These Players Crash the Wimbledon Party the Hard Way

Jimmy Wang doesn’t have Roger Federer’s seven Wimbledon titles; Wang doesn’t even have five wins in the Wimbledon main draw. But the Taiwanese tennis player has accomplished something Federer won’t ever touch: Five times over the past decade, Wang has qualified for Wimbledon.The four Grand Slam tournaments are the tentpoles of the tennis calendar, the times when casual fans notice the sport and its stars. Before each Grand Slam, there is another tournament, giving players whose ranking isn’t high enough to make it directly into the draw another way in. They play before tens or hundreds of spectators who usually get in free, not thousands of paying fans. Wimbledon’s qualifying tournament isn’t even at Wimbledon; it’s at the Bank of England Sports Centre in Roehampton, another southwest London neighborhood 3 miles away.Most young players see qualifiers as a necessary but not fun rite of passage until they rise in the rankings and don’t need to get in the hard way. But some players, like Wang, find that injuries or other setbacks keep them on the sport’s periphery for most or all of their careers. Few keep coming back to qualifying tournaments for a decade. Still fewer are as successful as Wang at this second tier of Grand Slam tennis. They are the statistical outliers, the best strivers in major tennis. And they don’t all love the distinction.“This year, it feels great” to qualify, said Gilles Muller, a 31-year-old from Luxembourg, in an interview last week at Roehampton after qualifying for Wimbeldon, the fifth Grand Slam of his career, more than 10 years after the first time. Muller had to go through qualifying because he missed the last seven months of last year with an elbow injury, and his ranking slipped. “I hope it will be my last qualies,” he said.Repeatedly qualifying for Grand Slam tournaments, as Wang and a handful of others have done, is so rare because players who are good enough to qualify typically either don’t have to or are too good to have to keep doing it. Federer never qualified for a Grand Slam tournament. Neither did Rafael Nadal. Andy Murray did, once, and Novak Djokovic did three times. They last qualified in 2005, soon after each turned 18.Grand Slam qualifiers have to win three matches in a 128-player draw. The 16 who do usually are the ones whose rankings — based on the last 52 weeks of play — understate how good they are, perhaps because they missed time to injury or are too young to have played many events. Generally, their rankings will catch up with their level and they won’t need to qualify anymore.When it doesn’t, injury often is the reason. Wang had two surgeries after suffering an injury to his right wrist in 2006. He ended up missing three years at an age when most of his peers were climbing the rankings. “I almost stopped,” Wang said in an interview last week. “I realized life is short.”At age 29, he’s back to a level good enough to qualify, as he’s done for the past three years at Wimbledon. Wang has qualified for majors seven times overall, tied for 10th in the Open era, according to data provided by Jeff Sackmann of Tennis Abstract.After Wang’s win, well-wishers posed with him for dozens of photos — many of them next to the scoreboard, many selfies. One woman had been watching Wang try to qualify for Wimbledon since his very first successful attempt, in 2004. Wang said he was “very excited.” He had no idea this was No. 7 for him, but sees no shame in it. “One thousand players try to get into the top 100,” Wang said of pro tennis. “They have the same goal. They have the same dream.”Denis Kudla, one of the thousand, qualified later on Thursday, the fifth time he’d done so at a major. He is just 21 years old. “I’m proud of that,” Kudla said — it meant he’d earned his place. (He went on to win his first-round match at Wimbledon on Tuesday against Marsel Ilhan.)Kudla’s fellow American, Ryan Harrison, qualified with a win on the adjacent court. Harrison was proud, too. He said he enjoyed the “fantastic” feeling of qualifying and going into a tournament on a three-match winning streak. However, he added, “I’m very determined for this to be my last qualifying.” Three years ago, he got his ranking high enough to enter Grand Slams directly. Since then, his ranking has slipped. “To say I can’t do it at 22, when I did it at 19, is kind of crazy,” he said.Harrison admires players like Wang but sets himself apart from them. “You have a ton of respect for those guys. I’ve always believed success is relative to your God-given ability,” Harrison said. On the other hand, he added, “I’ve always had a ton of belief in my ability.” (Harrison lost in the first round at Wimbledon on Monday, after getting his usual tough draw.)He has a point about the top of the qualifying leaderboard. None of the nine Open-era players who qualified for more majors than Wang ever reached the top 25 in the rankings or played in a Grand Slam semifinal.If Wang doesn’t ever qualify for a Grand Slam again, he’ll hope it’s because he got his ranking into the top 100 and didn’t need to. He took the first step Monday: The five-time co-champion of Wimbledon’s annual pre-tournament tournament won just his fourth career main-draw match, 6-3, 6-3, 6-2 over Alejandro Gonzalez. read more

