By LeCharles Bentley
Many are cursing the day he signed his letter of intent to attend Ohio State.
Venting at Pryor leads to a simple question: Why?
I’m not by any stretch of the imagination defending Pryor or his misjudgments but there is a stench in the air that many are conveniently ignoring.
We all remember March 19th, 2008 when Pryor announced to the world he would be attending The Ohio State University. This was a glorious day not only for Jim Tressel and OSU fans but for the entire Big Ten Conference.
Pryor was the most prized recruit in the country; he possessed unimaginable potential. Athletes like Pryor don’t play football in the Big Ten; they choose schools like Florida or Auburn. Pryor chose to play in a conference that is notoriously viewed as antiquated and boring. Pryor presented something that was “special” to the Big Ten in his ability to bring excitement to a conference with its own young, burgeoning television network.
The Big Ten has been on a mission to change its perception from the non-television friendly “Woody Hayes: four yards and a cloud of dust” format to that of the new age, Brian Kelleyesque game of speed and spread offenses.
The “Leaders and Legends” successfully recruited Nebraska to join its widening footprint. Do we all believe the rich tradition held by Nebraska, tradition that molds right into what the Big Ten sells, was the sole reason to lure the Cornhuskers? Maybe it’s the unique style of offense that has produced three Heisman Trophy winners, including playmaking quarterback Eric Crouch and Johnny Unitas Award winner Tommie Frazier.
Offensively, Nebraska football is ready made for television just like Terrelle Pryor, Denard Robinson, Braxton Miller and Nathan Scheelhaase. Of the quarterbacks mentioned after Pryor, it’s a safe assumption those guys would not have chosen the Big Ten if Pryor had not chosen the Big Ten — except perhaps Robinson. But that goes back to the point: Robinson followed Rich Rodriguez to Michigan in hopes of changing the landscape of the Big Ten.
Often in society, special people are granted special privileges. Special in the NCAA sense means the ability to be monetized, and if money can be made off of you then your bounds are limitless. Jim Tressel made a mistake and that was allowing the pressure of handling a player like Terrelle Pryor to sway his commitment to developing young men through the game of football.
This pressure wasn’t completely self-imposed. It was brought, wittingly or unwittingly, by the system in which he operated. My bet, the pressure had been vocalized. Simply take a look at how the Sugar Bowl was handled. The Tressel OSU players knew would not have allowed those young men to play; he would have suspended them immediately. Except it’s difficult to say no when the Big Ten Commissioner is lobbying on the athletes’ behalf.
There is enough blame to go around evenly in this affair. Jim Tressel made a mistake. Pryor made a mistake. But neither is at fault for the flaws in the system.
Pryor is guilty of being a kid and acting childish at inappropriate times, but most kids do just that. These facts don’t change because we magically choose to ignore the realities.
The Big Ten is as much to blame for this debacle, and it all came in the name of progress. We can look through the annals of time to see that progress is often ugly and offers many sacrifices. The Big Ten is striving for a new look and marketability. Too many people sold their souls to get a bite at the “TP” apple and now the roosters are home.
As the younger generation so eloquently explains, “Don’t hate the playa, hate the game.”