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Posted on Tue, May 31, 2011 : 10:35 a.m.

Terrelle Pryor's recruiting decision ends up a good thing for Michigan football

By Michael Rothstein


Terrelle Pryor spurned Rich Rodriguez and Michigan in 2008. While that left Rodriguez without the ideal quarterback for his spread option attack, Pryor became a catalyst for the off-the-field trouble at Ohio State. file photo

The best and worst day for the Michigan football program over the past five years will end up being the same one.

On March 19, 2008, Terrelle Pryor announced he’d attend Ohio State instead of Michigan or Penn State. In doing so, he ended up damaging two of college football’s most historic programs.

It hurt Michigan in the short term. It helped crush Ohio State in the long term.

That will be Pryor’s legacy in college football. He turned the fortunes of two coaches on the field and two programs off of it.

By spurning Michigan, Pryor left then-new Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez without his prototypical quarterback.

It had long been said Pryor would be a perfect fit for Rodriguez’s spread option offense, a 6-foot-6, 233-pound battering ram who could throw and had enough speed to keep defenses guessing.

Instead, Rodriguez had to start his first season with quarterbacks Nick Sheridan and Steven Threet. A team with enough talent to reach a bowl game with the right quarterback ended up 3-9.

Neither Sheridan nor Threet could successfully run what Rodriguez demanded — mostly because their skill set came nowhere close to Pryor or Denard Robinson or even Tate Forcier.

Under Rodriguez, Michigan never really recovered. The Wolverines started three quarterbacks in three seasons.

It also hurt Michigan and Rodriguez because for those same three seasons, that same quarterback led Ohio State to convincing wins against them, always leaving fans, and probably Rodriguez himself, wondering what-if as the Wolverines cascaded to the worst three-year stretch in modern school history.

The “what-if” portion of this, though, is where Michigan should be thankful Pryor blew off Michigan in 2008. If it had gotten Pryor, it might not have landed Robinson.

Then there's the biggie — all Michigan needs to do is look to Ohio State, where the bottom has fallen out of the Buckeyes program.

Michigan had gone through its own NCAA investigation the past two seasons, although the practice hours investigation Rodriguez went through was a pittance compared to the all-out lack of rules being reported in Columbus.


Terrelle Pryor, shown evading Brandon Graham in 2009, is 3-0 against Michigan. file photo

Not all of the blame for Ohio State’s impending doom should be placed on the quarterback. But former Ohio State coach Jim Tressel allowed Pryor to essentially run roughshod over the NCAA rules for three years — coincidentally while the biggest on-the-field complaint of the Tressel-Pryor era in Columbus was Tressel didn’t let Pryor run enough.

Pryor is a catalyst for Ohio State’s downfall.

He was one of five players named during the investigation into the Columbus tattoo parlor and was linked to an investigation into a Columbus auto dealership selling cars to athletes and their families at discount prices.

And now, the Columbus Dispatch is reporting Pryor is being looked at again by the NCAA and the school in connection to yet another, separate investigation into the cars he drove and potential extra benefits.

On the field, Pryor was good, but nowhere near the No. 1 player in the country he was tabbed as coming out of Jeannette, Pa. He hasn’t turned into the all-world player Rodriguez desperately wanted as the linchpin to his first recruiting class.

He went to Ohio State instead. That led Michigan to recruit Forcier and ultimately Robinson, who has done more individually and shown more potential than Pryor or Forcier so early in his career.

Pryor spurning Michigan ended up a good thing for the Wolverines. Proof of that came before Tressel's resignation Monday, whenever Robinson took off on one of his runs last season.

That and in denying Michigan, Pryor played a large role in bringing down its biggest rival.

Michael Rothstein covers Michigan sports for He can be reached at (734) 623-2558, by email at or follow along on Twitter @mikerothstein.



Thu, Jun 2, 2011 : 3:37 p.m.

It's been my belief from the beginning the "fix" was in during the recruitment of TP. Who is Ted Sarniak? He appeared on the scene with TP at OSU before TP signed a LOI. He got numerous calls and emails from Tressell when Tress should have been calling compliance. And even now his relationship with TP is being protected by OSU by refusing to turn over emails, notes and other information between the two. Is "Uncle Ted" the smoking gun which will ulimately prove that Tressel was just the tip of the OSU administive iceberg of darkside wheeling and dealing?