Theres Still Something Missing From Andrew Wigginss Game

Embed Code More: Apple Podcasts | ESPN App | RSS | Embed FiveThirtyEight Welcome to the latest episode of Hot Takedown, FiveThirtyEight’s sports podcast. On this week’s show (Dec. 13, 2016), ESPN The Magazine’s Mina Kimes joins us to help preview the NFL playoffs. Next, we delve into high-scoring Timberwolves swingman Andrew Wiggins’s numbers, looking at how good he was expected to be and how good he’s actually been in his three years in the NBA. Finally, Steven Goff of The Washington Post stops by to help us interpret what last weekend’s scoreless MLS final might mean for American soccer. Plus, a significant digit on why the Alabama Crimson Tide’s dominance of college football will probably continue.Links to what we discussed:ESPN’s Dan Graziano takes a look at the NFL playoff picture. (Check out FiveThirtyEight’s NFL predictions here.)In 2015, Andrew Wiggins was named the 2014-15 NBA rookie of the year, but FiveThirtyEight’s Neil Paine identified some of his underlying problems.The Ringer’s Ben Detrick wrote on why Wiggins’s numbers continue to be a concern.It’s not just Wiggins who is struggling — the Minnesota Timberwolves can’t finish games, wrote FiveThirtyEight’s Chris Herring.Steven Goff wrote in The Washington Post earlier this year about an increase in ties across MLS.Significant Digit: 5, the number of pledges that Alabama and the Crimson Tide have from recruits ranked No. 1 in their respective positions. On Tuesday, the No. 1 junior college defensive end, Isaiah Buggs of Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College, committed to the Crimson Tide, joining No. 1 prep running back Najee Harris, No. 1 prep athlete Dylan Moses, No. 1 dual-threat prep quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, and No. 1 junior-college offensive tackle Elliot Baker. read more

With the US Out Which World Cup Team Will Americans Root For

Following the United States’ brutal 2-1 extra-time loss to Belgium on Tuesday — despite an amazing performance by goalkeeper Tim Howard — fans in the U.S. are without a rooting interest in the World Cup.Actually, only some are.Casual soccer fans who supported the U.S. men’s national team may tune out now that it’s out, but many Americans will continue to watch. Which team will they cheer for? Probably one of two favorites: Brazil and Germany.FiveThirtyEight conducted a SurveyMonkey Audience poll of nearly 1,100 U.S. residents and asked them which country they were rooting for. The poll was conducted June 23 and 24, toward the end of the group stage. After recording the respondents’ first-choice country, the survey asked which country they would root for if their top choice were eliminated. This gave us a good proxy for U.S. fans’ backup teams.Nearly three out of four respondents picked the U.S. as their top team. Here are the percentages of U.S. fans who chose each nation as a backup (excluding countries with less than 1 percent support):No one country had a dominant share of U.S. fans’ support. England came out on top with 16 percent, but the Three Lions flamed out of the Cup early on. England was followed by Brazil, Germany, Italy and Mexico. Of those countries, only Brazil and Germany remain in the tournament.Not every survey respondent chose a backup country. Of those who chose the U.S. as their first choice, about 5 percent then picked either the U.S. (again) or refused to pick any country (labeled as “none”).What about those 26 percent of respondents who did not select the U.S. as their first-choice? The most-backed countries after the U.S. were Brazil (17 percent), Germany (11 percent), England (10 percent) and Mexico (7 percent).But this method of figuring out whom disappointed U.S. fans will now support is highly imperfect. The poll, conducted online, is likely to under-weight fans without reliable Internet access, as well as fans who don’t speak English. That second flaw is especially problematic, because it probably means many fans with origins in Central and South America are excluded.So, is England really the second-most-supported team among soccer fans living in the U.S.? I’m skeptical. I suspect Mexico is a better bet, with nearly 12 million individuals born in Mexico living in the U.S. as of 2011, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s International Migration Database.To augment our admittedly incomplete survey, we reached out to Google to find data on the top countries searched for in the U.S. Specifically, the searches tallied are for country names combined with the phrase “World Cup.” Obviously, merely searching for a country on Google isn’t the same as rooting for that country. But it’s an approximation of interest.The Google Trends team nicely summarized the most-searched-for countries on a couple of days prior to the World Cup (the tournament began June 12), as well as during the first two weeks of the tournament.Top Countries Searched on GoogleBrazil was the top country queried, although this is probably confounded by its host-country status. Those using Google to search for “Brazil World Cup” could either be interested in the tournament as a whole or in the Brazilian national team. It’s not clear.Mexico and England were the next most-sought-after countries. Mexico does better according to Google than it did in the poll, lending some credence to the idea that the English-only survey underestimates support for El Tri. But even the Google data may underestimate support for Latin American teams. The Google queries here are only for searches in English.Spain and Italy were more searched for in the first couple of weeks of the tournament, and that probably has a lot to do with them being eliminated earlier than expected. In addition to Brazil and Germany, the other highly searched country that remains in the tournament is Colombia.So, with the U.S. men out, expect a sizable number of soccer fans to be supporting Brazil and Germany through the rest of the tournament. read more

