The Terrelle Pryor era in Ohio State: Was it all worth it?

Patrick Maks is back, this time with a take on a former Ohio State player who has recently been in the news due to lengthy profile in Sports Illustrated. Patrick asks, was it all worth it?

Before he’d ever taken a snap as a college quarterback, Terrelle Pryor received a standing ovation on a brilliantly sunny day against Youngstown State in Ohio State’s cakewalk of an opener in 2008. Months before that, Sports Illustrated called his college decision “the most anticipated signing day announcement in history.”

Talk about hype. A look at just the numbers suggests he lived up to the most of it.

Key word: most.

From 2008-20010, Pryor helped guide the Buckeyes to a share of three straight Big Ten Championships. In the process, he won the OSU’s first Rose Bowl since 1997 and was named its MVP for his 22-for-37, 266-yard, two-touchdown performance in a 26-17 win against Oregon. The following year, he led his team to a 12-1 season that ended in a thrilling 31-26 win against Arkansas in the Allstate Sugar Bowl. Again, he was voted the MVP of his second straight BCS bowl win.

Perhaps most notably, Ohio State won 31 of 35 games featuring Pryor as a starter, and — maybe most importantly to Buckeyes fans — he never lost to Michigan. In fact, Pryor and Company dominated them, outscoring them 100-24 over that span.

That alone should’ve been enough to make him a hero in Columbus for years to come. But after his part in selling Buckeyes memorabilia to a Columbus tattoo parlor and being the center (fair or not) of a scandal that virtually toppled a previously stable, 10-year dynasty under former coach Jim Tressel, Pryor, is looked at as anything but.

At 18-years-old, Pryor was touted, hailed and almost worshipped as a messiah-like figure that could finally end OSU’s BCS struggles that began with a 41-14 curb stomping at the hands of Florida.

Arguably, for the most part, he was exactly that. But he came with a price.

Now, almost a year since Tressel was nudged into resigning, it’s fair to wonder this: was Terrelle Pryor worth it?

If you’re looking for an answer on whether the black eye Pryor and others left on OSU was worth the success the program achieved during its tenure, you’re in the wrong place because I don’t have an answer. I’m just really stumped. But I can tell you what perceptions are out there.

On one hand, Pryor helped maintain and elevate a level of excellence that few college football programs ever see. While to say he alone was the reason OSU won three straight Big Ten titles would be ignorant, denying his role in those championship runs would be equally naïve. When it comes down to the numbers and the win-loss column, Pryor literally did everything and more any reasonable fan base could ever ask for. From that logical, “just the facts, ma’am” perspective, it’s hard to say he wasn’t worth the headache. Like the way he often dominated on the field, the teams Pryor played for were just as impressive.

The only thing he and OSU fell short of was a national championship. Like the teams he played for, they were great, but never elite. That, coupled with the chaos that was this time last year, makes some think Pryor should’ve taken his talents elsewhere.

Pryor wasn’t brought to OSU to win just Big Ten Championships; the expectation was that he was here to win a national championship. He even said it himself. In that light, he failed and the closest he ever came to college football immortality was a one-loss season in 2010, which, ironically, thanks to Pryor and a number of other teammates, doesn’t exist as far as the NCAA is concerned.

Is that a ridiculously high standard? Oh yeah. Is Pryor solely to blame for harming the university’s reputation? Absolutely not and it’s sad that he’s looked at as the main scapegoat in the whole “tat-gate” scandal.

But it’s not like Pryor didn’t do anything to help bring people’s expectations back to reality with his cocky rhetoric, though, to his credit, he did his best to live up to the hype. I think it’s fair to say he wanted to be remembered in Buckeye lore long after his final game in the Horseshoe.

Unfortunately for Pryor, he got exactly what he wanted in all the wrong ways.

(Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

  • Garry_Owen

    Pryor gave us Meyer.  So, yeah, worth it. 

  • mgbode

    I am still trying to figure out how we ended up coming out of that whole scandal in better shape then when we went into it.

    I love Tressel, but Meyer is one of the revolutionary coaches for the new wave of college offense with Ohio roots who can recruit as well as anyone.

