 record, including a win in the 2002 BCS National Championship. The Buckeyes finished 14-0.
Tressel finished 135-57-2 in 15 seasons at YSU and also served as YSU’s executive director of intercollegiate athletics for six years. He won national championships in 1993, 1994 and 1997.
The Buckeyes are banned from bowl play and a shot for the Big Ten title in the 2012-2013 season. They’ve also been stripped of at least four football scholarships over the next three seasons. Plus, an additional year of probation was added to the original two-year probation.
The Buckeyes are trying to move forward under new head coach Urban Meyer, who was awarded the position on Nov. 28.
“One thing Ohio State did was give him the resources to hire pretty much who he wanted to hire, and it looks like he’s done that,” Cooper said. “They’re going to work hard, they’re going to recruit aggressively and they’re going to win.”
Cooper, currently a consultant for the Cincinnati Bengals, coached the Buckeyes from 1988 to 2000 and compiled a 111-43 record.
After Meyer took the helm, he decided to keep Fickell as a defensive specialist.
“Once [Fickell] stopped playing, he just went right into coaching,” said former defensive end Matt Finkes. “That is what he was meant to do for a long time.”
Finkes is Fickell’s former OSU roommate. He works with his father at Finkes Building Co. in Piqua, Ohio.
Meyer has a career 104-23 head coaching record. He coached at Bowling Green State University, the University of Utah and the University of Florida.
In his 104 victories, Meyer is 4-0 in BCS games, and he won two national championships in Florida.
Andy Katzenmoyer, former linebacker and current owner of Katzenmoyer Performance in Westerville, Ohio, said Meyer is faced with tremendous pressure.
“Last couple of years have been hard for Ohio State,” Katzenmoyer said. “I’m hoping that we can put all of that stuff to bed and be done with it.”
David Boston, former wide receiver and current trainer at the Institute of Human Performance in Boca Raton, Fla., said the situation is tough for everybody.
“All are happy that we have a coach in here that won championships in Florida,” Boston said. “Everybody knows he’s a great coach. He’s well documented. We know he’s going to win.”
Joe Germaine, former quarterback and 1997 Rose Bowl MVP, said the future looks bright for OSU.
“Somebody like Urban Meyer coming in is going to be a great addition,” Germaine said. “He’s already made some positive impact with recruiting.”
Germaine is head football coach at Queen Creek High School in Arizona.