The Sports Equinox Is Upon Us

Oct. 21, 1973WS Game 71235 Oct. 27, 1985WS Game 71315 Nov. 1, 2009WS Game 41274 Nov. 1, 2010WS Game 5133 Nov. 4, 2001WS Game 71374 Oct. 22, 1972WS Game 71235 Oct. 14, 1973WS Game 21235 Oct. 19, 1980WS Game 51336 Oct. 17, 1971WS Game 71236 Oct. 14, 1979WS Game 51337 Oct. 12, 1980NLCS Game 51348 EQUINOX DATEMLBNFLNBANHL Oct. 15, 1978WS Game 51355 Game 5 of the World Series is tonight, and it could be a deciding one: The Kansas City Royals are looking to finish off the New York Mets after going ahead 3-1 in the series. But Sunday also includes 12 NFL games, seven NBA matchups, and five NHL contests. That makes today a very special day: a sports equinox.A sports equinox occurs when the four major U.S. leagues — MLB, the NFL, the NBA and the NHL — all play at least one game. There’s a very narrow scheduling window when this can happen: Nowadays the MLB season and the start of the NBA season overlap by just a few days or not at all, depending on the NBA tip-off date and the length of the World Series.By our count this will be the 15th equinox in history, and the first since 2010.1We identified equinoxes using scheduling data from the sports-reference.com sites. Equinoxes, by our definition, were not possible before the inaugural NBA/BAA season in 1946. They did not used to be so rare: There were nine equinoxes between 1971 and 1980 (when the NBA season tipped off in the first half of October), and several years have more than one. Here’s the full list: GAMES Phoenix, of all places, is the only city to play in all four parts of an equinox. On November 4th, 2001, the Arizona Cardinals lost to the Philadelphia Eagles, the Phoenix Coyotes lost to the Carolina Hurricanes, and the Phoenix Suns lost to the Houston Rockets. The Diamondbacks salvaged the day, winning Game 7 over the Yankees to capture the city’s first and only championship across the four leagues.2The Mercury, Phoenix’s WNBA team, have three titles of their own.New York and Kansas City sports fans have less luck today. K.C.’s NHL and NBA franchises left for other locales decades ago, and both the Knicks and the Nets are off. But New York has its own packed calendar on Sunday: beyond the World Series and both NFL and NHL matchups, the Red Bulls play their first game of the MLS conference semifinals, and around 50,000 runners will compete in the NYC marathon. It may not quite be an equinox, but it’s still a huge day for NYC sports. Nov. 2, 2009WS Game 5153 Nov. 1, 2015WS Game 51275 Oct. 15, 1972WS Game 21236 read more

