As of this writing the Ohio State Football Team has a record of 49-4 since the 2012 season and finished the 2015 regular season 11-1. Most attribute that success to head coach Urban Meyer and rightfully so. But, to many followers of Ohio State football and college football in general the 2015 season for Ohio State was a disappointment given the high expectations that existed when the season started. How can an 11 and 1 season be a disappointment? When you fail to live up to your potential and fail to seize on the rarest of opportunities.
And, that’s the focus of this article – squandering ability and opportunity. And, I will use the Ohio State Football Team to illustrate some lessons. I’m calling the 2015 football season the Lost Season for Ohio State. It was a lost season of phenonemal opportunity.
Before we get into the lessons let’s address whether the expectations for Ohio State were realistic. For those of you not familiar with college football the 2015 Ohio State Buckeyes were expected to go undefeated and win the National Championship for the second year in a row. At the very least, they were expected to make the four team College Football Playoff.
Instead, even with an admirable 11 wins and 1 loss season they did not win their conference division, did not play for their conference championship, and did not make the College Football Playoffs. In a sense, they have little to show for their efforts. Despite a still impressive record the team’s play on the field was well short of expectations.
Despite a season that fell short of expectations due to sub par performance half of Ohio State’s starting players were selected to the All Big Ten Team. HALF. Five to six of its players are expected to be drafted in the first round of the next NFL draft. That means that nearly 20% of the players selected in the first round of the draft will come from just one of the 128 NCAA major college football programs.
Furthermore, it was this 2015 team that was supposed to vie for the National Championship, not last year’s team. At least that was the thinking of Ohio State’s very own coaching staff. Given all of that it is hard to say that the expectations were unrealistic.
In addition, such high expectations have been met in the past. The 1975-76 Indiana Hoosiers Basketball Team went undefeated at 32-0. It was the last college basketball team to end the season undefeated. Like Ohio State the expectations for that Indiana team were very high as they went 31-1 the year before and had much of the same team returning. The Hoosiers won their games that year by an impressive 21 points per game. The 1974-75 Hoosiers lost that one game and a chance for undefeated season when its star player broke his arm late in the season.
The 1975-76 Indiana team not only played against its competitive Big Ten opponents but also took on traditional college basketball powers of Kentucky, UCLA, Notre Dame, and Louisville en route to being crowned National Champions and perhaps the greatest college basketball team of all time.
Despite its challenging schedule Coach Bobby Knight told his team that going undefeated was not an unrealistic expectation. They seemed to embrace the challenge and welcome the high expectations. Some time after the season Coach Knight commented that he would have considered the 1975-76 season a disappointment had that team not finished undefeated. Seven of the 13 players on that Indiana Hoosier basketball team were drafted into the NBA.
High expectations can be met, and they can be met even when dealing with 18-22 year olds.
Now the lessons from Ohio State’s Lost Season.
Lessons From the Lost Season
Here are life’s lessons from the lost season.
- Opportunity should not be seen as a burden or grind.
- There are no do-overs in life though sometimes repeat opportunities arise.
- Do not downplay or soften expectations. It may lead to lowered expectations and results.
- You will fall short if you don’t live or play up to your potential.
- It’s not how much you have, but how well you use what you have that matters.
- Talent yearns to be unleashed in creative ways.
- Be prepared as possible. Anticipate situations before they occur.
- Make a decision then work hard to make the decision the right one.
- Do not put yourself in position to lose the trust of others.
- It may be acceptable for a player to criticize his coach publicly.
- When amazing opportunity comes your way be sure to the seize the moment!
Don’t Make Opportunity a Grind or Burden
2015 was to be a year unlike any in the storied history of Ohio State Football. Fresh off winning the National Championship with loads of talent and experience returning, a promising group of underclassmen, and a very favorable schedule Ohio State was unanimously chosen by the AP writers of America – the first unanimous selection in the history of the AP Poll – to do something few schools had done before. Win back to back National Football Championships. Even Las Vegas which makes its living by not allowing emotions to get in the way of making money had the Buckeyes repeating as National Champions. Yes, expectations were high – but rightfully so. The team had unlimited potential – so it seemed.
Rarely in sports and in life is everything so perfectly aligned to achieve the pinnacle of success. But, you have to seize the moment. Carpe diem! Nothing is given to you on talent alone. You still have to earn it. You can’t wait for it to come to you. You have to reach for the golden ring.
