When we're writing articles, or trying to come up with ideas for pieces, us LGHL writers tend to swap a ton of emails with each other. Sometimes we spend a while debating which Big Ten coach is the worst, or which young Buckeye we expect to make the biggest impact. Other times, we're debating things that have nothing to do with Ohio State: Pepsi vs Coke, which Columbus pizza place is the best, or more recently, me frantically trying to convince a thoroughly skeptical staff that Dion Waiters doesn't suck.
Most recently, a question came up that I thought would be best presented to the public at large, since I wasn't sure there is really a good answer. Consider the following scenario:
You are given two choices for Ohio State's football program for the next ten years. In scenario A, the Buckeyes are guaranteed to win the title this season, beating Alabama by 2 TDs, and ending the insufferable SEC SEC SEC chants. However, that title run is followed up by a rash of arrests, early declarations for the draft, and scandals. As a result, the Buckeyes will spend the next 10 years thoroughly mediocre. There will be a few losing seasons, and Ohio State will never win more than 8 games in a year. Buckeye fans will go on bowl trips to places like Nashville and Detroit. At the end of the ten year slog though, the program rebounds to present day levels of success. Basically, the Buckeyes become Tennessee.
The second scenario will have the Buckeyes drop a heartbreaker at some point in the regular season, maybe even to Michigan, although they will still make a BCS bowl game and could potentially win. Over the next 10 years, the Buckeyes will make the playoffs several times, win multiple Big Ten titles, at least one Rose Bowl, and will never win fewer than 9 games. However, they are guaranteed to not win a title during that span. After the 10 years, they will revert back to present day levels of success, and potentially compete for a title again. Think of say, Georgia, or Oregon.
Which would you prefer? A National Title, complete with the t-shirt, the ESPN documentary, the whole shabang, coupled with an entire decade of Music City Bowls and occasional losses to Iowa and Minnesota? Or would the stink of mediocrity take the shine off the title so much you'd rather have say, Georgia's luck?
For me personally, if this was anything other than Ohio State football, I'd take the title without even thinking twice. I'm a fan of the Cleveland Indians and the Cleveland Cavaliers, two professional franchises without a pedigree of historical success, and have broken my heart on the regular. Ten years of mediocrity in exchange for a title? Hell, my Cleveland Indians fandom post 2001 has basically been that anyway, only without the title. Sounds like an easy trade to me.
If you're a fan of a program that is historically superior though, I think there is probably a different calculus. How horrible was it rooting for the Buckeyes during that 6-7 Gator Bowl disaster? Is everybody willing to go through potentially five more years of that sort of thing? If you have a personal tie to an institution that might only have one of those seasons once a decade, I can see how the shock in moving to a "meh" program can be particularly jarring.
I think I would personally still pick the title, but I'd have to think much harder about it for football than say, for OSU hoops. It can be easy to take for granted how hard it is to win a title in anything. Not only do you need to consistently play at an elite level, but you need a ton of lucky breaks go your way. The 2003 title winning squad for the Buckeyes probably wasn't the most talented of the last 15 years, but they came up big when they needed to, and caught the right lucky breaks, that the 2006, 2007 and 2012 teams did not. Wisconsin has played at a high level over the last few years, but they were also lucky that those years happened to coincide with relative down years for Ohio State and Michigan. Had Wisconsin been that good a few years before, there would be no multiple Rose Bowl trips, just a Capital One title.
You can still get a lot of mileage out of a title though. It will give your program historical respect and cachet, and nobody will be able to take those memories away from you. BYU will always have 1984. Colorado will always have 1990. Minnesota will always have those titles they won before any of us were born. Until, you know, 30 years from now, when Alabama figures out some way to claim ALL of those titles.
So what do you think? Take the title and run, even if it means you'll kinda suck for a while, or plug along being very good, but not great, every year?