Wed, Jun 1, 2011 : 6:41 p.m.

I didn't like him from the point when he had a press conference to announce he hadn't made up his mind where he wanted to attend college. I'm not a fan of any player that think he's so important.


Wed, Jun 1, 2011 : 1:18 p.m.

A player like TP coming out of High School - ranked number 1 for basically all colleges at this position has to choose which school/team and coach will get him to the #1 spot on the NFL draft against all other college players - certainly a tough choice. TP picked OSU probably because he saw UM sliding too much and he saw another OSU QB transition from a running QB threat his first year to a strong passing QB by his senior year and make the early draft list - that QB killed UM a few times - Troy Smith. A few running college Qb's make the draft but most simply do not fit the current NFL model. Tressel was trying to mold TP to the NFL style, which is why he minimized the running plays (Tp's greatest asset) and tried to get TP to sit in the pocket longer. TP still has to grow that skill - if Finkell (new coach) brings the TP running attack - Let's just say that will be a new somewhat easier offense to put together and will really surprise everyone. Plus TP (if he plays a down) really has shine now that he is out for at least 5 games.


Wed, Jun 1, 2011 : 10:42 a.m.

I think Tressel is a great coach, X's and O's wise. I don't care if he read the bible, his actions showed his true integity. I've always like Ohio State and Mich State even if they are our nemeses. It is that conflict that makes those rivalries the best in college football. Go Blue!


Wed, Jun 1, 2011 : 10:35 a.m.

A lot of people both in the newspaper and on the talk radio want to give the athletes a pass on their behavior stating it was adults that tempted them and etc. These are 18 to 22 year old men not children. They know the ncaa rules and they are aware of what is right or wrong. We send our 18 to 22 year olds into battle and they have to make life and death decisions. I expected the highest integrety of my children long before they became adults. Why do we give sport stars a pass? Why do we not expect the best from them? The real shame here is as it always is, these players will go on to the pros and make their money and suffer little with their shallow value system in tact. It is Ohio State and the new players who pay the price for years to come. We well know this at Michigan with the Fab 5.


Wed, Jun 1, 2011 : 3:13 a.m.

TP should have gone to Penn State to maximize his NFL paycheck. Joe would have taught him how to apply himself or TP would have ridden the bench. TP did not need the fast and loose Tressel. Hopefully some Pro coach can get him to live up to his potential.

Terry Star21

Tue, May 31, 2011 : 11:59 p.m.

I agree with tim that pryor would have been a different student/athlete here at Michigan under a different coach - unfortunately Brady Hoke wasn't here in the fall of 2008. The Michigan atmosphere, pride and heritage - and maybe even the 'Blimpy Burger' could have made him a better person. MgoBlueForTiM !!!!


Tue, May 31, 2011 : 10:16 p.m.

TP showed the world his arrogance on ESPN when last night as he was leaving in his 350Z he made a right turn on a red light without stopping. ESPN has been showing it all day long but I haven't heard anybody point it out yet. Maybe I just haven't been paying close enoungh attention. Thanks for not coming to Michigan TP.


Tue, May 31, 2011 : 9:16 p.m.

I confess I am not chortling about the OSU – Tressel situation. I only wish I could be 100% confident that nothing approaching the OSU behavior is happening here at U of M. I fear, however, that when so much money becomes such a large part of any human activity, the temptations are overwhelming.

1st Down

Tue, May 31, 2011 : 8:19 p.m.

Never wanted Pryor to come here. BTW...the kid that RR recruited out of desperation after he lost Pryor to the car dealers in Ohio, ended up trying to sell cocaine here in AA and was arrested for it. So glad that error of Michigan football came to its final resting place in the trash this year. Thanks Dave Brandon. Thank you even more Brady Hoke. This is Michigan, and we buy our cars legitimately here.


Tue, May 31, 2011 : 7:46 p.m.

Was whatshisname thinking in the photo above ... hmmm, since I'm new in AA, the first thing I'm going to need to do is to find a good car dealer and a tat parlor for TP ?

Macabre Sunset

Tue, May 31, 2011 : 7:40 p.m.