Ohio State did not seize the opportunity. The team’s mantra or rallying cry for the year was “The Grind”. Hanging from the practice field at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center was a sign that said, “The Grind.” I’m sure the message was to convey that they would have to work hard to become repeat champions, that they would be sporting a target on their backs this year, and that nothing was going to be handed to them. And, I’m sure it also represented the team’s desire to grind down their opponents.
But “The Grind” sounds dreadful to me. Who wants to see that sign every day? Who wants to go through a grind? And doing anything you love to do should not be considered a grind. You cannot look at an optimistic season – a season of tremendous opportunity – as a grind. It’s a negative way to motivate.
Perhaps “The Grind” played into the team’s psyche. “Make History” or “Be Great” or “Live Up to the Hype” or some variation thereof would have better captured the essence of the season ahead. “The Grind” is not an uplifting message to send your team. Living a grind is a chore. It becomes a burden. It is stressful. And living a grind eventually beats you down. You can only take a grind so long. When you are sweating your bottom off in football practice every day you do not need to be reminded of the grind, do you?
Also, “The Grind” doesn’t differentiate this season from any other for Ohio State or for any other team for the matter. Every season is a grind, is it not? 2015 was to be special. Unique opportunity awaited 2015. Of the 128 major college progams only Ohio State had the chance to forever secure its place in history. Only Ohio State had a chance to live up to the hype. Only Ohio State had college football fans talking and anticipating the 2015 season like never before. In embracing “The Grind” Ohio State focused on the day to day drudgery and mechanics of the season and not the desired outcome or prize that would await them – college football immortality.
Greatness is living up to the hype, and perhaps that should have been the goal of 2015 team.
We tend to pace ourselves when we perceive things as a grind, and that’s exactly what Ohio State looked like it was doing as the season unfolded – pacing itself – until it would get to the last two games of the season when they would be sitting 10-0. The team seemed to saving itself for those last two games simply surviving the grind. And then it was going to turn it on, I guess. It’s not how life works. You have to “be faithful with the little things” by “doing your best all the time” and playing to your potential. Then you will be rewarded. You cannot expect to be rewarded by turning it on only when it suits you.
The year before when Ohio State won the National Championship its mantra was “The Chase.” It was chasing the National Championship. A chase implies urgency. It implies going after something. It implies wanting something. It implies not giving up. It implies that there is some reward at the end of the chase. It’s unclear what awaits the end of the grind, or even if the grind has an ending. “The Chase” had a goal. “The Grind” did not.
Had Ohio State navigated the season unscathed and played to expectations the team would have undoubtedly gone down as one the great teams, if not the greatest, college football team in history. That was the wonderful opportunity that awaited them. But, Ohio State saw that chance for greatness – a chance for sports immortality as a grind and perhaps as a burden. How unfortunate.
Richard Branson, CEO of Virgin Airlines, says this about opportunity, “If someone offers you an amazing opportunity and you’re not sure you can do it, say yes – then learn how to do it later.” Why is that? There are always opportunities, but some are unique and others are rare and come once in a lifetime. Those are the amazing ones. You cannot squander those rare opportunities. Ohio State was given the amazing opportunity to go down as one of the greatest college football teams of all time. Ohio State squandered that opportunity. That’s what they were playing for this year whether they realized it or not. A place in history.
They made history once a year ago by being the first National Champion of the College Football Playoff. They had that rare opportunity to make history a second time by being the most dominant team of all-time. Ohio State did not say ‘yes’ to the amazing opportunity that awaited them.
It is likely that Ohio State will compete for another National Championship possibly as early as next year even. There will be that repeat opportunity. But, it will be a long time before the stars are so perfectly aligned again for any team as they were this year for Ohio State. That’s what made the beginning of this year special and viewed with much anticipation. Even non Ohio State fans were curious to see this team of talent play.
This year is now over. Ohio State fell short. There is no do-over for 2015. No games from 2015 can ever be replayed and the same is true in life. No day can be lived again. Make the most of each of day. Seize the opportunities as they present themselves. Always see opportunity as a chance to excel, to standout, to be great – and never as a burden or grind.
From the outset of the season Ohio State coaches warned us not to expect the team to pick up from where it left off last season. That just because 15 of 22 starters were returning from last year that this was a “new” team. And, some of that makes sense. It seemed that expectations were being managed by downplaying them some by the coaching staff. I’m not sure it’s ever wise to downplay expectations. You run the risk of lowering expectations all together. Life is a self-fulfilling prophesy. And, if you don’t expect the team to pick up where it left off it surely will not. Certainly it should not take 12 games for a team to pick up where it left off a year ago as was the case with the 2015 team. Rarely, do you receive more than you expect. Be careful what seeds you plant and messages you may send.
