The fact that mixed feelings abound among the Ohio State faithful on Terrelle Pryor's announcement that he will not return next season points to there being more to the situation than simple statistics. Former OSU quarterback Craig Krenzel, who led the Buckeyes to their last national championship during the 2002 season, said the player's demeanor helped keep fans from fully embracing the quarterback.
"There's more, I think, to being remembered fondly as a Buckeye than what you do on the field," Krenzel told BSB. "It's an outward expression of your love and your passion for the university and the program and your respect and honor for the guys that have come before you."
On the field, the numbers speak for themselves. Pryor is the program's career leading rusher as a quarterback, sits fifth in passing yards, threw for 57 touchdown passes and was named the most valuable player in two BCS bowl games.
Away from it, Pryor sold pairs of gold pants for having beaten Michigan. The selling of the gold pants has particularly rankled former players, some of whom never earned a pair during their playing days.
Pryor and the four other players to sell memorabilia said they believed the items were theirs to treat as they desired. Former quarterback Jim Karsatos, who led the team in passing from 1985-86, said that line of thought does not hold much water with him.
"We all make dumb mistakes but they should've known better, for one," he said. "You can't be so aloof to the situation."
During his time in the program, Karsatos said there were not compliance officers working with the team instructing them what would be permissible by NCAA rules. There was just head coach Earle Bruce.
"Earle would just point his finger at us and ‘here are the rules and live by them,' " Karsatos said. "Coach Hayes was much the same way. He laid down the law and if you broke it, you're gone. They've got like five people now to manage these kids.
"They knew the rules. They've been told about that. We used to have a guy from the FBI come in once a year and tell us ‘look out for these people.' They had to have known better."
Of the five, however, Pryor has been under the most scrutiny because he began his OSU career with the most hype. The nation's top overall prospect out of Jeannette, Pa., Pryor became the first player in Pennsylvania prep history to both throw and rush for more than 4,000 yards during his career. A two-sport athlete who won state titles in both football and basketball, he famously delayed his decision on National Signing Day.
It was not until mid-March that he ultimately selected the Buckeyes, completing the 2008 recruiting class. It also was the date of the first misstep in the eyes of OSU fans, Krenzel said. In announcing his decision, Pryor said he would be playing football for "the University of Ohio State."
"That's going to tick a lot of people off from day one," Krenzel said. "You don't know that it's not the University of Ohio State? (It was) just the little things."
In interviews, Pryor often spoke of his admiration for the team and particularly head coach Jim Tressel. Prior to the 2009 season, Pryor displayed a sleeve tattoo dotted with buckeye leaves, buckeyes and a Block ‘O.'
"These guys right here are my brothers," Pryor said of the reason behind getting the tattoo. "I'd die for them and I play for them. There's nothing like being a team and being with these types of players. They're hungry. (I'm) sweating with them and bleeding with them, sweating with them in the runs."
However, that feeling did not always translate to reality. The quarterback was known to show his displeasure at a dropped pass or mistake committed by his teammates. Television cameras caught him yelling at his position coach during one game, leading head coach Jim Tressel to defend his competitive nature.
In a poll on ESPN.com, 48 percent of voters said that Pryor's legacy at OSU would be, "Disaster: Guy who brought the program down." Only three percent of the 4,772 votes as of Thursday night classified him as, "Winner: 31-4 as a starter, two BCS bowl wins."
Although he was quick to point out the numerous game-changing plays made by Pryor, Krenzel said they never quite overshadowed everything else.
"He never really to me showed that true leadership character on the field," Krenzel said. "Guys drop balls and he's taking his helmet off and walking off the field and you can just see the disgust. Just the whole demeanor I don't think ever really won people over.
"A lot of people got excited and continually looked the other way for a dazzling run that he might have had but I think deep down a lot of people really wanted something more – not necessarily as a player on the field but just in general. For as much as people tried to rag on Tim Tebow for him being corny, let's face it: Buckeye fans would love a Tim Tebow or any guy that just genuinely loves the game and is passionate about winning, is passionate about his team and is passionate about his program."