Everybody knows that one of the best parts of being a sports fan is debating and dissecting the most (and least) important questions in the sporting world with your friends. So, we’re bringing that to the pages of LGHL with our favorite head-to-head column: You’re Nuts.
In You’re Nuts, two LGHL staff members will take differing sides of one question and argue their opinions passionately. Then, in the end, it’s up to you to determine who’s right and who’s nuts.
Today’s Question: Who is the biggest ‘traitor’ in Ohio State football history?
Editor’s Note: Before any Notre Dame fans get all worked up over the headline, this article is intended to be read in a playful, game-week rivalry mindset. We love and appreciate everything that Marcus Freeman did for Ohio State during his time wearing the scarlet and gray, and even if he doesn’t seem to have fond memories of his time in Columbus, we do.
We also do not consider players who transfer in order to find better situations for themselves and their families to be traitors, so sorry about that.
Jami’s Take: Marcus Freeman
I know what you’re thinking — “Neither of these two idiots chose Bo Schembechler? What kind of garbage column is this?” Hear me out though, we should be thanking Bo Schembechler for his contributions to a rivalry that, while it has had annoying moments over the years, is also the source of much gloating and joy for Buckeye fans.
No no, the true Benedict Arnold here is none other than Marcus Freeman, the former Ohio State linebacker who kicks off this 2022 season as the Notre Dame head coach.
I’m all for great players advancing their careers, and I’m not dense enough to assume they will all be able to do so in Columbus. In fact, I was happy to see Freeman step into the head coaching role after the end of the Brian Kelly era.
But then came Freeman’s off-season comments about his time at Ohio State.
Now, I don’t mind a little trash talk going into a huge game, and Notre Dame-OSU is very much the game of opening weekend. I think it can be a good motivator, and it can help get your guys hyped, to an extent (it can, however, also motivate the other team, and that’s the risk you run).
But I also believe in loyalty, and these comments are where Freeman took a hard left turn at Benedict Arnold Drive. In fact, Arnold himself was known for some trash talk, often complaining that the Continental Congress was passing him over for promotions.
The first foray into Benedict Arnold territory was a December 2021 column Freeman wrote for The Players Tribune, in which he implied choosing to play at Ohio State was a mistake.
“I visited this university for the first time when I was about 16 or 17 years old and was recruited to play here. I had a choice to make, and in the end what it came down to was Ohio State or Notre Dame. And I chose Ohio State,” he wrote.
Freeman went on to say, “Fast-forward to last year, and you might have heard that I was being considered for a couple of coaching jobs. During that time, me and my wife, Joanna, took a trip down to Louisiana and then up here to South Bend — and when we got back home, it was another tough decision. I can’t tell you exactly what it was that told us to come to Notre Dame, but there was something. We all know there’s something different about Notre Dame. We all know it’s something special. And I just thank God that I didn’t make the wrong decision twice.”
I don’t mean to invalidate any of Freeman’s experiences, but that’s the sort of thing you don’t put in writing. After all, he’s a successful guy whose coaching future looks bright – surely at least SOME of that is thanks to his alma mater?
Clearly, he built strong relationships with his fellow Buckeyes, with former OSU teammate and fellow linebacker James Laurinaitis joining his coaching staff, so it certainly wasn’t all bad for Freeman over in Columbus.
But that’s not Freeman’s only moment of running his mouth about Ohio State. After taking the job as head coach at Notre Dame, he decided to take a shot at OSU’s academics in an interview with CBS Sports.
“You don’t go to class [at places like that]?” Freeman said rhetorically. “OK, take some online classes, show up for your appointments. At Notre Dame, you’re forced to go to class every day.”
One of my biggest criticisms of Notre Dame fans is their smug elitism in touting the academic record of their very expensive private school, without really considering the layers of systemic wealth that factor in. Additionally, if Freeman chose not to attend class at Ohio State, that was surely his decision? I sat through many a class with football players who were engaged and engaging. Surely it’s not the university’s fault if Freeman wasn’t one of them.