If someone expects much from you, be thankful they think highly of you. Accept the challenge. Embrace it. Do both yourself and them a favor. Prove them right! It is far better to fall just short of high expectations than it is to succeed at meeting lower expectations. That is not to say Ohio State had low expectations, but they did not appear to embrace the high expectations heaped upon them as well they might have. It did not seem liked they relished the opportunity. Greatness and history were in its grasp and they let it slip away. Accepting the challenges of high expectations leads to a more positive mindset than the mindset that results from trying to downplay or soften them.
Play Your Best at All Times
The season started on a sour note before its first game when four football players were suspended from playing the first game against Virginia Tech which figured to be Ohio State’s toughest game until they faced Michigan State in the 11th game. The suspensions proved to be a foreshadowing of the season ahead. This was not going to be the season all were expecting.
These were not just any four players, but four that were expected to make significant contributions on the field. Why would they risk breaking team rules and derail their opportunity to contribute to a team that could have gone down in history as one of the greatest college football teams of all time?
One top of that late in season the back-up quarterback who eventually became the starting quarterback was also suspended for one game just when it seemed like the team was showing signs of what it could be. And, now more recently a sixth player has been suspended for the upcoming Fiesta Bowl against Notre Dame.
Maybe they did not appreciate the opportunity for greatness that was within their reach. Maybe they took the season for granted. Maybe they thought their raw talent alone was all that was needed. They say there are a hundred other cockroaches for every one you see. Surely these six players were not the only ones who had misplaced priorities.
The team went through the motions most of the season. In general, it played down to the level of its opponents which was quite a few levels below Ohio State’s skill. The team teased us the first game against Virginia Tech showing glimpses of what everyone thought would happen entire games the entire season. But, the team did not play the season with much emotion or passion. It had no swagger and no personality. It was sleep walking most of the season doing enough to get by. And, even then they were won their games by an average of 21 points per game.
Unleash Your Talent in Creative Ways to Reach Your Potential
I consider Ohio State’s 2015 football season to be the most disappointing season in my time following the school for this reason. In only one game did they play to their potential – that’s it – one game. Other Ohio State teams have failed in their quest to win a National Championship but those teams played to their potential in most games, unfortunately stumbling here and there. Plus, some of those teams looked like National Championship teams. But, to play only one game to its potential? I don’t think I have ever seen that before from such a talented team. And, there is/was no reason for it. At no point during the season did Ohio State look like National Championship material with perhaps the last game played against Michigan.
Being 11-1 isn’t necessarily a disappointment, but how they got there is. You have to measure yourself against your potential and not by some extrinsic metric like a won-loss record or margin of victory. Bobby Knight knew he had the talent in 1975-76 to go undefeated. He compared and judged that team against itself. Ohio State played poorly when compared to all the talent the collective team represented.
If you do not consider the 2015 Ohio State season a disappointment then you must consider the 2014 Ohio State season a fluke.
The 2002 Ohio State team that won a National Championship far exceeded everyone’s expectations and exceeded its potential if that’s even possible, but you get my point. That team accomplished more with less than this 2015 team.
The 2015 team had a stable of playmakers – those gifted athletes who can score from anywhere on the field at anytime. In a sense, though, it doesn’t matter how many playmakers you have. Football and other sports have a built-in check and balance system that neutralizes talented teams. There is only one football and only one player can possess it at a time. That is to the defense’s advantage.
Even a mediocre defense can contain a great athlete if they know which athlete is getting the ball and what he is going to do with it. And, Ohio State telegraphed many of their plays in 2015. If Braxton Miller was in the wildcat formation he was going to run the ball. Even with great talent you still have to be creative (deceptive) in how you get the ball to the playmakers. There was little creativity in the offense Ohio State ran in 2015.
It is better to have only one playmaker and get him the ball 20 creative ways during the course of the game than have a team of playmakers and be predictable. It’s not how much you have, but how well you use what you have.
Ohio State rarely found a way for those playmakers to showcase their talents. That talent was rarely unleashed. Probably the biggest highlight of the season came the first game when Braxton Miller did his now famous spin move to score a touchdown. In fact, probably three-quarters of the team’s season highlights can be found in that game.