Our Updated College Football Playoff Odds For Week 11

TCU 8-1151239%10%4% Navy 7-120155418%<1%<1% Temple 8-122283944%<1%<1% North Carolina 8-123182030%4%<1% Houston 9-024223634%2%<1% Alabama 8-121435%43%12% Oklahoma 8-11214119%17%7% Michigan St. 8-11382211%10%1% LSU 7-199814%12%3% USC 6-3—19719%1%<1% TeamCFPEloFPIConf. TitlePlayoffNat. Title Utah 8-110112121%11%2% Notre Dame 8-1469—30%8% Michigan 7-214201613%7%1% Mississippi St. 7-21716153%3%<1% Clemson is sitting pretty at the top spot. Alabama leapfrogged Ohio State to be No. 2. While LSU and TCU slipped, Iowa and Stanford made big leaps.So go the latest College Football Playoff rankings. Were the selection committee to form a playoff this week, its top four would be Clemson, Alabama, Ohio State and Notre Dame. But who cares about this week? Let’s fast-forward to Dec. 6, when the final decision on this year’s playoff participants will be announced. Our model simulated the rest of the season, and the results are in the table below. UCLA 7-21921186%3%<1% Northwestern 7-2182961<1%<1%<1% Baylor 8-067234%31%12% RankingProbability of … Wisconsin 8-22517243%<1%<1% Stanford 8-1751152%28%6% Memphis 8-12131453%<1%<1% College Football Playoff (CFP) rankings as of Nov. 10. Florida 8-111101438%17%3% Ohio State 9-032544%56%15% Clemson 9-013667%67%17% Mississippi 7-3—26109%<1%<1% Oklahoma St. 9-0841338%23%5% Iowa 9-05132928%22%2% We project that three of the top four teams from this week will make the playoff, but we expect Baylor to surpass Notre Dame. It’s no guarantee, though; the Bears will play three games against top 15 teams — including a big one against Oklahoma on Saturday — so their playoff odds are only 31 percent.Another big change in our model since last week: Clemson has a lock on the No. 1 ranking. After gritting out a tough win over Florida State last week, the Tigers’ playoff odds are at 67 percent, with a 17 percent chance of taking the national title. Both numbers top all other teams. Ohio State has the second-highest odds of making the playoffs; the model put them at 56 percent. Alabama, fresh off an impressive win over LSU, has playoff odds of 43 percent.And finally, for you methodology diehards, we’ve made some slight tweaks to the model since last week. You can read about them here. For a deeper explanation, read Nate Silver’s original explanation of the model’s methodology. Florida State 7-21624170%<1%<1% Oregon 6-3—23321%<1%<1% read more