It’s entirely possible that Freeman is making these comments for recruiting clout, or alternatively, he’s trying to get ahead of the possibility that the Fighting Irish will lose on Saturday by having a few excuses at the ready.
It doesn’t excuse it.
It is said that a French statesman who encountered Benedict Arnold after his exile in England said after their meeting, “I must confess that I felt much pity for him … for I witnessed his agony.”
I, on the other hand, can’t wait to witness Freeman’s agony on Saturday after a Buckeye victory, and unfortunately for him, since academics are such a joke at OSU, I must have skipped the class where we learned the meaning of “pity.”
Matt’s Take: Lou Holtz
As Jami alluded to, no, I am not taking Bo Schembechler, but he was the first person that I thought of when we came up with this topic. Bo was not only a Woody Hayes assistant at Ohio State, but he played for him at Miami University. So, when Schembechler left his alma mater to take over the Wolverine program, no doubt that was an incredibly bitter pill for Woody to swallow.
But here’s the thing, Hayes love Schembechler. The two remained incredibly close during the Ten-Year War and after it. Bo and Woody would show up for each regularly until Hayes died in 1987, one day after the former Ohio State coach — who was in demonstrably poor health — gave a lengthy introduction of his friend before a speaking engagement.
In 1986, Hayes told The Lantern, “If ‘Bo’ is not a winner, I never saw one and I should know. He beat me the last three games we played. We’ve fought and quarreled for years but we’re great friends.”
So, as far as I’m concerned, if Wayne Woodrow Hayes can forgive and love Bo Schembechler, who am I to consider him a traitor?
Lou Holtz on the other hand? He’s (long been) dead to me.
Like Woody and Bo, Holtz has deep Ohio ties. Though born in West Virginia, he grew up in East Liverpool, Ohio, went to school at Kent State, and joined the Buckeyes’ coaching staff for a single season, the historic 1968 national title campaign.
After that, he left to coach at William & Mary before a rather circuitous career took him to the NFL, back to college, and to South Bend as the head coach of the Fighting Irish in 1986. Holtz lost both games he coached against OSU as the head coach at ND (in the famous 1995 and ‘96 games).
He, of course, got his revenge in back-to-back Outback bowls in 2001 and 2002 with wins over John Cooper (in his final year in Columbus) and Jim Tressel (in his first year in Columbus).
Now, I don’t love a lot of what Lou Holtz says or stands for these days, but my issue with him is not really about what he’s done on the field, instead, it is primarily what he has done in his post-coaching broadcasting career. And the simplest distillation of why Sweet Lou is persona non grata to me can be boiled down to two words: Mark May.
From their days together on ESPN to as recently as earlier this year, Holtz continues to publicly associate with that imbecilic, rancorous, know-nothing jacknut posing as a real, live human. May’s illogical hatred of Ohio State is legendary, and it has gone far beyond the normal trolling that talentless media personalities generally participate in because they are not insightful or clever enough to garner attention on their own merits.
Instead, he has done what a legitimate analyst should never do, he’s made it personal. Don’t believe me?
And yet, despite being a proud son of the state of Ohio, despite having a championship ring from his time on the Buckeye staff, despite still being invited to speak at Ohio State events, Holtz continues to not only work with May, but he considers him a friend.
If the former ND coach had simply parted ways with the Pitt simpleton when they both departed the worldwide leader in sports, I could have forgiven Holtz; hell, if I can learn to appreciate Bo, I surely could have come to terms with Holtz.
I am a pretty forgiving person. I’ve screwed up a lot in my life and I believe that everyone deserves second, third, and even fourth chances. But when it comes to voluntarily associating with Mark May, that’s a line that I refuse to accept or forgive.
Who has the right answer to today’s question?
This poll is closed
Jami: Marcus Freeman
Matt: Lou Holtz