Talent has an innate yearning to be unleashed and unleashed in creative ways. It requires expression. It does not like being bottled up. Watching Ohio State play this year with all their talent was like going to a Rolling Stones’ Concert and hearing them play Mary Had a Little Lamb – something well below their capability.
Athletes are a bit like artists. They are like musicians, authors, painters who are always looking to push the envelope in new ways to create something that doesn’t yet exist in their constant attempt to surpass or outperform their previous work. Talent has to constantly evolve. It does not tolerate stasis. Yet, stagnation describes much of the Ohio State offense in 2015, and it did not evolve as the season progressed.
Playmakers are more dangerous when they have a little space to manuever before the ball hits their hands. Ohio State seemed to ask their playmakers to create their own space rather than help create if for them (see the highlight above). Most of the year Ohio State’s playmaker had little separation to showcase their talents.
There’s much competition in life. You have to find a way to stand out from the crowd. You have creatively show your talents. You have to create distance from those you are competing with for a job, promotion, and more. You have to create space separating yourself in unique ways from the pack as you maximize your potential. Ohio State did not do that on the football field in 2015.
Not reaching or playing to your potential is probably the biggest sin out there. And, that is not just physically, but mentally too. Playing to your ability and losing to a better team happens. But, to lose the only game of the year that mattered – a game that you had ten tune up games to get ready for against a solid but less talented team and be so unprepared and play so uninspiring is inexcusable.
The three-point loss against Michigan State does not reflect how badly Ohio State was manhandled on the field and outcoached from the sidelines and press boxes. It was among the worst performances of any talented team in any sport that I have witnessed and probably the worst performance of any college football team in 2015. And, despite that Ohio State was never behind in the game against Michigan State – until the clock struck 0:00. That’s how talented they were – could play horribly and still be in the game.
Lack of Preparation
Of the six head coaches (including one interim) of Ohio State in my lifetime, I like coach Meyer the best. He has legendary Woody Hayes’ intensity and Jim Tressel’s professionalism and charisma. He’s a great recruiter of talent and is a master motivator. He’s tough – demanding of his players, demanding of his coaches, and demanding of himself all to bring out the best in each individual and the team.
But, something was greatly amiss with the coaching staff this year and it was never more apparent than in the loss to Michigan State. In my opinion, the coaching staff bears most of the responsibility for the team falling short of expectations and its potential in 2015. As masterful as the coaching staff was in 2014 it was just as unmasterful in 2015. And, it’s hard to know why given all of Coach Meyer’s prior successes and two prior attempts at repeating as National Champions.
The players and coaches both seemed to lack the magical quality that is hard to describe but readily noticeable when present – chemistry.
I have no knowledge what went on behind the scenes and what follows is purely observational and opinion. It did not seem Ohio State was prepared in 2015 on several levels. There were some coaching changes that in retrospect were critical factors. The offensive coordinator from 2012 to 2014 moved on to become the head coach at the University of Houston in 2015. His absence was felt quickly. He obviously was the key behind the offensive explosion seen in his three years with Ohio State.
Given the success of the departed offensive coordinator you would think Ohio State would have taken the off-season to study how that coach called a game and developed a game plan, and then replicate it as much as possible. After all, he left behind a blueprint of success. If Ohio State did study his blueprint, it certainly did not show.
Having lost this talented offensive coordinator Ohio State promoted its highly regarded offensive line coach to offensive coordinator while maintaining his offensive line duties. This presented challenges that one would think an experienced and talented coaching staff like Ohio State’s would have considered or anticipated.
Most teams have the offensive coordinator calling plays from the press box where he has a bird’s eye view of the action. But, it’s vital that the offensive line coach be on the sideline to make on the spot adjustments with the offensive linemen. Essentially, Ohio State was asking one man to wear two hats on game day and it did not work well. To be most effective at both roles would require the impossible. Being in two places (sidelines and press box) simultaneously. This was not the year for such “experimentation.”
One noticeable change was that it was taking too long to get plays in and the ball snapped. The offense did not play at the same tempo or energy as in previous years. One advantage Ohio State has had in the past four years is that they have been the best conditioned team in every game they played. And, that becomes a bigger advantage when the game is played at a faster pace than they were playing this year because of the delay in getting plays in quickly. Ohio State did not physically wear teams out like it had previously. The offense had no energy.
They never found a solution to that until the 12th game – one game too late for the 11th game that they lost. They had plenty of time leading up to that 11th game to find the solution, though.
