Joe Podelco / Lantern photographer
Luke Fickell hasn’t even endured his first game as the head coach yet, but he’s already made his first mistake.
After a summer full of speculation about which players would lead the team onto the field as OSU’s captains this fall, Fickell announced Tuesday that he would be departing from the program’s tradition of selecting season-long captains.
Instead, Fickell said that the team will be choosing captains on a game-by-game basis.
The reasoning behind Fickell’s decision is pretty clear; it would be tough to select OSU’s typical four to six captains without including one of four Buckeye seniors who are suspended for the first five games of the 2011 season for receiving impermissible benefits.
The decision to select captains on a game-by-game basis essentially rewards DeVier Posey, Mike Adams, Daniel “Boom” Herron and Solomon Thomas by giving them the opportunity to be selected after they return from their suspensions, but that’s not where I have a problem.
My issue with Fickell’s decision is the indirect punishment for players who would likely have been season-long captains, regardless of the transgressions committed by the aforementioned players.
Even if Posey, Adams, Herron, and Thomas had not been suspended for the start of the 2011 season, it’s almost certain that senior center Michael Brewster would be representing the Buckeyes at midfield for each coin toss this upcoming fall.
Brewster committed to OSU during his junior year of high school in Orlando, Fla., but even before then, he was helping recruit a top-rated 2008 recruiting class to Columbus that would go on to be nicknamed the “Brew Crew.”
Upon arriving at OSU, all Brewster has done is become a four-year starter and the face of a team who was in desperate need of one when turmoil struck last December. He could have been named a captain as a junior and nobody would have batted an eye. Now it appears he won’t even be a captain for all of his senior season.
The absence of season-long defensive captains is even more absurd considering that the only suspended Buckeye on that side of the ball — Thomas — happens to be a back-up.
So, thanks to the transgressions of a player who’s played sparingly throughout his time at OSU, a player like sixth-year defensive back Tyler Moeller, who’s bounced back from being the victim of an assault that cost him all of the 2009 season, and a torn pectoral that cost him most of the 2010 season, from being a season-long captain.
Or what about senior linebacker Andrew Sweat, who is entering his second season as a starter at OSU and, despite having roomed with former quarterback Terrelle Pryor, has managed to keep his name out of the press for negative reasons?
You mean to tell me that he doesn’t deserve to be a season-long captain?
I’ll grant Fickell that allowing players to vote for four (or in the case of last season, six) captains would have likely resulted in one of the suspended players — most likely Posey — being selected a captain, but that doesn’t mean that there weren’t better alternatives than electing game-by-game captains.
One option would have been for Fickell to simply select Brewster, Moeller, and Sweat as the team’s three captains and say “that’s that.” Just because former coach Jim Tressel allowed his team to vote for captains doesn’t mean that Fickell needs to do the same.
Another option would have been to allow the players to vote on captains and if a suspended player were to be selected, he could either be absent or replaced by a rotation of players for the first five games. There’s even a precedent for this — during the 2009 season, three defensive captains were named and were then joined by a rotating offensive player each week.
Now more than ever, the Buckeye football program needs stability in its leadership. Not just in its coaching staff, but in its players too. The idea of different captains on a game-by-game basis is anything but that.
Fickell said that season captains will eventually be named, possibly at the team’s postseason banquet, which will be a nice moment for deserving players like Brewster, Moeller, and Sweat, even if it comes a few months too late.