Why Are There So Many Bats At Spurs Games

Still, the team’s proximity to the real-life Batcave alone doesn’t explain how the bats are working their way inside the venue.There are a couple of potential factors at play. First, the San Antonio arena — a few miles outside of the city’s downtown area and adjacent to a golf course — is perhaps the closest thing to a suburban venue in the entire NBA. The massive, brightly illuminated presence that attracts moths and other insects in an otherwise quiet area might be appealing to bats2Primarily males, since bachelor bat colonies often separate from maternal ones overnight. that are looking for food on a given night, according to Judit Green, who has worked as an urban wildlife biologist for 30 years with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.Beyond that, experts suggest that the 750,000 square-foot stadium almost certainly had — or potentially still has — a tiny crevice somewhere, releasing just enough warmth outside to entice bats and birds that are looking to escape the area’s colder-than-usual temperatures for a night. (The Spurs declined to comment or to make a facilities specialist available to be interviewed for this story.)“I’d guess there’s a small vent or other opening to the outside that’s attracting the attention of migratory bats,” said Merlin Tuttle, an Austin-based ecologist who has studied bats for 60 years and founded Bat Conservation International in the 1980s. “When cold fronts hit, sometimes that’ll drive the bats wintering in San Antonio to look for a place that gets them out of the cold.”Once a bat does make it into the arena, we’ve seen time and time again what type of hilarity may ensue. It was nearly a decade ago in 2009 — on Halloween, fittingly enough — that future Hall of Famer Manu Ginobili endeared himself to Spurs’ fans even more by swatting a disruptive bat out of the air with his bare hand.To be clear, the AT&T Center isn’t alone in producing odd animal-related headlines. It’s nothing new for pro sports, particularly ones played outdoors, to be interrupted by uninvited animals like squirrels, cats, birds, bugs, dogs and rabbits, just to name a few. And bats have also popped up once each this year at NBA games in Utah and Indiana, respectively.But the San Antonio arena has developed a reputation for general weirdness over the years. Aside from a pigeon that flew overhead at the arena in early January, a snake was found in the visiting locker room before a playoff game between the Blazers and Spurs in May 2014. A month later, during Game 1 of the NBA Finals, the air conditioning stopped working — a development that became controversial after visiting star LeBron James cramped, shifting the momentum of the contest away from Miami and toward San Antonio. The Spurs went on to dominate the series, and James left the Heat the following month in free agency.While the team did hire a designated pest-control expert following the Ginobli incident, the little-desired task of removing the bats usually falls to arena staffers who just happen to be on the court — and needless to say, it doesn’t always go so well. A handful of Spurs’ employees often give unsuccessful chase to bats, usually armed with nothing more than towels. Even Coyote, the team mascot, has gotten in on it — and, in a few cases, has actually been the one to round up the bats, illustrating just how much of an all-hands-on-deck process it can be.Rob Wicall, who served as the mascot for nearly two decades before stepping down in 2016, sounded almost envious of all the bat run-ins there have been lately. For years, well before Ginobili’s bat-swat back in 2009, Wicall kept a fishing net he’d bought and the mascot’s Batman costume accessories nearby,3Underneath the stands, by the visiting team’s tunnel to and from the locker room. Wicall referred to the area as the “Coyote’s Den.” just in case a bat ever got loose in the arena.Ginobili took care of the problem just before Wicall could suit-up and come to the rescue back in 2009. But during his farewell season, Wicall got another chance to be the hero before a game in December 2015, and he made it count. He couldn’t see that well — the costume allows little to no peripheral vision — but he tracked the bat into the painted area before somehow nabbing it with his net. When he realized he’d succeeded, Wicall — in Coyote’s full Batman attire, with the PA announcer playing the old-school Batman theme song over the speakers — lifted his arms triumphantly.“It was one of those bucket-list things for a mascot, because you’ve not only solved a problem in the arena, but you’ve also brought entertainment,” said Wicall, adding that it took him less than 45 seconds total to dash into his changing area and throw on Coyote’s Batman accessories.But not everyone relishes these run-ins. Spurs forward Rudy Gay sought shelter from a bat by hiding behind ref Zach Zarba last month. And Nets All-Star guard D’Angelo Russell, who has now had two separate bat experiences at AT&T Center the past three seasons, took refuge in the tunnel leading to the locker room as four bats circled over the court.Bucks center Brook Lopez, on the other hand, would activate a Bat Signal if he could. As a comic-book aficionado, Lopez told SB Nation early in February that he’d welcome being bitten by a bat in hopes that it might make him a superhero.“I’m just going to make myself available [to the bat],” Lopez said. “At that point, it’s up to the bat. A lot of it is up to fate in these superhero stories. But I want to give myself a shot.”Fate seemed to be listening. A bat flew past Lopez on Saturday in San Antonio. Fortunately — or perhaps unfortunately, given Lopez’s hope of becoming a superhero — he wasn’t bitten. There are a few things we’ve come to expect over the years from San Antonio Spurs basketball. The team will always find a way to make the playoffs, no matter how much talent and pedigree it loses during the offseason. Coach Gregg Popovich will generally deliver grumpy end-of-quarter interviews no matter how well his team is playing. And once in a while, we can expect a furry, winged menace to descend from the rafters and terrorize their home court.The local bats of San Antonio have long held a reputation as unruly Spurs fans, occasionally crashing games and disrupting play. In recent weeks, though, the bats have claimed season-ticket holder status with the red-hot team, which has won six-straight contests. In three of the team’s past six home games, including this past Sunday, one of the flying mammals has brought a Spurs’ game to a screeching halt for minutes at a time, as various team staffers furiously scrambled to apprehend the flapping intruders.All of which raises the obvious question: Why is the arena plagued with bats so often?After spending many sleepless nights investigating the matter — in truth, I just called a couple of local specialists — the answer actually makes pretty good sense. The AT&T Center is 25 miles southwest of Bracken Cave, which is home to more than 15 million Mexican free-tailed bats, making it the largest summer bat colony in the world.1Additionally, the Congress Avenue Bridge in Austin — which is the world’s largest urban bat colony, and home to about 1.5 million bats — is only about 75 miles away.What’s more, it’s logical that bats would fly past the arena, particularly during the winter months. The stadium is almost directly in the bats’ migration path from Central America and Mexico back to Bracken Cave, where maternal colonies fly to have and nurse their newborns (nearly doubling in number). read more