Ohio State did not seem prepared to deal with all the talent it had at the skilled positions and there was little rhyme or reason to the play calling. Ohio State seemed more interested in getting each playmaker a certain number of touches each game rather than develop a game plan to exploit the opposing team’s defense. It was like “let’s see what so and so can do on this play. And hey, why don’t we try this?”
One team of college football analysts described the difference in Ohio State’s play calling between 2014 and 2015 as the difference between playing chess and checkers. That may be the best description.
Perhaps, Ohio State felt it had so much talent that it would not matter what play was actually called or who called them. If that was their thinking, they proved that wrong. To some degree the team was hindered by having too much talent.
They had three potential Heisman candidates at the quarterback position alone (though one volunteered to change positions). No coaching staff in history has ever been confronted with that luxury, that challenge, and in the end, that burden and it’s easy to fault the way they handled it only in retrospect. I’m sure there is nothing in Beginning Coaching 101 or Advance Coaching 404 that deals with handling three talented quarterbacks (and so much talent in general) – all upper classmen.
In the end, they probably handled the quarterback situation the worst way possible. They were too indecisive in deciding who the ultimate starter would be not even announcing the starter until right before kick-off of the first game. Why? Was some event going to happen in the locker room right before kick-off that would alter the decision? It was more important that Ohio State know who their quarterback was – who their the leader on the field would be – than keeping opponents guessing who it might be. The team should have excelled regardless of who the quarterback was going to be just as the year before – if they played the game to his strengths.
There was nothing to be gained by keeping the football world on the edge of its seat wondering who the quarterback would be. Clarity is more important many times than making the right decision and being fair with the process (especially when you almost cannot make a wrong decision). Some times the making of a decision is more important than the decision made. One of the quarterbacks was going to be disappointed. Best to get that out of the way as soon as possible. Perhaps the team should have decided who the starter should have been. They know who they respond best to.
Ray Kroc said something along the lines, “I make a decision then I work like heck to make it the right decision.” I’m not sure Ohio State did that once they settled on the starting quarterback to open the season.
When they finally did settle on the starting quarterback to start the season they did not develop a game plan to play to his strengths. He was not put in the best position to succeed given his skill set. Maybe they could have done that better if it were known sooner who the starter would be. The offensive they ran was better suited for the backup who eventually became the starter. Ultimately, they benched a quarterback who is 11 and 0 as a starter in his career. That is probably a first. But, the quarterback situation – the key position – was never fully resolved the entire season.
The Lost Game in the Lost Season
The Michigan State Game. Where to begin? The weather was bad. Ohio State’s play was bad. Ohio State’s coaching was even worse. Ohio State was not prepared and played uninspiring in its loss to Michigan State. It is hard to understand why since this was the game they circled on the schedule since the beginning of the season.
It was the kind of game that can create doubts and mistrust between players and coaches.
I will not go into the details of the game as I was planning. I opted not to publish 1000 words of my analysis of the game, though I will summarize what I found perplexing as an avid and reasonably knowledgeable football fan below and offer my view of the usage of time outs at the end of this article.
- Ohio State did not use its two remaining time outs at the end of the game to STOP the clock.
- Ohio State did not even attempt to use perhaps the strongest arm in all of football (pros and college) to see if it might have better success throwing in the swirling winds in attempt to better open up the running game and to test the weakest part of the Michigan State defense. According to experts and Las Vegas oddsmakers who adjust the lines of games because of weather conditions the most important factor for dealing with high winds is having a quarterback with a strong arm. Seems common sense though.
- Nor did it use this quarterback’s 6’5″ 250 pound powerful frame to run the ball on critical third downs. Five times the starting quarterback ran the ball on third down getting a first down only once and falling one yard short three times and three or four yards the other time. The 6’5″ quarterback typically gains an additional two yards just falling down.
- They threw five yard passes twice on third and eight with no hope of getting a first down as the receiver had no choice but to go out of bounds after the reception. Why is such a pattern even an option when not in field goal range?
- They only allowed one of the best two or three running backs in the country to carry the ball 12 times and only twice in the second half. He’s that rare runner that gets stronger as they games go on and did not take advantage of him.
It can be hard to separate poor performance on the field from poor coaching on the sidelines and while the players made their share of mistakes especially mental, I pin the debacle on the coaches. I do not recall a worse coaching performance on the big stage as in this game. The Michigan State players did more to position Ohio State to win the game than the Ohio State coaches did.
