Yes, I went there. Because this whole thing is so amusing.
Two years ago, Cardale Jones was the butt of jokes across the college football world. He said WHAT?!? “Classes are pointless”? “We ain’t come to play school”?
What a joke. What a bum. How could a guy given the opportunity to get an education like that belittle the whole thing?
Today, the Ohio State quarterback and national champion stood in front of the nation – literally, ESPN carried the press conference – and said he’s going to play school for another year.
“I feel like it's best for me to go back to school and one of the most important things for me is to graduate,” he said, echoing what he said in the locker room after the national championship game win. “My education is going to take me 10 times further than my athletic ability."
What a story. What a turnaround. What a refreshing moment, to see someone who had once been defined by a moment of frustration make a decision – one some would call foolish – to pursue the educational opportunity placed in front of him.
Wait, no, I got it wrong. He’s selfish for having a press conference, a spoiled brat for wasting everybody’s time.
What a joke. What a bum. Who does this guy think he is?
Haters gonna hate hate hate hate hate.
Look, I’m no dummy, this was in some ways a business decision. Cardale Jones is thinking about his professional football future in addition to his education when he makes this choice. A physical specimen with a laser rocket arm, he’d be foolish not to. And he’s betting that he’s good enough to improve his uncertain NFL stock with more time at Ohio State, which more than likely means he’s betting on being the starting quarterback next season at OSU.
We also know Urban Meyer tripped to Cleveland to talk to his quarterback today, and Meyer wasn’t there for small talk, or to tell Jones good luck in the NFL, for that matter. Whatever the conversations between the two, the head coach clearly gave Jones answers he was comfortable with hearing. In my book, it’s an upset if Jones, likely the only healthy quarterback out of the Barrett/Braxton/Cardale troika this spring, doesn’t take the first snap next year.
But the man also just stood up in front of the world and said he’s coming back to Ohio State in hopes he’ll one day be a financial planner. He’s told reporters the past few weeks he enjoys his economics classes, that he wants to keep living the college life and learn how to make taco salad with roommate Tyvis Powell.
Isn’t this what fans want out of our college athletes? And yet Jones can’t escape the criticism for his decision or his press conference.
First of all, those of us who write about the team appreciate the chance to ask an athlete what he’s thinking about a major decision, even if we have to drive 2.5 hours to do it. And the fact that it was 2.5 hours away at Ginn Academy, the school that helps so many kids like Jones attempt to make it out of inner-city Cleveland, spoke volumes.
The documentary about Ginn’s work is called “Winning Lives,” and it should be. It’s hard to imagine any man doing more to improve the lives of so many youngsters, and Jones is an example of that.
No one would argue that Jones has been immature at times in his life, that he’s made mistakes. But he’s also tough, intelligent and unguarded. He’s come through a lot just to get where he is, and he just took advantage of a major opportunity to show others that they can do the same. He should be celebrated, not derided.
As for whether he should have left for the NFL, that’s a stickier subject. The riches might be there later. They might not be. They might not really have been there – at least in a life-sustaining way – if he’d left school now. There are pros and cons to each choice, no obvious path that he’s casting aside. It was surely a nuanced and difficult decision.
In the end, Jones bet on himself. He bet on Ohio State. And he bet on education. There’s nothing to hate there.