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Former Ohio State football coach John Cooper ’embarrassed’ by NCAA violations

Courtesy of MCT

A former Ohio State football coach positioned himself among members of the media during Buckeyes’ first-year OSU head coach Luke Fickell’s Tuesday press conference and watched.

John Cooper, who led OSU to a 100-34-4 record from 1988-1999, sat quietly during the press conference, but shared pointed comments about Fickell and the program’s NCAA violations afterward.

Senior running back Daniel “Boom” Herron’s scheduled debut on Saturday against Illinois leaves just one Buckeye — senior wide receiver DeVier Posey — suspended from play. The Buckeyes have had 10 players suspended for NCAA violations in 2011, and Cooper said he was troubled by that.

“It’s unfortunate,” Cooper said. “That doesn’t have to happen. It shouldn’t happen at Ohio State. This is too good of a school. It is too good of a program to have that happen to us. It’s embarrassing, to be honest with you.”

Cooper, who now works as a consultant for the Cincinnati Bengals, said that the original “Tattoo-gate” scandal in which six players sold OSU memorabilia in exchange for improper benefits in the form of tattoos, was preventable and tragic.

“Gosh, if (former OSU coach) Jim Tressel could do it all over again, I’m sure he would have walked down and given the information to (athletic director) Gene Smith and the compliance people,” Cooper said. “Those (players) would have sat out a few games and life goes on. It’s a terrible tragedy.”

Despite the off-field distractions, Cooper said that a win against Illinois on Saturday would likely set the Buckeyes straight.

“I think we need to play better, but it wouldn’t surprise me if we win out,” Cooper said. “It wouldn’t surprise me if we go over there this week and beat Illinois and come back and beat Wisconsin at home and win the rest of our games. I think we’re getting better.”

Wins have been scarce of late for OSU, which has posted a 3-3 record through six games and an 0-2 mark in Big Ten play.

Despite the slow start to Fickell’s first season as head coach, Cooper, who led the Buckeyes to a 4-6-1 record in his first season at OSU, said he that Fickell should absolutely be the Buckeyes’ coach beyond the 2011 season.

Cooper also said that it would be unfair to judge Fickell until he has a chance to select his coaching staff.

“We have a new head coach,” Cooper said. “We don’t have a new coaching staff. We have a new coach. How can you judge a guy until when he hasn’t had an opportunity to hire his people?”

Cooper told of a personal exchange in which he advised Fickell that he should take more control of the team’s play calling.

“When two people ride a horse, somebody’s got to ride in front,” he said, “(Fickell) is riding in front. It’s his team and he has to make some tough decisions. If the head coach is unhappy with the play calling … that’s why they call you the head coach. You have the authority to make the tough decisions.”

Cooper reiterated that winning solves all problems.

“I don’t see anything wrong with this football team that a good win wouldn’t cure,” he said. “Just win, baby, win.”

OSU will go for win No. 4 on the year on Saturday at 3:30 p.m. at Illinois.

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