On Monday, July 21st we got the first installment of ESPN’s College Football Live series in anticipation of the 2008 season. I know that many people dislike ESPN for one reason or another, but it’s hard to argue with having a 30 minute college football show every weekday.
We also know that the season can’t be that far away if the Mothership’s marketing machine is roaring to life. I think we can all agree that the season being close is a Good Thing, surpassed only by the season being here.
Anyway, they decided to bring out some big guns of controversy to kick off the season. One was Tim Tebow, who is either a saint or the most overexposed and overrated quarterback in years depending on who you ask. The other was the head coach of Ohio State, Jim Tressel.
After some pleasantries, including Tressel giving his best Jacques Clouseau impression, Jessie Palmer went right to the topic that has set message boards and comment threads alight all spring and summer long:
Palmer: “The Big Ten last year went 3-5 in bowl games. Ohio State obviously has lost the last two national championship games. What do you say to critics out there who say the Big Ten is a weak conference?”
Tressel: “Well, I think anyone that’s ever played against the Big Ten would refute that. The Big Ten is not a weak conference; it’s a strong conference.
Did we lose the last two national championship games? Yes. Did we lose the last two Rose Bowls, which is a BCS venue? Yes, and that gets the most notoriety so I think you have to look in the mirror and say, ‘If you want respect you have to win those games.’
I don’t know if you ever get respect in debates. You get respect in action, and 2008’s on the way.” (emphasis mine)
I like the way Tressel did that. He did not give in, but he didn’t dismiss the critics either. He acknowledged the fact that losing on the biggest stages alters perceptions more than anything else does.
Given how politically polished that statement was, it’s no wonder people still call Tressel “The Senator.” The 2008 season is indeed on the way, and he knows that all the bluster in the world during the offseason will never carry as much weight as what happens on the field.
Hopefully, this statement from the Sweatervest can serve as the final word in the overplayed, overhyped, and overdone debate over the strength of the Big Ten this offseason. I have little hope that it will, but a guy can dream, can’t he?