For the Record
Jim Tressel is making his fifth trip to the desert this season.
David Bergman/SI

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – Most fans don't care about the plight of sports reporters. To be quite honest, I don't blame them. While it's the job of reporters to be the eyes and ears of their readers and ask hard-hitting questions, the relationship between writer and reader these days seems to be more contentious than an O'Reilly Factor interview.

So forget for a moment that Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor wasn't made available during Friday's Fiesta Bowl media day, where the BCS mandates that all starters and a total of 30 players be made available to the press for 30 minutes.

So what, right? I mean, he hasn't talked to the media since his last regular season game on Nov. 22 and has only been made available after games this season, being off limits during the week and even during Ohio State's bowl media day in Columbus.

Sure it would have been nice to chat with Pryor for a couple of minutes, but this isn't so much about me or my peers being denied a chance to talk to one of the starting quarterbacks of a game we've been assigned to cover, it's that this was a direct slap in the face of the Fiesta Bowl, which has always bent over backward to accommodate coach Jim Tressel and his Buckeyes.

This is Tressel's fifth trip to the desert in the last seven years at Ohio State, and he has always gushed about the hospitality of the Fiesta Bowl committee, which is widely regarded as being the most accommodating and generous of all the bowls. How accommodating? The Fiesta Bowl put Ohio State up in the Fairmont Scottsdale, one of the nicest hotels in America and the location of last year's secretive Maxim Super Bowl party. How generous? The Fiesta Bowl is paying Ohio State $18 million to play Texas on Monday.

The Fiesta Bowl was criticized by some for picking an Ohio State side that didn't deserve to be playing in a BCS bowl game. Not after getting blown out in their last two BCS championship games and losing to USC and Penn State this season. But the Fiesta Bowl ignored their critics and remained loyal to Tressel and Ohio State.

Aside from accepting a hefty paycheck, five-star accommodations, gifts and assorted parties, meals and celebratory events, Fiesta Bowl officials only ask that teams make their starters available to the media for 30 minutes three days before the game. That's it. You can close your practices, which Ohio State does, go into hiding, but just make your starters available once for the media.

Apparently that was too much to ask of Tressel. He said that Pryor would be better served spending the allotted 30 minutes in a meeting than with the media he's been hidden from for over a month. Even Sarah Palin was given more of a leash with the media than Tressel has given Pryor.

Again, I doubt anyone missed any fascinating insight to Monday's game by not talking to Pryor, but it was a terribly disrespectful move by Tressel, who put the usually cheerful Fiesta Bowl officials in a tough spot, considering everything they've done for him and his team. It was like paying Aerosmith to show up at a party and having everyone show up but Steven Tyler. Sure, you don't mind seeing Joe Perry, but that's not what you came for.

While Fiesta Bowl officials were clearly upset with the slight, they continued to praise Ohio State and Tressel in front of the cameras and microphones. They showed far more class in the situation than Tressel, who could have avoided an unnecessary controversy by doing the right thing and allowing his starting quarterback to be with 29 of his other teammates for 30 minutes on Friday.

Well, the good news for Tressel is unless the Fiesta Bowl is obligated to select Ohio State next year or in the future, he won't have to worry about upstaging his gracious hosts again. He likely won't be given that opportunity.


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