How bad was it? It would have been hard to envision that the team would have fared any worse had the coaches simply stayed home for the game. The coaching staff looked paralyzed with panic at the end of the game – lost and confused. Such a loss is devastating. In this one game Ohio State loss everything it was playing for at the beginning of the season.
But, the loss goes beyond that. With such a loss the coaching staff risks losing the confidence of the players. Doubt creeps in. That is problemtatic for even the very best of coaches. And, that should be the biggest concern moving forward.
The Player-Coach Relationship
After the game the star running back who only carried the ball 12 times, seven of them on one scoring drive, was critical of the play calling and felt the coaches did not put the team in position to win the game. Many thought he was out of line by calling out the head coach publicly. However, if there ever were an occasion that justified such public comments it may have been this case.
I will provide a defense for his comments. He simply verbalized what everyone saw and knew to be true. He pointed out the elephant in the room. Should we all be so politically correct as to ignore it? Are we to let the emperor walk naked?
At one point in the game the running back was seen going to the sidelines discussing the play calling with Coach Meyer after another series without a first down. It is not as if his public comments were not first voiced privately with the head coach. He gave the coaching staff an opportunity to right the ship during the game. They did not do it.
Coach Meyer actually agreed with his comments (which makes you wonder why they didn’t adjust during the game), though not the forum in which they were said. I suspect there was more behind the player’s comments than the frustration of one game. The offense underperformed all year and I’m sure his comments reflected a year of mounting frustration.
Rumors have it that players were griping about the offense and play calling the entire year. How could they not? Obviously, private in-house discussions did not lead to a solution if these rumors are true. If so, then something needed to be said publicly since a talent laden team underperformed all year because of poor management of the offense by the coaching staff. How else do you get the coach’s attention? And, such comments needed to come from such a player. And, I suspect his teammates welcomed his comments.
This running back is one of the few athletes who gives his best effort every play. That is rare. Most athletes pick non-critical moments in a game to dog it once in a while, even the very best. This player does not. When you give your best effort you expect the coaching staff to give its best. That did not happen in the Michigan State game. And, that can lead to mistrust and doubt.
How would you feel if you were asked to embrace “the grind” all year by coaches who in turn did not give the team a chance to win the most important game of the year and could not get the most talented team in the land on track all year?
Athletic games are not private events. They are public viewings. And, at $5 million a year someone should expect criticism when his performance is sub-standard on such a large stage even if it comes publicly from his players.
Also, consider it is the players who the fans come see. It is they who risk injury. And, many end up with disabilities well above the general population that a “free” college education does not offset. Yet, it is the head coach who makes the $5 million a year. He best give the players the best chance to win. Yes, the athletes get a free education (increasingly overrated), but the university and coaching staffs get far more in return.
We tend to give the coaches the upper hand in the player-coach relationship. Why? Certainly there needs to be an authority figure that runs the team and make the decisions. But, we automatically give coaches the default setting. Consider this.
There are no sports without players, no coaches without athletes. In sports the athletes are the kingpin, or should be.
At the college level it seems to me the player-coach relationship is similar to the citizen-government relationship and the patient-doctor relationship. Notice who I list first in all three of those relationships. Citizens grant permission to the government to govern them. At least, that is how it is supposed to work, but we have sure abandoned that concept in this country. Patients grant doctors permission to treat them.
Likewise, do not players give coaches permission to coach them especially in college where players have the option of which school they attend? College players voluntarily enter the relationship unlike the pros who go to the team that drafted them and have litte say as to who their coach will be. That changes the dynamics some. Even most high school football players do not get to pick their coach unless they go to a private school. Not even at the Pee Wee or middle school level do players get to pick their coach.
Coaches have jobs because there are players. Coaches need players to coach. Players don’t need coaches to play. Players can coach themselves if necessary. Fans would pack Ohio Stadium to watch Ohio State play Alabama or any other school if there were only players on the field and sidelines and no coaches. How many fans would go to the stadium to watch Urban Meyer stare down Nick Saban from across the sidelines void of any players on the field?
The business model in college sports is like the business model in the old days of the music recording industry where the fat cat record producers made the money, and the artists – the ones making the music -received very little.
What would happen to the college athletic model if players from one major college program refused to play a game saying they want to be paid? What recourse does the university or NCAA have? Imagine the chaos that would ensue and the turmoil in dealing with season tickets holders and television networks.
What would a school do? They cannot take away the players’ paychecks like they would in the NFL. The players are not paid. Take away their athletic scholarships? Probably, but where does that leave a university? Without a football program and little revenue to fund the other sports. A self-induced Death Penalty. The athletes could probably find any number of schools to transfer who would take a chance and give them a scholarship. College athletes could collapse the system overnight. And, some day they might.