Before the suspension, Pryor was on the top of just about everyone's Heisman lists for next season. If he hadn't been part of an activity that Tressel should have shut down years ago, Ohio State would be ranked in the top five for 2011 and Pryor would still be Pryor. He is exactly what people thought he would be as a player coming out of high school. However... Had he come to Michigan, the Wolverines would have won 3-4 more games in 2008. And 3-4 more games in 2009. The last three years still would have been the worst three in modern history (instead of the worst three all-time), but Rodriguez might still be here for a fourth year. So I'm glad Pryor didn't come here because of the risk of perennial mediocrity under an extended Rodriguez reign.


Tue, May 31, 2011 : 7:22 p.m.

do not think we ever head a legit shot at him once he found out we would not stretch the rules for anyone. NOW today I am VERY glad he never played for Michigan, disgusted he went to a competitor that used illegal inducements to lure him and I am sure while he was being recruited he was told by buckeyes that hosted him he could get cars and cash and tat's for free so that is why osu got him. the ncaa has got to hammer the nuts to set an example and they need to go hard after other cheating programs as well. Yes oregon and auburn I am talking about you.


Tue, May 31, 2011 : 7:01 p.m.

Whatshisname did not make character a priority in recruits. If you remeber TP's advisor was Charlie Batch. Batch was a trouble maker in Ypsilanti. MEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEANchigan football keeps looking brighter Adios Mrs. Tressel and goodbye to Pryor. The "king" doesn't look too cute in this picture, does he MCC members?

1st Down

Tue, May 31, 2011 : 8:21 p.m.

cough....Justin Feagin...cough...


Tue, May 31, 2011 : 6:28 p.m.

Anyone who thinks Tressel resigned is not reading the tea leaves. He was called back from Florida vacation, on Memorial Day, after the bigs at OSU read the SI article. He was &quot;asked&quot; to resign presumably because his separation would otherwise be termination &quot;for cause&quot;. As a result, OSU did not have to (and did not, apparenly) provide a severance buy-out, presumably citing a &quot;for cause&quot; clause in his contract (which he had violated anyway by not reporting the infractions). This route saved Tressel a modicum of face, and OSU a bunch of legal bills, and even more mud stains on the scarlet &amp; gray. For that mud, read the SI article: <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a>


Tue, May 31, 2011 : 6:09 p.m.

The other big part of this is what message it sent to Ryan Mallett, the &quot;current UM QB&quot; at the time of Carr's retirement. The first thing the former coach did, BEFORE EVEN TALKING TO HIS OLD OR NEW TEAMS, was to call Pryor and beg him to come to UM. Was Pryor even being recruited here before that? Doubt it. So, the message it sent to Mallett was &quot;you are not wanted or needed here&quot; and sure enough, he went packing. (I know, it is debatable whether he may have done that anyway, but by all accounts, former coach made NO effort to keep him in A2, and with messages like that, who could blame him). Additionally, it showed no class whatsoever from the former coach which was a big faux pas, what with the losses, the shredding, the lawsuit, the probation. I think Pryor would have not succeeded at UM because of the culture, regardless of the former coach, but thank gosh he did not come.


Tue, May 31, 2011 : 5:26 p.m.

I think you are giving Terrelle Pryor way too much credit for causing the problems we had for the last 3 years at UM. Sure he is better than Sheridan and Threat, but at best he is an honorable mention Big Ten QB who didn't even make the All BT's 1st or 2nd team as QB. There would have been only a SLIGHT difference with him here at UM ... we still would have had a terrible D and terrible special teams. He did play a big role in the demise of The Vest and the OSU program. Tressel should and does know better than to let a guy like TP run loose and do whatever he wants, and yet for some reason he let him (and apparently many others too).


Tue, May 31, 2011 : 7:25 p.m.

true and IF he was here RR may have won enough games to keep his job. that would have been a disaster!


Tue, May 31, 2011 : 5:22 p.m.

Let's look at the facts from the Jim Tressel era. These issues surrounding him started LONG before Pryor. Have you all forgotten Youngstown State or Maurice Clarete? Pryor is just fool enough to get caught, but the cheating has been a tradition longer than the Woody/Bo rivalry


Tue, May 31, 2011 : 4:57 p.m.

I've heard it said a couple of times already that Pryor was Rodriguez's undoing by not coming to Michigan and that he was a major cause of Tressell's downfall by going to Duh OSU.


Tue, May 31, 2011 : 4:18 p.m.

One other thing I might add and it relates to the picture with this article. The coach should be sitting behind his players,monitoring their behavior, and letting them know they are being watched. This also works with parenting.


