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June 6, 2011

Monday with Mike: Long road for Buckeyes

It's going to be a long summer for Ohio State coaches, players and fans. Every move made by Buckeyes players is going to be scrutinized and every scrap of information pored over by the media.

Ohio State is scheduled to appear in front of the NCAA infractions committee in August, and the scrutiny will be especially intense in the two weeks leading up to the meeting.

But the spotlight isn't going to go away once the season starts. There's the matter of the five-game suspension for five key Buckeyes, including trouble-magnet quarterback Terrelle Pryor, and Buckeyes folks should get ready for incessant questions about, "Who's going to coach in 2012?"

The next-coach debate already has started.

Former Florida coach Urban Meyer, who is working for ESPN this season, released a statement through ESPN last week that said, in part, "I am committed to ESPN and will not pursue any coaching opportunities this fall."

The "this fall" part is more than a bit disingenuous, as Ohio State already has an interim coach in place for this fall in Luke Fickell. The "this fall" part of the statement means Meyer is going to be inundated this fall with questions about whether he would consider coaching the Buckeyes in 2012 -- you know, next fall.

Like Meyer, Nebraska coach Bo Pelini is an Ohio native. Pelini also is a former Buckeyes safety -- he played there from 1987-90 -- and he, too, released a statement last week. But his was even more puzzling than Meyer's in that he didn't mention the job at all and instead said, "Jim Tressel is an outstanding football coach and a good man. I've followed and respected his career since his days at Youngstown State, and through his tremendous success at Ohio State the past decade. He will be missed in college football."

Until he says something specific about the job, Pelini can expect to hear a lot of, "Hey, Bo, what about the Buckeyes' coaching job in 2012?" Unfortunately for Pelini -- whose Nebraska team might be the preseason favorite to win the Big Ten now that Ohio State is in turmoil -- no matter what he says, the question won't go away. Even if he says he's not interested, he'll still be asked the question until the Buckeyes hire a new coach. Given Pelini's temperament, you can expect a few testy responses from the coach over the next six months.

Missouri coach Gary Pinkel is another Ohio native whose name was floated as a potential Buckeyes coach last week. Pinkel didn't release a statement, but he did tell the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, "There's 5,000 names probably up for that. ... I'm the head football coach at the University of Missouri and I'm committed to trying to continue to build the program and make it better and better. And that's what I intend to do."

Unlike Meyer, Pelini and Pinkel -- and a few other coaches whose names have been brought up, such as Michigan State's Mark Dantonio, a former Buckeyes assistant -- actually have teams to coach this fall, and the Ohio State questions have the potential to be quite distracting.

The questions are natural, given that the Buckeyes' job is one of the three or four best in the nation.

There are some observers who think that potential NCAA violations may scare off some potential candidates. Pshaw (that's an old-fashioned way of nicely saying "get serious"). Again, this is one of the three or four best jobs in the nation, and if the sanctions are severe, the new coach's contract will reflect that.

Ohio State has an advantage that schools such as Florida, USC and Texas don't have. In Ohio, if you're a stud football prospect, you don't grow up wanting to play for in-state schools such as Toledo or Ohio U. or Cincinnati; you grow up wanting to be a Buckeye. That's not necessarily the case in other big player-producing states, where there are two, three or even four other big-time football schools. Ohio State enjoys the same advantage as LSU in terms of keeping big-time, in-state kids at home.

As for Tressel, no way he coaches again, but you wonder if any media outlet hires him as an analyst. You also wonder if his transgressions will keep him out of the College Football Hall of Fame -- but a quick look at the list of coaches who are enshrined includes Barry Switzer, so ... .

Finally, as to the Big Ten, I think the league's holier-than-thou attitude -- personified by commissioner Jim Delany -- takes another hit. Indiana basketball, Michigan football, the recent issues with the Iowa football team, Ohio State football -- all of that and more allows fans to say the Big Ten is just like any other league.

Math lesson for the SEC

At the annual SEC meetings last week, league presidents voted to cap signees at 25 each February. That is the NCAA limit -- along with having 85 players total on scholarship in any given season -- but the SEC cap had been 28.

There was much hoopla in some circles about the SEC putting the 25-signee cap in place, but those folks who actually think oversigning was the main reason the SEC has been dominant of late are delusional.

There's no question some SEC coaches used it as a crutch and as a buffer for signees who didn't meet academic requirements. And, yes, some SEC schools do run off players that coaches deem not good enough. But that's not going to stop. If, for instance, the coach at School A thinks a player can't help, the coach at School A still is going to "suggest" a player moves on.

