NSSA Weekend: Keels sees Tressel controversy up close

Published 12:00 am Sunday, May 15, 2011

SALISBURY — Ohio State University sportscaster and Ohio sportscaster of the year, Paul Keels is in town this weekend as part of the NSSA yearly Hall of Fame convention.
Keels calls both the Buckeye football and basketball games for WBNS-Columbus.
Being the traditional college football powerhouse that OSU is, as well as being an up-and-coming basketball power, Keels has a ton of excitement and quality play to cover on a daily basis.
But everything has not been so bright in Columbus as of late, as the NCAA’s investigation into the Jim Tressell scandal and the players trading their memorabilia for cars, tattoos and other things, has cast a dark shadow over Buckeye Nation.
“I think that everyone in the community, be it school officials, athletic officials and just your everyday casual fan are just shocked and surprised by this whole ordeal,” Keels said. “Coach Tressell is so beloved and respected in Ohio and now this situation has caused some rather skewed views of him.”
Anytime there is an NCAA investigation into any program, there comes with it a ton of angst and uncertainty about how hard the school will be penalized. Columbus is perhaps feeling more of that than any sports community in the country right now.
“Everybody just wants this to be over with so that they can turn their attention to the 2011 football season,” Keels said. “Right now, with Tressell and the players being suspended for the first five games, no one really knows what to expect.
“Prior to this all coming out about the players and coach, last year ended on a high note and everyone was happy we finally beat an SEC team in a bowl game. We’re going to be highly ranked coming into this season, but now our first game after the suspensions is at Nebraska. With rust and uncertain mindsets of the guys, people are worried for sure.”
Ohio State can take a bit of solace in the fact that their basketball program is reaching new heights under coach Thad Matta. It was Big Ten conference champions before being upset in the Sweet Sixteen by Kentucky this season.
“While OSU is and always will be a football school, what Matta has done is great,” Keels said. “He is a great guy and a players coach that always gives the kids positive reinforcement and never gets down. People are definitely more excited about Buckeye basketball since he has been here.”
Keels also pointed out that the NCAA inquiry into football came at the worst possible time for the basketball team (in March) and that Tressell apologized to Matta and to the fans for that happening.
“I think that the basketball team will once again be very good next year with Sullinger coming back and a great recruiting class coming in,” Keels said. “But losing three seniors is always tough. They should be a Top 10 or so team again, I believe.”
Columbus is a true American college town that definitely bleeds red for its Buckeyes. With a rabid fan base and huge ecocomic impact on the community, OSU is always under the microsope in whatever it does, good or bad.
“Before we got the Blue Jackets (Columbus’ NHL team), Ohio State is all our hyper-local fan base had and we have fans that stretch all across Ohio from Cincinatti to Cleveland and beyond,” Keels said. “So OSU being hit with any kind of probation or sanctions would be a big hit to a lot of people around there.”
No one knows for sure how long the NCAA will take to finalize their rule on the program or on Tressell. The toughest part is not knowing and kind of waiting for the gallows, so-to-speak, that Ohioans are experiencing right now. But Keels says that it has not diminished the passion and love people have for the school.
“All you have to do is be in Columbus on a fall Saturday and you can see it,” he said. “Alumni and people who have no ties at all to the school rally around the team and its really a great thing to see.”