Did we not just see this year the University of Missouri football team threaten not to play a game unless the president of the university resigned his position? Guess what? He resigned. The power of the purse partly at play. The players now realize they have more power than they may have thought. The genie is now out of the bottle.
In the revenue generating sports in college the athletes are exploited, especially in football. Lot of people make money off these athletes (think of everything related to a college game: ticket sales, concessions, parking, security, sports apparel, street vendors, restaurants and bars, television, in addition to the salaries of the coaches and athletic departments) who become “indentured servants.” That gives them the right to criticize their coaches when warranted.
Look for the big revenue generating universities to break away from the NCAA and start their own association in which players will be paid. It’s just a matter of time.
Coaches and athletic departments are more dependent on the players than the other way around. Coaches owe their players the best chance to win. Coaches need to be motivated to do their best, too, not just the players. Who does that responsibility fall to, if not the players? And, should not coaches be accountable to the players when their coaching performance is sub par.
Coach Meyer is brutally honest with his comments to the media. And, it’s refreshing to see that. He also has been rather adept using the media to motivate players using less than flattering words on occasions. Does he not become fair game when he does that? To his credit he accepted the blame for the loss. I hope he offered an explanation and apology to the players for the poor coaching as well.
Maybe the running back’s unflattering comments motivated him to finally take the necessary action. Sometimes it takes public criticism to prompt necessary changes that should have occurred much sooner.
The following week against its arch rival, the University of Michigan, Ohio State had the offensive coordinator up in the press box, called the plays quickly, played at a much faster tempo, wore out Michigan, and dominated the game winning 42 to 13. It was the team’s best performance of the year.
Would that have happened had the star running back kept his comments to himself? We will never know. But, if they did serve as the impetus for change in the Michigan game many Ohio State fans and players would wish he said them much sooner in the season. In fact, much of the college football nation would have wished that as well.
Those are my arguments in defense of the running back. The player-coach relationship needs to be viewed from a much broader perspective at the college level. It’s the only level where most players get to pick their coach.
Despite these comments which may seem harsh, Coach Meyer remains a great coach. But, his coaching staff fumbled the ball away this year and they need to study how and why. This Ohio State team is a case study for all coaches.
Criticism Can Be Healthy
All of us underperform and are unprepared at times, and thus we are all open to criticism. If someone says something to you about your sub par performance consider that they may be right. Thank them for bringing it to your attention – unless you do not want to better yourself – and then do something about it.
I give the running back credit for saying what needed to be said. He seemed to be one of the few members of the team (coaches included) who appreciated the magnitude of the opportunity that awaited this team when the season started. He did his part (evidenced by being named the best player in the Big Ten for 2015), but was let down by those around him. If everyone on that team had his attitude Ohio State would have made history.
If you give your best you will not hear too much criticism. Maybe that’s the lesson. And, Ohio State from coaches on down to players did not give their best effort, nor perform to their ability in this Lost Season of 2015.
Ohio State did not deserve to make history. The team squandered an amazing and wonderful opportunity.
Make History and Live Up to the Hype
Every opportunity is a chance to do your best, a chance to standout from those who don’t, a chance to embrace challenges, a chance to creatively showcase your talents, a chance to show the world, “here’s what I can do.” And, if you do all that, some day you may be blessed with an amazing opportunity – a rendezvous with destiny – a rare chance to make history. If such a moment occurs, be thankful for it, relish it. But above all, be sure to seize it.
And, do not see such opportunity as a grind.
A Fan’s View on Time Outs
One baffling event about the Ohio State-Michigan State game is that Ohio State did not call its two remaining time outs to stop the clock to preserve time on MSU’s field goal winning drive. They called one with the clock already stopped with 0:03 on the clock to ice the kicker.
A time out is worth 40 seconds of game clock on average in college taking the time it typically takes to get the ball back in play from the previous play and start the 25 second play clock.
Given the average play is six to seven seconds long, each time out is worth up to six plays. That means a team can extend a half up to 18 plays by judiciously using its time outs and with careful play selection (getting out of bounds at the end of the play).
That is the main value of a time out. It is a way to extend the game without adding time to the clock.
Have you ever seen a coach call a time out to ice a kicker in the third quarter? No. Why? Because there is still time left in the game to get the three points back. When do coaches ice the kicker? When it is the end of the game and kicker is about to kick a game tying or winning field goal with little or no time remaining.