What the cap should do is cut down on the number of academically risky signees by SEC schools; coaches know which prospects are suspect academically, and with a cap of 25 players, a heck of a lot more of those at-risk guys are going to go unsigned.

But let's give the SEC coaches who annually oversigned a little credit. These guys know what they're doing. They're not going to suddenly lose it overnight because they no longer can sign 28 guys each February.

Grid bits

Man, you have to feel for new Connecticut coach Paul Pasqualoni. UConn lost its starting quarterback and its top two running backs from last season; last week, the school announced that it would be without its top receiver from last season, too. Michael Smith, who led the Huskies with 46 receptions and 615 receiving yards, will miss the season for academic reasons. With Smith gone, sophomore TE Ryan Griffin likely will play an even bigger role in the passing attack. UConn hasn't exactly been an offensive juggernaut, so the Huskies better hope their defense can carry even a bigger load than usual. It wouldn't be a surprise if the Huskies followed up their BCS appearance from last season by finishing last in the league this season.

From the "Man, The Timing Sure Could Have Been Better" department comes word that West Virginia will sell beer during home football games. WVU coach-in-waiting Dana Holgorsen recently was in the news for being escorted out of a casino for unruly behavior linked to alcohol. Athletic director Oliver Luck has said beer sales could provide about $500,000 in revenue for a season.

Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe may be overseeing the incredible shrinking conference, but he got off a good line to the Dallas Morning News last week. Beebe was asked about the meeting that BCS executive director Bill Hancock will have with Department of Justice lawyers who are looking into the BCS. "It's good to know that they've chased down all of the people who have caused our banking system to have problems," Beebe, who has a law degree, said of the DOJ.

Kansas defensive coordinator Carl Torbush -- the former coach at Louisiana Tech and North Carolina -- retired last week after being diagnosed with prostate cancer. Torbush, who turns 60 in October, also had been a coordinator at Ole Miss, Alabama, Texas A&M and Mississippi State. Cornerback coach Vic Shealy, who was coordinator at UNLV from 2005-08, was promoted to replace him. KU was 98th nationally in total defense and 103rd nationally in scoring defense last season.

New Miami (Ohio) coach Don Treadwell better hope his passing attack is sharp this season. Thomas Merriweather, last season's leading rusher, was a senior, and last week, leading returning rusher Tracy Woods decided he wanted to transfer. Junior Danny Green, who rushed for 41 yards last season, now looks like the likely starter at tailback. Good news for Treadwell, who had been offensive coordinator at Michigan State, is that the RedHawks' passing attack should be one of the best in the MAC.

Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt said last week at the SEC meetings in Destin, Fla., that West Virginia transfer Barry Brunetti is the front-runner for the Rebels' starting quarterback job. "I love his attitude and his work ethic," Nutt told reporters. "I just really appreciate the way he goes about his business." Brunetti, a sophomore, left WVU after one season to be closer to his sick mother in Memphis. Brunetti has the best dual-threat skills of the three candidates; the others still in the mix are Randall Mackey and Zack Stoudt.

Former Texas governor Bill Clements died last week at age 94. College football fans should remember Clements because while he was governor at Texas, he played a role in the slush fund that funneled money to SMU players in the early to mid-1980s.

CBS has announced three of its televised SEC games for this fall: Tennessee at Florida on Sept. 17, Florida vs. Georgia in Jacksonville on Oct. 29 and Arkansas at LSU on Nov. 25. The others will be announced during the season.

Former Georgia starting tailback Washaun Ealey has transferred to FCS member Jacksonville State. Ealey, who announced his intention to transfer a few months ago, has good speed and the toughness to run between the tackles, but he frequently inhabited the ... uh ... doghouse of Bulldogs coach Mark Richt.

Notre Dame center Dan Wenger, who suffered concussions with the Irish that led to the end of his career at the school, plans to transfer to Florida. Notre Dame doctors would not clear Wenger, but media reports say he has been cleared to play for the Gators. If healthy, he could start for the Gators, who don't have a clear-cut starting center. Wenger is from powerhouse Fort Lauderdale (Fla.) St. Thomas Aquinas and was recruited by Florida out of high school.

The Big Ten Network is no more. Instead, it's now called BTN.

Mike Huguenin is the college sports editor for Rivals.com. He can be reached at mhuguenin@rivals.com.

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