Tuesday afternoon, head coach Jim Tressel, before microphones and cameras, was hardly able to mention his team’s merits. Because a third-string quarterback allegedly offered an undercover cop $20 for sex.
The other shoe, hovering above Ohio State’s football team for some time, dropped.
Things have been going perfectly: A national title appearance last season without any distractions, a school-record 22 straight regular-season wins, a 3.0 team grade-point average, a 4-0 start and No. 8 national ranking this year.
The Buckeyes’ young offense is wracking up points like a credit card on Rodeo Drive. Their defense is ranked second in the country.
But Tuesday afternoon, head coach Jim Tressel, before microphones and cameras, was hardly able to mention his team’s merits. Because a third-string quarterback allegedly offered an undercover cop $20 for sex.
Antonio Henton, who contended to be the starting quarterback last spring, was arrested Monday evening and charged with misdemeanor solicitation. Court records and police say he offered a female cop working the vice unit $20 for sex. Henton pleaded not guilty Tuesday.
Tressel suspended Henton and said he will not make the trip to Minnesota on Saturday. Joe Bauserman, who was pitching in minor league baseball a year ago, is the No. 3 QB.
Could Henton’s arrest be a distraction? Judging by the long look and somber tones of Tressel on Tuesday, certainly.
“I get more disappointed about lows, I guess, than I do excited about highs,” Tressel said. “Guys who generally care about each other, which I think our guys do, it can’t help but affect them. It affected me as I was trying to continue to watch film last night.
“You’ve got to make sure you let it affect you as little as possible, like any other adversity you face.”
The Buckeyes have been getting some mention from national media about -- gasp -- contending for a national title. Sure, that might be crazy chatter this early, but ranked No. 8 with eight weeks to play, it’s possible.
The last thing the Buckeyes need is to stub their toe at Minnesota. The game was already scheduled to be played at night, which usually makes it a little more difficult for the visiting team. This is the first of consecutive Big Ten road games played in prime time.
“Like any time you don’t do things the way you’d like them done, and things don’t go the way you’d hoped, you better get refocused,” Tressel said. “From an individual standpoint, that is up to each of us to be focused on the task at hand.”
Relatively speaking, Henton’s misdemeanor arrest is a blip on the map compared with problems Tressel has had with Maurice Clarett; or the dirty laundry aired when John Cooper was coach. The Buckeyes haven’t had any embarrassing arrests since Alex Boone for driving under the influence in spring 2006.
“Anytime you’re doing what ought to be done, you feel that’s progress,” Tressel said. “The moment you don’t, you feel you’ve regressed. We don’t like to regress.”
Tressel said OSU’s athletic department’s policy on conduct doesn’t have defined penalties for a misdemeanor. Usually, first-time misdemeanor solicitation charges bring a small fine, although, the maximum penalty is six months in jail and a $1,000 fine.
Henton, 20, redshirted last season. The Georgia high school star is compared to Heisman Trophy winning QB Troy Smith. Henton has a strong arm, moves well out of the pocket and scrambles.
How new university president E. Gordon Gee reacts to a high-profile student-athlete being arrested could be interesting. OSU hired Gee before the season. He said then he would have a zero-tolerance policy on student-athletes who find trouble off the field.
Tressel said Tuesday afternoon that he had not spoken to Gee, and he took the action of suspending Henton.
How much of a distraction could a third-team QB be? Henton was the scout team quarterback, a duty he split with Bauserman. If a scout team QB can contribute to preparing a victorious team, it could be reasoned he could distract the same team.
“We’ll address it ... then move on,” Tressel said. “We’ve got tasks to handle.”
Reach Canton Repository sports writer Todd Porter at (330) 580-8340 or firstname.lastname@example.org.