Mar 30, 2012, 9:03 AM EDT
Thad Matta is an honest man.
Aside from that one time back in 2004 when he told the entire Xavier University community he was staying at the Atlantic 10 school, only to sneak out in the middle of the night and head up to Columbus, Matta is a guy that doesn’t seem to shy away from telling it like it is.
In just this season, he’s been openly critical of Deshaun Thomas’ lack of defense and got out in front of the idea that the Buckeyes were a shell of their December selves in February.
When the discussion of being a basketball coach at a football school is broached, Matta just smiles, and doesn’t mince words.
“I’ve always felt that we could have the best of both at Ohio State,” Matta told the O-Zone.net last weekend. “With all the trials and tribulations that have gone on with football over the past year, I’m elated for the university, probably most importantly, that we have some great things happening.”
There have been a number of instances, in both print and television, where Matta has openly embraced the notion that he’s almost never front and center of the proverbial Ohio State marquee.
What once was Jim Tressel’s role as unofficial face of the university has now been passed off to Urban Meyer, and there were few people thinking that the school’s head basketball coach should claim that distinction.
But eight years into his tenure at Ohio State, whether it be piggy backing off a brand name or taking full advantage of his school’s athletic budget, Matta has delivered results: five Big Ten regular-season titles, four Sweet 16 appearances, and now two Final Fours; all with the help of 10 McDonald’s All-American’s who Matta and his staff recruited has truly turned football-first school into a pretty well-oiled basketball machine.
It’s cliché, but you could argue that Matta took the Ohio State job with the idea that if he can build it, they will come.
“We’re still a football school, according to people. We’ll live with that,” said Jared Sullinger “I think this program, ever since coach Matta came, he changed it around from what it came from.”
Ohio State is a big school, actually the third largest in the country in terms of undergraduate enrollment. With thousands of sports-crazed fans running around Columbus and outposts around the state yelling “hang on sloopy”, there’s plenty of people to support basketball, and plenty of money to help keep it growing and turning into a national powerhouse.
Together, football and basketball should have no problem sharing the majority of the attention this athletic department receives, and both can compliment each other in different ways.
“There’s nothing greater in the fall than being in the shoe,” said Aaron Craft during the Buckeyes second and third round NCAA Tournament games in Pittsburgh. “Watching our guys play football, especially with the buzz that’s going around right now with the new hires and all the recruits we have coming in.”
“It’s awesome to see Buckeye Nation come together through football, understanding the same fans back us during basketball season.”
Whether it be basketball, football, swimming, or synchronized swimming, everyone loves a winner and a reason to swell up with pride, and you’d be hard pressed to find a cluster of Buckeye fans who completely ignore the other success this school achieves.
Sports are sports, and college basketball should be treated as a pretty big deal, even in this football crazed part of the country.
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