Ohio State finds redzone solution with twoquarterback system

OSU redshirt sophomore J.T. Barrett (16) runs down the sideline during a game against Maryland at Ohio Stadium on Oct. 10. OSU won, 49-28. Credit: Samantha Hollingshead / Photo EditorRed-zone inefficiency has been a problem for Ohio State’s offense throughout the season.It appears that now the solution may have been discovered during its 49-28 victory over Maryland.And it looks a lot like J.T. Barrett.OSU coach Urban Meyer hinted during the week that the team has thought about using the redshirt sophomore quarterback inside the red zone, but at the time, he said they had yet to make a decision about it.By Saturday, Meyer apparently had made a decision.The Buckeyes went three-and-out on their first possession, but when they got the ball back, trailing Maryland 7-0, the offense started clicking.Redshirt junior quarterback Cardale Jones methodically marched the unit 44 yards in seven plays to get down to the Terrapin 25-yard line. Jones had just finished scrambling for eight yards when he jogged off the sideline, passing Barrett on his way.Barrett stepped in behind center and finished the job. It took Barrett six plays — including a 20-yard completion to redshirt junior wide receiver Michael Thomas — to find the end zone on a three-yard touchdown run.It was the team’s first touchdown in the red zone since the third quarter against Western Michigan in Week 4.“(Barrett) provided an obvious spark for us in there,” Meyer said after the game. “He’s a leader and a guy that needs to be on the field.”Despite Jones playing his best game of the year, according to Meyer, and throwing for a new career-high of 291 passing yards, Barrett entered the game when the team crossed inside the 20-yard line all but one time.The one time he did not was because Jones had just completed a 33-yard pass to redshirt senior H-back Braxton Miller, which brought the team to the 19-yard line. The Buckeyes kept with the tempo, hurrying to the line before Jones connected again with Miller for 19-yard score.Barrett guided the Buckeyes to touchdowns on all five of his trips in the red zone. Thrice he scored on rushing touchdowns, while junior running back Ezekiel Elliott had the other two.Using the two quarterbacks in specific situations was not a game-day, spur of the moment decision.“It was all within the coaches’ plan to win,” Jones said. “He felt like J.T. brings an extra element to the game down in the red zone, and certain things we wanna do in the run game. (Meyer) proves to be right once again.”The plan to begin using Barrett, who started 12 games for OSU and amassed 3,772 total yards — 938 of which were on the ground — and a Big Ten record 45 touchdowns in 2014, in the red zone came to Meyer during a walk on Monday, according to Jones.Jones said Meyer decided to then ask Barrett and Jones what they thought of the idea.“I agreed with him,” Jones said. “J.T. brings the element to the game in the run game and certain positions on the field … It was all for the benefit of the team.”And benefit the team it did.The theory that rotating signal-callers could be detrimental to the continuity of the offense did not seem to hold any merit Saturday.The offense looked much more polished against the Terrapins, as it had no turnovers and racked up 499 yards of total offense.“I think this system works perfectly for our offense,” Elliott, who extended his streak of 100-plus-yard performances to 11 after gaining 106 yards, said. “I don’t think it took anyone out of rhythm, everyone was in rhythm, everyone was playing well.”Moving forward, Jones said he thinks the situational usage of Barrett can work because Meyer does an “unbelievable job of managing it.”But whether or not the Buckeyes have found their fix to their red zone ails and quarterback situation is not so clear to Meyer.“Sure,” he said about if the issues were repaired. “Until next week.”That matchup next week is set to be against Penn State at Ohio Stadium on Oct. 17. Kickoff is scheduled for 8 p.m. read more

