Ohio St. Ignores Last Asset Left In Recruiting War

May 31, 2011, the day after Jim Tressel resigned as Ohio State head football coach, the top recruit in the ever-fluid 2012 Ohio State recruiting class, Ohio high school offensive lineman Kyle Kalis, called interim coach Luke Fickell to withdraw his verbal commit to the school’s football program.

From the COLUMBUS DISPATCH on June 1:

“I already knew what I was going to say, that my family and I had reevaluated things and I was going to de-commit,” Kalis said.

Then a funny thing happened. He and Fickell talked for 56 minutes, and the word de-commit didn’t come up until the end.

“I told him, ‘Coach Fickell, the meaning of my call was to de-commit, but you talked me out of it,’” Kalis said.

Two weeks later, on June 15, Kalis told Bill Greene of Scout.com:

“I am all-in for Coach Fickell from this point forward. As long as Luke Fickell is the head coach at Ohio State I will remain committed to the program. Losing Coach Tressel was hard and I don’t want to go through this again with a third head coach.

“I still talk to other coaches out of respect, but I tell them all I am 100% committed to Ohio State and I won’t be visiting their schools. As long as Luke Fickell is the head coach there’s no chance I would look at any other school.”

Six days later, Green reported:

A talk with interim head coach Luke Fickell convinced Kalis to stick with the Buckeyes, but now comes word of him cancelling a planned visit to Ohio State this weekend. Instead, Kalis will now visit Ohio State’s biggest rival, Michigan.

“My original plan was to go to Ohio State this weekend, but that has changed,” Kalis stated. “After talking to my dad, we’ve decided to visit Michigan instead. It’s my weekend with him and he wants me to get up there and see the program, so that’s where I’m going.”

Last night, Green reported:

Five-star offensive tackle Kyle Kalis has officially de-committed from Ohio State, the Lakewood St. Edward star announced Tuesday evening.

“I did speak to Luke Fickell minutes ago, and I told him I was de-committing from Ohio State,” Kalis announced. “I want to keep all my options open, and will consider several programs going forward, including Ohio State. That’s really all I want to say about my recruitment at this time.”

The sudden reversal by the five-star, in-state offensive line prospect followed a permanent de-commit by incoming 2011 OSU signee Ejuan Price, who has since enrolled at Pitt.

Though Price wavered throughout the recruiting process right up until signing day, Fickell personally closed the Pennsylvania linebacker in early February. But despite Price signing on the dotted line to play for the Buckeyes, the linebacker changed his mind last week and was subsequently granted his release by Ohio State.

The day Tressel resigned the PITTSBURGH TRIBUNE-REVIEW had this on Price:

Price, who also was recruited to Ohio State by Fickell, wasn’t surprised by Tressel’s resignation.

“It was just a matter of time,” he [Price] said. “I thought he’d do it during the middle of the summer, though, when all the recruits had already come in (to campus).”

In confirming to Jeff Svoboda of BuckeyeSports.com on June 18 that he was seeking his release from Ohio State, Price indicated that Fickell wasn’t keen on responding immediately – for a very specific reason:

Ohio State’s class of 2011 football recruits are set to report to Columbus on Sunday, but it’s safe to say Ejuan Price will not be with the rest of the group.

The linebacker from Pittsburgh Woodland Hills said after the Big 33 Classic on Saturday night in Hershey, Pa., that he has been released from his scholarship by Ohio State.

“Yes, sir,” he said when asked if the release had been granted. “They were waiting for Friday so it wouldn’t cause a tumble effect or whatever. That came and went. All I need are the papers now and I’ll be good to go.”

When asked Saturday night, an Ohio State spokesman could confirm only that Price had asked for his release, not that it had been granted.

Particularly striking in those recent OSU de-commits is Fickell’s personal involvement with each recruit.

Price was recruited by Fickell while Kalis specifically cited the interim coach in re-affirming his ultimately temporary verbal commit to the Buckeyes after Tressel resigned.

While no one begrudges Fickell the opportunity of a lifetime, it’s hard to imagine why Ohio State didn’t install a higher profile interim coach as it awaits an infractions verdict from the NCAA.

With all the high profile former Buckeyes floating around, including several in Columbus, what did OSU have to lose in recruiting someone like Chris Spielman to step in for the moment? And if Spielman wasn’t interested, what of former Ohio State and NFL offensive lineman Jim Lachey? Might Kalis have elected to stay had someone like Lachey come calling – even as a temporary assistant coach?

Spielman and Lachey are just two of dozens of former Buckeyes who might or might not be interested in giving back to their school in its current, extraordinary time of need. And knowing the character of former OSU players like Spielman and Lachey, it’s hard to believe they wouldn’t – at the very least – agree to help Athletic Director Gene Smith find a high profile coach willing to serve in an interim albeit temporary capacity.

These days, virtually every recruit who signs with a program like Ohio State does so with a possible NFL career in mind.  Smith installing a coach with no college head coaching experience, no NFL coaching experience and zero national profile can’t be looked at as any other than a disservice to the Buckeye football program and its fans.

Then combine the unknown extent of Ohio State’s impending NCAA penalties with Ohioans at the helm of the football programs at Michigan (Brady Hoke – Dayton) and Michigan State (Mark Dantonio – Zanesville) and the Ohio State athletic administration abandoning its last, best asset in stemming the long-term damage to its football program approaches the same, shameful negligence it has already perpetrated on the school.

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