- Associated Press - Wednesday, June 15, 2011

CLEVELAND (AP) - Sharks, including a big blue one up north, are circling the troubled waters around Ohio State’s maimed and maligned football program.

As the school anxiously awaits potential NCAA sanctions and further public shame from the tattoo-for-memorabilia scandal that has already claimed coach Jim Tressel and quarterback Terrelle Pryor, schools like rival Michigan, Big Ten newcomer Nebraska, and reawakened Notre Dame could be poised to tear a few chunks off the battered Buckeyes.

Recruiting, you see, is a bloodsport all its own.

Though it’s too early to fully assess what impact Ohio State’s present problems _ and any future troubles it may face once the NCAA has its say _ will have on recruiting, it’s clear the Buckeyes could take some major hits.

They may have already.

On Friday, Tom Strobel, a 6-foot-6, 245-pound junior defensive end from Mentor, Ohio, committed to the Wolverines, who under new coach Brady Hoke figure to benefit from Ohio State’s mess more than any other school. Although Strobel said Michigan’s academics ultimately swayed him to choose the Big Blue over the Buckeyes, the team he’s cheered for since his childhood, threatening storm clouds enshrouding Columbus certainly didn’t help Ohio State’s cause.

“When I filled out Strobel’s evaluation card after talking to him, I wrote down, ‘95 percent going to Ohio State,’” CBS College Sports recruiting analyst Tom Lemming said. “I thought he was a lock and I thought the Top 10 recruits in Ohio would all end up going to Ohio State.

“But now, with Tressel gone and so much uncertainty hanging over the program, I’m not so sure.”

What’s clear at this point is that Ohio State has an image problem, one that could potentially turn off prospective players _ mainly ones from outside Ohio _ who, like everyone else, have spent the past several weeks watching a college football giant dropped to its kneepads.

Tressel’s resignation, followed just one week later by Pryor’s decision to bolt before his senior season, have tarnished the program. And things could get much worse for Ohio State after a meeting in August, when the school is scheduled to appear before the NCAA’s committee on infractions.

There could be long-term consequences. It’s possible the Buckeyes will be banned for several years from postseason play, suffer a substantial reduction in scholarships, and perhaps even be stripped of conference titles.

Whatever the outcome, Ohio State may not seem as inviting to blue-chippers, who could be turned off by what has transpired or what lies ahead.

“Kids go to Ohio State because of its tradition, the chance to play for and win a national championship and maybe to someday go to the NFL,” said Lemming, who has charted recruiting’s growth from underground curiosity to big-time business over the past 32 years. “What has happened there could turn away kids if they want to play in a bowl game or if the scholarships are taken away and they are no longer among the elite.

“There’s a lot at stake.”

Well, one man’s misfortune is another man’s opportunity, as the saying goes, and other schools could benefit from Ohio State’s dramatic fall.

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