Commentary Remember Jim Tressel not for inelegant exit

Jim Tressel didn’t deserve to go out this way. His resignation officially signals that the responsibility for the football program’s various NCAA violations falls on one man. Tressel even said as much in his resignation letter to athletic director Gene Smith — he is making “this decision for the greater good of our school.” Though they originally came out in support of Tressel, Smith and university President E. Gordon Gee have made it clear — through months of silence since — that it was in the best interest of the school for him to resign. Firing him would have been a public relations disaster. Tressel never seemed willing to step down until months of speculation — and maybe some internal pressure — apparently wore on him. Though he was the head football coach, he is not the only one embroiled in this controversy. While Smith issued public statements gently scolding the compliance and athletic departments’ role in educating players about NCAA rules, they remain unscathed while Tressel takes the fall. The problem of breaking NCAA rules isn’t just with Tressel, a group of players or even within this university. It’s a systemic issue, occurring at every institution. People question Tressel’s ethics in his ignorance of inevitable NCAA violations back in April, after learning about them through former walk-on and Columbus lawyer, Christopher Cicero. In the world of college athletics, which operates without any real moral standards anyhow, are Tressel’s actions really that despicable? In the aftermath of his actions, he should be commended for the way he received the brunt of the backlash instead of running away to an undeserved multimillion-dollar deal in the NFL, and leaving someone else to clean up the pieces like Pete Carroll did with USC. It’s sad to see a man with Tressel’s principles — true-to-life principles, not an ethical code judged by flimsy rules by which the NCAA governs — have to step down in such an ungraceful fashion. Tressel has won 106 games, seven Big Ten titles, nine games against Michigan and the program’s first national championship since 1970. His departure merits a lot more fanfare. More importantly than what happened on the field, was how he molded individuals. In a blog post from Saturday, linebacker Tyler Moeller said Tressel is a “great man that gives back to the world 24/7 and helps young kids like me grow into men; even the ones that everyone had already given up on like Ray Small.” Moeller didn’t even mention former running back Maurice Clarett, who, like Small, went to the media to trash the program after a disgraceful exit. Clarett, who ended up serving about 3 1/2 years in jail, stayed in constant contact with Tressel, who worked with Clarett to turn his life around — a testament to the true character of the embattled former coach. The success on the field, and the character he displayed when it mattered most off it, is Tressel’s enduring legacy. When he chose to hang up the vest, it didn’t deserve to be tattered like this. read more

Opinion Career of Amir Williams is a mystery that will never be

Senior center Amir Williams (23) averaged just 6.4 points in his final campaign at OSU.Credit: Samantha Hollingshead / Lantern photographerWhat comes to mind when I say the name Amir Williams?For me, it’s one word: disappointment.Not in the person, because the senior was always an entertaining interview and more often than not earned high praise from coach Thad Matta. But in the player.A player who was rated higher than the likes of Ben McLemore and Trey Burke and was the fifth-rated center in the 2011 recruiting class averaged just 4.8 points per game in his career and became one of the most criticized players at Ohio State in any sport.Whether it was a missed dunk, putting the ball on the floor despite being wide open under the basket, or celebrating a dunk when it doesn’t matter, the Michigan native will no longer put on the scarlet and gray, and that seems to make OSU fans happy.The only other names that come to mind when it comes to pure fan disdain toward a player at OSU were quarterbacks for the football team: Steve Bellisari and Joe Bauserman.While Bauserman did not come to Columbus as a highly touted recruit, both Bellisari — recruited by Notre Dame, Florida State and West Virginia — and Williams largely disappointed.To Williams’ credit, he stayed out of trouble off the court to our knowledge, while Bellisari’s drinking escapade just hours before his senior day added embarrassment to his lack of production on the field.For Williams, it will always be a case of what could have been, not only for him, but for the team as a whole.The Buckeyes fell to the No. 2 seed Arizona Wildcats on Saturday in the NCAA Tournament, in large part because of a lack of rebounding. The Wildcats pulled down 17 more rebounds than the Buckeyes, and OSU’s leading rebounders pulled down just four boards each.If OSU would have pulled the upset over Arizona, it would have played in-state rival Xavier and who knows what could have happened in that game.The 6-foot-11 Williams pulled down four rebounds in 24 minutes of play against the Wildcats, while 6-foot-5 guard D’Angelo Russell managed seven.Williams, who started 29 of OSU’s 35 games, did not pull down double-digit rebounds in a single game in his final campaign in Columbus.His senior center counterpart, Trey McDonald, who stands three inches shorter and did not start a single game in his OSU career, tallied 14 rebounds in a single game against Sacred Heart on Nov. 23 in 21 minutes of play.So why didn’t Williams pan out at OSU? We might never know.The curious case of Benjamin Button has nothing on Williams, whose best season came in 2013-14 when he averaged a whopping 7.8 points per game.It is hard to believe that 7.8 points per game was the ceiling for Williams in four years at OSU, but we will never know why that ended up being the high point of his career.For OSU fans, there is hope, however, as the football team was able to replace its former fan least-favorites with Craig Krenzel and Braxton Miller, respectively .So, to whomever replaces Williams, no pressure. read more