Would it not make more sense to use your time outs before that moment so that you have time left in the game after a game tying or winning field goal to get the ball back and get those three points back? Also, icing the kicker is so routine, I doubt kickers are affected by its practice. If it so effective and such a brilliant use of a time out, then why not call time outs in the first half to ice the kicker?
If you have a time out to burn (waste) to ice the kicker, you waited to too long to call the time out.
With the game tied and already close to field goal range Michigan State was playing for the game winning field goal. It was in no hurry and was content to take as much time off the clock as Ohio State would allow them in the process. Ohio State allowed Michigan State to run off the final 4:07 of the game while only moving the ball 25 yards by not calling time outs to stop the clock.
On one play during MSU’s final drive against Ohio State MSU was able to run off one minute between plays from 1:40 on the game clock to 0:40 (ESPN play-by-play). On another play on the same drive MSU milked 47 seconds off the game clock between plays (4:07 to 3:20). Ohio State still had two time-outs remaining at that time and had they used them to stop the clock could have saved up to 1:47 on the clock. Subtracting out the time it takes to run those two plays Ohio State could have had around 1:35 or up to 15 plays to win or tie the game. And, with all their playmakers it only takes one play, one missed tackle, one missed defensive assignment, one slip of a defender on the wet surface to win the game.
To be more realistic, Michigan State kicked the field goal on third down. Had Ohio State called their final two time outs to stop the clock MSU most likely would have ran another play and kicked the field goal on fourth down giving Ohio State 50-60 seconds to work with. But given the weather conditions and the possibility of a bad snap or hold they may have still opted to kick the field goal on third down as they would still have been in field goal position for a fourth down try in that event. Either way you still have to call your time outs if you’re Ohio State.
Joe’s Rules for Time Outs
- You gain nothing by not calling your time outs. They do not rollover to the next game over like cell phone minutes. You are not penalized for using them. End the game without any unused time outs.
- You are more likely to be criticized for not calling a time out than from calling one. So call them. There are two exceptions: calling a time out because you can’t get a play called in time and calling a time out to ice a kicker. More on both below.
- As much as possible time outs should only be called to stop the clock to preserve time and extend the game.
- Time outs called to stop the clock are best spent when on defense. You can control your play selection on offense to use the sidelines to stop the clock. You cannot control the offensive play selection of your opponent.
- Time outs go for naught when you spend them on defense if you cannot stop your opponent from getting first downs and scoring a touchdown. If that is the case you are going to lose the game anyway so still call your time outs. See rule #1. (Think Iowa-Michigan State. Iowa could not stop Michigan State on its final 9:04 drive from scoring a touchdown and taking the lead. Yet, because they called their time outs on defense it was able to get the ball back with 27 seconds left in the game with a chance to get into field goal range to tie the game.)
- Time outs should be called to discuss strategy as little as possible. Better preparation and anticipation makes this more possible. Know when you will go for it on fourth down, go for two point conversion, fake a punt, fake a field goal, and know in advance how you will do it so you do not need to call a time out to discuss strategy.
- Avoid calling a time out to avoid an already unnecessary delay of game penalty (why compound one mistake with another?), unless the penalty takes you out of field goal position or prevents you from going for it on fourth down. Making up five yards is much easier than re-gaining six plays.
- Avoid calling a time out to ice the kicker. It is an open admission that you did not think of using your time outs sooner to stop the clock so your team has time left in the game to stage a comeback should the opposing team make its field goal. When you ice the kicker you give the opposing team the last punch thrown in the contest. Wouldn’t you prefer to throw the last punch? Best to be behind in the game and have time on the clock and the ball than to lose the game watching a field goal beat you with no time remaining. Give your team a chance to win.
- A corollary to rule #8. Once the opposing team is in range to win or tie the game with a field goal in the waning minutes of the game you have to call your time outs. You just have to!
If I were a coach I would try to use all six of my time outs per game. Doing so you potentially extend a game up to 36 plays on the offensive side of the ball (assumes each plays only takes six-seven seconds off the game clock). You can never have enough points. Three touchdown leads in college football are no longer insurmountable. You have to score as often as possible even in the first half. Use those time outs to accomplish that.
*Updated 1/4/16: On January 2, 2016 TCU overcame a 31 point half-time deficit to beat the University of Oregon in triple overtime proving my point that three touchdown leads in college are no longer insurmontable.