Friday, May 27, 2011

Fearless predictions

Predicting the future is a dangerous venture in and of itself. That said, I plunge ahead fearlessly and forecast what I see happening on the sports scene with regard to expectations of Cleveland sports fans.

I predict . . .

* Ohio State football coach Jim Tressel will resign midway through the summer and be replaced on an interim basis by assistant head coach Luke Fickell.

In order to bring no further shame to the school, Tressel will step down before the administration is forced to do what it should have done when it was discovered he lied to the NCAA regarding assorted violations. Fire him. Tennessee basketball coach Bruce Pearl lost his job for just those reasons.

Tressel was a great coach and recruiter. He is still a great coach and recruiter. But when further facts emerge regarding illegalities in the OSU football program, he will have no other choice. The pressure will increase steadily. Current allegations of more improprieties by former Buckeyes wide receiver Ray Small merely adds to the mounting charges against Tressel.

The coach’s supporters argue that Small is just getting back at the coach after the former Glenville High School star marched into and out of his doghouse for a couple of years. That might be the case, but no one is coming out and calling Small a liar. No one is refuting his claims.

Fickell, who already has been tapped by the school to coach the first five games of the season due to Tressel’s suspension for NCAA violations, will coach the entire season as a result of his boss’ resignation.

That will open the door for Urban Meyer to return to his Buckeye roots. Born in Toledo. Raised in Ashtabula. Graduated from St. John High School there. Played at the University of Cincinnati. Began his coaching career at Ohio State in the late 1980s as an assistant for two seasons under Earle Bruce, handling tight ends and wide receivers

Went on to successful head coaching stints at Bowling Green, Utah and Florida. His 104-23 record speaks for itself. So does his 7-1 record in bowl games. That includes a couple of BCS championship game victories, including a trouncing of the Buckeyes in the 2007 title game.

He’s got the right DNA to be the head coach at OSU. Born and bred in Ohio. Coached as an assistant at OSU. Knows the importance of Buckeye football. Is a terrific recruiter.

Sound familiar? A resume, to a large degree, that mirrors the one Tressel brought to Columbus.

Sure, Meyer resigned from his job last December, citing health reasons. But there’s nothing like a year away from the game to regain that health and feed that insatiable appetite to coach. Once a coach, always a coach.

* Jim Thome will finish his career with the Indians. If . . .

Huh? How’s that? Are you nuts?

Wait. Let me finish.

The Indians are off to a hot start. There are no apparent signs that this is a big tease. So if – and that’s the big if – the Indians continue to play good baseball well into July, they’re going to need some help in the stretch run.

And that’s where Thome, who left Cleveland for Philadelphia in 2003 under extremely emotional circumstances, comes into focus. Sharp focus.

The Indians could clearly use another left-handed power bat. And Thome, who turns 41 in late August, still has plenty of pop left in his bat. Right now, he’s stuck playing in Minnesota. The Twins aren’t going anywhere this season. In fact, they occupy the Indians’ normal basement residence in the AL Central.

He has been used sparingly this season with just 79 at-bats. He has four home runs and 11 runs batted in limited play. He’s seven home runs shy of 600, a number that will almost certainly qualify him for serious Hall of Fame consideration.

If Thome achieves HOF status, which cap would he choose for his induction? Only one should be considered.

So why not bring him back to where it began? Bring him back to the Indians, for whom he has slugged 334 of his 593 home runs? It shouldn’t be that difficult for the Indians to part with a lower minor-league prospect for the aging slugger.

First of all, it would be a great public relations move. The fans would be forgiving and welcome him back warmly. And what a joy it would be for Thome and Cleveland to celebrate home run No. 600.

Cleveland is where it started for Thome. That’s where it should conclude. There isn’t a compelling reason to not at least consider the move.

* The National Football League will play a 16-game schedule for the foreseeable future.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell insists otherwise, citing his conversations with fans around the country that they favor an 18-game schedule.

Speaking to season-ticket holders of the Tennessee Titans recently, the commish said, “We do think (the 18-game schedule) is attractive to season-ticket holders. I hear that all the time from our season-ticket holders. We have not abandoned our position on that. We do think it is the right thing for the game. It improved the quality of what we do and it improves the value for you as season-ticket holders. . . .”

The players do not want to play two more games. And just about every poll show the fans are not in favor of an 18-game schedule. They’re more in favor of not charging full price for two exhibition games. Who can blame them?

The longer schedule is still on the negotiation table as the league and players attempt to hammer out a new Collective Bargaining Agreement. The players are adamant the 18-game schedule is a non-starter.

Goodell and his owner buddies are going to lose this one.

* Call it a hunch, but the NFL stalemate will last until the beginning of August. That’s when one side, most likely the owners, will cave and the season will begin the week of Sept. 22-25.

There’s way too much money to lose if this idiocy continues much further. The two sides cannot afford to alienate the public much more with their petty carping.

Somehow, someone will come up with a solution just when everyone thinks the season will be blown up. Not sure who it will be or what solution will satisfy both sides. But it’ll happen.

I still say lock out the attorneys, then put representatives from both sides in a room and tell them they’re not coming out until an agreement is reached. Bring your PJs and toothbrushes because you’re not going anywhere until you shake hands on an accord.


  1. If Tressel has to go, then Terrelle Pryor and his cohorts should be
    dismissed from the team as well. Yes, Tressel is the adult here and
    final responsibility belongs to him. Got it. His resignation was the
    proper thing to do. Understood. But Pryor's bone headed antics cost
    arguably the best OSU coach since Woody Hayes his job.

  2. Not just Pryor. Several others, mostly starters, were involved, too. If anything, they should be suspended for the entire 2011 season year like what North Carolina did last year with Robert Quinn and Marvin Austin for their off-the-field illegal activities.

    Tressel should have suspended them immediately last year after finding out what they did. Instead, he chose to go down the selfish path and pretended what they did didn't happen, hoping no one would find out. He wanted a national championship and losing Pryor and his buddies gave him no chance.

    The difference between other coaches who do the same thing is that Tressel got caught. He lied to the NCAA and got caught.