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Midweek Musings: When Coaching Scandals Hit, Football Suffers

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The last few times a coaching scandal has hit a team, the on-field results have tanked

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

In case you hadn’t heard, there have been a few coaching scandals in the Big Ten this year. In one instance, a Maryland player died of apparent complications from heat stroke in June, followed by investigations which revealed the athletic training staff took improper steps after the player collapsed. Head coach DJ Durkin and several staff members were placed on administrative leave, with an investigation ongoing.

Elsewhere, Urban Meyer has been suspended for the first three games of the upcoming season, as a result of how he handled former assistant coach Zach Smith’s domestic violence allegations.

So how will these coaching scandals and off-the-field happenings impact the actual football product? Glancing at recent history may give us some clues.

At Baylor, Art Briles helped build an also-ran team into a national competitor, before a massive sexual assault scandal broke and forced him out. In 2015, his last season at Baylor, Briles’ team went 10-3. In 2016, the Bears went 7-6, and then plummeted to 1-11 in 2017 under Matt Rhule.

At Ohio State, Jim Tressel resigned in 2011 after an investigation into improper benefits for Buckeye players. In 2010, Tressel’s last year, OSU went 13-1. In 2011, they Buckeyes went 6-7, before rebounding under Urban Meyer and going 12-0 (though they were ineligible for the post season, due to sanctions).

And of course at Penn State, Joe Paterno was forced out in the middle of the 2011 season, due to the investigation into Jerry Sandusky. Though the team finished with an interim coach, the 2011 team ended the year 9-4. In 2012, under Bill O’Brien, the Lions went 8-4, before following it up with a 7-5 record in 2013.

So very clearly, it seems that coaching scandals have an impact on the on-field product. How much of an impact certainly depends on the exact circumstances, but when coaching scandals arise, football suffers.

So what does this mean for OSU and Maryland this year? Only time will tell. OSU, due to its extremely high recruiting prowess, should be all right. Maryland maybe not as much. In any case, it’s certainly fair to wonder whether the off-field shenanigans will have an impact on the field for those teams this year.