  • Steve

    I can’t even believe this is being discussed. It just shows what a pathetic state we’re in that we even think it was worth it. Pryor did nothing but show how laughable the controls were at Ohio State, and seemingly for a lot longer than he was there. Let’s not pretend he’s the only kid who’s ever tried to get free cars, tattoos, or whatever. It’s that Ohio State had no interest in abiding by the rules, especially Jim Tressel, and his bosses intentionally turned a blind eye so that they wouldn’t be held responsible when Tressel fell on the sword at the end. In my mind, there were no wins under Pryor, and, considering the stories from Tressel’s earlier days, I don’t feel particularly proud of those days either. Pryor just reflected some of the saddest days in the history of the program, yeah I know, we only care about wins, but sometimes there is something more. It’s too bad the kid has gotten almost all the blame, when we should still be embarassed, and for a long time, about the Ohio State football program.

  • Garry_Owen

    Crazy, isn’t it? 

    Just in terms of Jim Tressel, if you asked me if it was worth it, I’d definitely say “no.”  The reputation and career of a good man and great coach were ruined, in large part anyway, because of Pryor. 

    I know, I’m using passive voice, and Tressel’s actions were entirely his own doing, but without the “cash for tatoos” Tressel would likely still be coaching.  I hate that he is paying a disproportionate price for what I think is a really silly underlying circumstance.

    Still, I couldn’t be happier that Meyer is our coach.  Even without the “scandal,” I would be hard-pressed to reject an offer to trade Tressel for Meyer. 

    Now, if we can just go undefeated this season and force and asterisk by the eventual 2012 Big Ten Champion’s name . . .  All would be as right as could be then.   

  • mgbode

    the Buckeyes being the only FBS team to go undefeated this year would be hilarious.  it’s not going to happen (Meyer knowing this is a throwaway year is likely to go to great lengths to install his system, which may have short-term ramifications), but the idea behind it is great.

    even still, we could very well pull off a USC “real winners of our division” crown.

  • Nino

    This is an easy answer.  The answer is clearly, absolutely, positively “no – it was not worth it”. 

    Glad i cleared that up

  • Bigfan

    It’s not worth it in that a great man and coach, Jim Tressel, had his career ruined from it. But as a selfish fan I loved watching them win and am excited about Meyer as the new coach. So with the exception of a year or two of things to deal with, I can’t say it wasn’t totally not worth it (by luck of course). Now if we didn’t get a new great coach and sucked for the next 5-6 years then I would say its totally not worth it….I just feel bad for coach Tress, he deserved better….    

  • NoVA Buckeye

    let’s look at the good:

    beat michigan 3 times
    3 big ten titles
    won the rose bowl against Nike University
    beat the SEC
    brought in urban meyer
    fired jim bollman and nick siciliano essentially
    somehow was involved in the recruitment of jordan hall

    the bad

    fired tressel
    loss of schollys
    1 year bowl ban
    a losing season

    call me crazy, but the pros outweigh the cons. i think he was worth it

  • AsdrubalCabrera13

    I was surprised he didn’t mention this in the article. Even though Tressel’s success at OSU is undeniable, I believe that Meyer’s recruiting prowess will make the university a consistent title contender, but hopefully, he will have more success than Tressel in those games. But Pryor brought us a great quarterback who won us MANY MANY games. I was very critical of his decision making, however his athleticism and cannon arm far outweighed his deficiencies.

  • Gbwoy

    Quite honestly, if Pryor would have just left school and shut his mouth about the things that went on there, I’d say he was worth the headache.  Instead, he ratted out teammates after he left, and talked multiple times about other things he did while there.  Who does that?

    In short, if he had just managed to show SOME integrity and maturity at any point during the whole process, I’d be willing to overlook the bad stuff. 

  • floydrubino

    Just getting rid of Boliman alone is worth it and then you throw in Urban on top of it. Well worth it. 

  • Bartball

    Tressell was an elusive shady character, everything was a secret with him because he was cheating, he knew what was going on and played dumb. It’s now obvious what a lyer and shister he was. Even when he was in Columbus last month when someone asked him about OSU football he acted like he knows nothing about it. That elusive lyar just turns my stomach. Meanwhile TP is the big villon, Sure he made a mistake but JT’s secret cover up and looking the other way enpowered the players to the position they were in.
    Was it worth it to get rid of JT? You bet it was.

  • Steve

     Jim Tressel didn’t have his career ruined. He ruined it for himself. I can’t believe the biggest culprit in this matter is the one getting the biggest passes.

  • Steve

     What about the lack of integrity and maturity of the entire program? When do we put that under the same scrutiny we put Pryor under?

  • Crflanders05

    The way I see it, Pryor spent his entire OSU career absorbed in himself.  TV announcers often commented on his lack of enthusiasm with the success of the team or big plays made by other players.  Pryor didn’t seem to understand the importance of his teammates’ roles in the success of the team.  I ‘m glad he is gone from Ohio State.