Andy Gottesman / Lantern photographer
For Ohio State football fans, life hasn’t been the same since December 2010.
Buckeye fans grieved when the news broke that one former and five current OSU football players had sold memorabilia and received improper benefits. Then prognosticators and so-called experts foretold of the NCAA punishment that awaited OSU, and fans’ fears grew.
Speculation of seemingly certain NCAA sanctions kept OSU supporters on edge throughout the spring, even as the football team commenced spring practice.
Then, on April 23, the day of the OSU Spring Game, the atmosphere at Ohio Stadium just wasn’t the same as previous Spring Games. Sure, the game’s ridiculous scoring system that no one understood probably had a bit to do with it, but there some was something more.
It was something about you, the usually boisterous, scarlet-and-gray-clad fans — you didn’t have your swagger.
And before you could recover it, the casualties began to mount.
Former coach Jim Tressel was forced to resign and embattled former quarterback Terrelle Pryor left the school.
On Thursday, Pryor was granted eligibility for the NFL’s supplemental draft but will serve a suspension through Week 5 of the NFL season.
Why bother regrouping from the losses of Tressel and Pryor, though? After all, television commentators would have had us believe that the city of Columbus itself would disappear off the map on Aug. 12, the day OSU was to meet with the NCAA.
The night of Aug. 11, was like the night prior to the predicted expiration of the Mayan calendar. Recovering your mojo was out of the question. Now, it was a matter of simply surviving the coming day’s NCAA scrutiny of OSU football.
But then a miraculous thing happened.
The meeting with the NCAA came and went without incident and the parties whom attended dispersed about four hours later. New OSU football coach Luke Fickell came back to Columbus after the meeting and, presumably, continued with his preparations for the 2011 season.
True indeed, NCAA punishment may be delivered to Buckeyes football in eight to 12 weeks, but preparations continue for the upcoming season.
Your prep work as fans, which could include everything from stockpiling tailgating supplies to selecting new outfits to wear to the ‘Shoe this fall, should continue as well.
When the kicker for either Akron or OSU steps to the tee on the 35-yard line around noon on Sept. 3 to kick the ball off and commence the 2011 campaign, what will you do in your seat in the ‘Shoe?
Will you “boo?” Will you sit on your hands? Will you hesitate to clap and cheer?
Will you do nothing?
As of Friday, kickoff is just 15 days away, so I recommend you quickly decide how you’ll receive this 2011 edition of the Buckeyes.
It’s true — the NCAA could administer a postseason bowl ban or take away scholarships or prevent OSU from competing in the inaugural Big Ten championship game in Indianapolis. On top of that, it could make the announcement right in the middle of a season that figures to see the Buckeyes compete for supremacy in the newly formed Leaders Division.
There’s only one 2011 season, though, and even if the postseason isn’t available to the Buckeyes by regular seasons’s end, 12 games of Ohio State football would be a terrible thing to waste.
Consider and appreciate the football team’s new freshmen class that, for the time being, appears to have committed itself to OSU and serving whatever punishment could be coming from the NCAA.
Relish in the Big Ten’s expansion and the arrival of Nebraska football to the conference. Many OSU fans will likely make the trip to Lincoln, Neb., for the first in-conference meeting between the Buckeyes and the Cornhuskers — truly a historic moment.
And why not continue to rabidly anticipate the next installment of “The Game”? I have a feeling that another victory against the hapless Wolverines will cure what ails weary Buckeye fans.
Ready or not, the 2011 season is nearly upon us. It may have seemed as though the fog of the NCAA’s investigation would never lift, but it has, even if only for the few months until the NCAA’s final decision is announced.
So, what will you do when the kicker strides toward the tee to kick the 2011 season off? Boo? Clap? Cheer? Sit on your hands?
Whatever you choose to do, just make sure you find your seat in the ‘Shoe in time to see the marching band enter the playing field and perform Script Ohio.
The sight of Script Ohio should help you rediscover your swagger as a fan base, and the wins that follow certainly will.