Tue, May 31, 2011 : 4:04 p.m.

Pryor, just like all these kids straight out of highschool, are preyed upon by adults who know better. If the owner of the tattoo parlor had Pryor's back, he'd have said &quot;No kid, go back to your dorm room.&quot; If the car salesman had Pryor's best interest in mind, he would have never dangled the keys in this kid's face. These are adults preying on young, inexperienced kids - exploiting them to increase their business sales. Every single coach in college football should be teaching their players to avoid and report such foolery. We have a responsibility to make sure these kids get a college education AND learn to play football to the best of their ability. Tressel should have been fired. The UM would have fired him. I would have fired him.


Tue, May 31, 2011 : 7:29 p.m.

it was part of his scheme to get top kids, that this was going on for years shows that this could also be used as a recruiting tool. Come to osu, you can drive any car you want, get some extra cash by trading gear that isn't yours for free tats and some extra cash. you smoke weed? the players can point you to someone who you can trade gear for some. this was a system used by the vest to get top talent to osu. only problem is eventually you have to pay the devil, no matter how many bible versus you read.

John B.

Tue, May 31, 2011 : 7:05 p.m.

Correct. However, Mr. 'devout Christian' Tressel is/was as crooked as the day is long. This just in, from the article: 'The Clarett and Baker scandals were further evidence that Tressel was, at best, woefully ignorant of questionable behavior by his players and not aggressive enough in preventing it. At worst, he was a conduit for improper benefits, as Clarett alleged. The latter interpretation is suggested by a story that has long circulated among college coaches and was confirmed to SI by a former colleague of Tressel's from Earle Bruce's staff at Ohio State in the mid-1980s. One of Tressel's duties then was to organize and run the Buckeyes' summer camp. Most of the young players who attended it would never play college football, but a few were top prospects whom Ohio State was recruiting. At the end of camp, attendees bought tickets to a raffle with prizes such as cleats and a jersey. According to his fellow assistant, Tressel rigged the raffle so that the elite prospects won -- a potential violation of NCAA rules. Says the former colleague, who asked not to be identified because he still has ties to the Ohio State community, &quot;In the morning he would read the Bible with another coach. Then, in the afternoon, he would go out and cheat kids who had probably saved up money from mowing lawns to buy those raffle tickets. That's Jim Tressel.&quot;'


Tue, May 31, 2011 : 3:55 p.m.

A different town and a different coach/team who knows what would have happened to a impressionable teenager. RR may have still been with Michigan and the big recruits may have been lining up to play at Michigan. Almost everybody wants to be part of something successful and just maybe- if the first year or two had been better some of the key defensive players wouldn't have left.


Tue, May 31, 2011 : 3:32 p.m.

Pryor would have ruined Michigan football if he had come here. I am so grateful he got recruited by that other college team. He almost single handedly destroyed OSU by being greedy and dishonest (although many other players did the same thing). Terrelle did to the Buckeyes what Michigan couldn't accomplish on the playing field. Even so, I'm curious to know what kind of pro career he'll have.


Tue, May 31, 2011 : 3:18 p.m.

I think there is a real question about whether TP thought he could get the things from Rich Rod and others here in Ann arbor that may have been more available to him in Morgantown, and as we now know were available in C-bus. I also think there is either a real issue of denial with the administration down C-bus, or they were all complacent in what was going on. I said from day one they wouldn't fire Tressel, and they still couldn't do it after getting a preview of the SI article. Instead, they allow him to resign. Maybe they shore up some legal costs going that route, who knows. Oh, and supposedly TP showed up to the team meeting yesterday in a brand new car, yes a brand new car.

Blu n Tpa

Tue, May 31, 2011 : 2:33 p.m.

I believe that TP is the model of the type of player Desmond Howard was talking about at the Coach's meeting here in Florida last week. Entitlement, false empowerment, and narcisistic behavior that means the rules don't apply and laws are just an inconvenience. Signed promises and giving &quot;your word&quot; mean nothing so long as you justify misbehavior with, &quot;everybody's doing it, why not me?&quot; Prior has played his last down of college football. He failed to abide by his part of the contract to remain on the field and osu can't afford to piss off the NCAA by letting him back on the field this season. And, the AD, Gene Smith is also history. In this case there are no victims, just villans.