Fickell Missteps Over Captains Issue, Again
By Brandon Castel
COMMENTARY — This should not be a big deal. We shouldn’t even be talking about it.
The Buckeyes are coming off two big wins over ranked opponents and they are right back in the middle of a Big Ten championship race with Indiana coming to Columbus Saturday.
Ohio State owns the Hoosiers, at least in football. They are 66-12-5 all-time against their neighboring state to the West, and they have won 15 straight in the series dating back to 1988.
We should be talking about that.
We should be using this small sliver of cyberspace to talk about Braxton Miller’s valiant touchdown pass and the bright future ahead of OSU’s young freshman quarterback. He didn’t exactly “come of age” against the Badgers—he still has not thrown for 100 yards in a Big Ten game—but we have already seen glimpses of greatness. Not the kind of greatness that comes along every four years, but the kind that comes along once in a decade.
He could be that good. We should be focusing on that, but we’re not. Instead we have to talk about the captains on a 5-3 football team. This should be a non-issue. Some would argue that it is a non-issue.
Luke Fickell would certainly take that position.
“We want to make sure we’re focused on the 105 guys we have as opposed to the four,” he said Thursday.
“I want it to be focused on what the team is. It’s not about who we put out there. It’s not about me, it’s not about any one guy. We’re going to pick guys each and every week and we’re going to continue to battle and fight and we don’t want it to be about these four guys are captains. It’s about the team.”
Fickell’s goal was to take the focus off the captains and put it on the team as a whole, but in doing so he unintentionally placed unnecessary attention on the mystery captains.
Secrecy in general draws attention. When someone acts like they have something to hide, it is human nature to want to know what and, more importantly, why. With this team, when it seems like something is being hidden, it usually is.
If Fickell had named captains at the beginning of the season, absolutely no one would be talking about them heading into week nine. They also would not have been able to pick tailback Boom Herron as a “secret” captain for last week’s Homecoming game against Wisconsin.
“You picked up on him being a captain,” Fickell asked with a smile.
“We didn’t announce that. We wanted to see who was observant.”
The official release from Ohio State named Michael Brewster, Andrew Sweat and John Simon as the team’s game captains against the Badgers. There was no mention of Herron, who missed the first six games of the 2011 season for violating multiple NCAA rules.
It wasn’t until Saturday, when Herron walked out to midfield for the coin toss that anyone had an idea he was going to serve as a captain in his second game back from suspension.
“There’s nobody it means more to,” Fickell said.
“We’ve all made mistakes in our lives and we all continue to learn from the mistakes we made. We all paid the price at times and we got away with things at times. You’ve got to forgive and move on.
“It’s not hard when a guy has the passion and the work ethic and he handles it the way Boom has. There’s nobody in that locker room who would bat an eye at making Boom Herron anything for this team.”
There are more than a few people outside the OSU locker room who might have a problem with it. After all, Herron and his cohorts committed violations that led to their own suspensions, along with vacating all of last season, the end of Jim Tressel’s career and possibly more.
The Buckeyes are still waiting on the final ruling from the NCAA.
But this isn’t about Herron, who clearly seems to have paid his dues while setting an example for the rest of his teammates. He missed more than half of his senior season at Ohio State, which could affect the rest of his life, or at least the rest of his career.
Fickell was trying to avoid drawing attention to their decision to make him a captain so soon, but in the end he managed the exact opposite. Now, all eyes will be on midfield this week to see who walks out for the coin toss.
It is hard to imagine what could be so secretive. If the captains are Brewster, Simon and Sweat—who are clearly on their way to being named season captains at the end of the year—then why all the cloak and dagger ambiguity during the week?
What is the worst it could be? Herron again? Mike Adams? Maybe they will just let everyone who was suspended—including Jaamal Berry—walk out to midfield. That would certainly represent the 2011 Buckeyes accurately.
Or maybe they are going to do the right thing by naming Brewster, Sweat, Simon and Zach Boren as permanent captains for the remaining four games of the year. That would be the right thing to do, but we only know one thing for certain:
“We will have four of them,” Fickell said.
Now spend the rest of your week trying to guess which four they will be, and why it was such a big secret.
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