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A Past You Can't Escape

I call your attention to an article by Jonathan Hunt in the Athens News, a newspaper in Athens, Ohio, home of the University of Ohio. The article details some of the issues around Frank Solich's Bobcats who have had in run-ins with the law. It then turns the spotlight on Frank's past which of course includes his tenure at the University of Nebraska.

The author links Frank to several players who had problems at Nebraska, namely Ahman Green, Christian Peter, Ritchie Incognito, Junior Tagoa'i, and of course, the evil poster boy of Husker football - Lawrence Phillips. Most Husker fans are familiar with the case of Christian Peter, particularly the rape accusation made against him by Kathy Redmond. Redmond is quoted throughout the article, one of which is found below:

"Tom Osborne ran the city of Lincoln, he ran the university, he ran the state of Nebraska," she said. "(Cornhusker football players) knew what they could and couldn't get away with, and they passed it down the line," she said. "Frankly, that's what can happen at Ohio."

Such hyperbole does Redmond no favors with her credibility. It does make for a great quote which is why it's in the article.

The mention of the case of Scotty Baldwin:

Former Nebraska running back Scott Baldwin was shot and paralyzed by Omaha Police in 1992, nine months after being found not guilty by reason of insanity in an attack against a Lincoln woman.
"The man had obvious mental problems," recalled Redmond, then a Nebraska student. "Nebraska, for some reason, was trying to rehabilitate him."

I'm surprised that the Scotty Baldwin incident is included in the article. What happened in the Scotty Baldwin incident was tragic for both Baldwin and the victim he attacked while in a deranged state. What happened with Baldwin may or may not have happened regardless of whether he was a Nebraska football player, but the implication is that Nebraska did something wrong in having him on the team as if they were able to foresee what would happen and chose to ignore it.

Author Hunt includes this bit of insinuation:

THE LIST OF TROUBLED FOOTBALL players in Lincoln chronicled by published reports in major newspapers is long, and includes reputed gang affiliations, shootings, steroid use and, allegedly, receiving cars and cash through boosters.

The author makes no specific mention of cash being paid to players because there aren't any referential cases of such a thing happening at Nebraska. There aren't any incidents that I'm aware of in which players received cars. Hence, the use of the word 'allegedly'. What the author does is use a ploy favored by conspiracy theorists in which you take a list of known facts and associate them with rumors thereby making the rumors more credible. You can then build upon the rumors as if they were facts. It makes for juicy gossip, but not for great reporting.

Finally, it's generally not a good idea to quote the author of a hatchet-job book such as "Big Red Confidential" to back up your article if you expect it to carry much credibility beyond Athens, Ohio, but I don't think that's what the author had in mind. Rather than sticking with facts regarding Frank Solich's association with football players, I'm betting that Mr. Hunt would like no better than to stir the pot of goo surrounding Solich in Athens.

From the outside, Frank looks like a hero after taking the Bobcats to their first bowl since 1968. Unfortunately, things at Ohio University aren't so rosy. The University has a budget deficit problem. Their athletic department recently cut four varsity sports allegedly in  an effort to save money and meet Title IX requirements. Frank screwed up big time when he was arrested for drunk driving and probably made things worse when he fought the charge, claiming he was drugged.

Finally, when a bunch of your players get caught in the media spotlight as did Ohio's players earlier in the year there is a need to start looking for a scapegoat. The Athens News seems to have found one in Frank Solich and to a lesser extent, the state of Nebraska, an evil place where athletics is placed above academics, was run by Tom Osborne and inhabited by the likes of Lawrence Phillips.

Solich haters will enjoy the article because it gives them the chance to blame Frank for everything wrong about the past. Solich lovers will point out the positive points in the article and as Frank does, point out that the problems are a reflection of society as a whole, not just football players. In either case, Husker fans can't escape a past that includes Lawrence Phillips and Christian Peter any more than Frank Solich. Some of the incidents involving these young men were tragic, while some were criminal. To deny that they happened is an insult to their victims. Unfortunately, so is the shoddy reporting done by the Athens News.

While the intended target is a very narrow audience, the shotgun approach taken by the author blasts anyone involved in Nebraska's program. Ohio fans would do well to question the author's intent and forget the references to Nebraska's past and focus on their present. They have enough to worry about as it is.