Most Ohio State Players Content To Avoid Temptations Of French Quarter

The Buckeyes are all but sequestered as they count down to Monday

Jan. 4, 2008

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - Just a few blocks from Bourbon Street, where partying was perfected, the Ohio State Buckeyes are getting primed for their national championship date with LSU by staying in their hotel and staying out of trouble.

It's almost like they're in a monastery. No, wait - that happened almost 40 years ago.

So that his players were walled off from all the distractions - or, as some would put it, fun - of going to a bowl game, coach Woody Hayes used to make his Buckeyes spend the nights before their Rose Bowl games in a monastery.

"Have you ever been to one?" laughed Rex Kern, the Buckeyes quarterback in 1968 when Hayes first conceived of putting his linebackers in with the monks. "It's really peaceful, which is obviously why Woody wanted us there. I remember walking among the olive trees, all the shrubbery and the landscaping - it was great for meditation."

The current Buckeyes aren't exactly contemplating their navels. They're surrounded by plenty of things to keep them occupied, including a world-class workout facility and a game room that includes piles of the latest video games and large flat-screen monitors.

Still, they believe their singularity of mind and purpose will be reinforced by sticking around the Hilton instead of collecting strings of beads down at the French Quarter.

That ethic comes from their head coach. Jim Tressel constantly repeats the age-old coaching caveat, "Nothing good ever happens after 10 o'clock."

So the Buckeyes are all but sequestered as they count down to Monday.

Harrah's Casino is mere steps from the front door of the team hotel, but coach Jim Tressel has banned the Buckeyes from going there.

Several LSU players were spied enjoying the gambling tables and one-armed bandits late on Thursday night. (The jury is still out on whether slot machines strengthen or weaken a player's arm.)



Hoping to somehow "protect" his players from the wild side, Hayes took his teams in 1968 and 1970 to a monastery on the outer reaches of Los Angeles. There was no carpet in the entire complex, and no TVs or radios. There was one bed to a room - a single, barren cot.

"We laugh about it when we get together at reunions," Kern said.

Before the Buckeyes played O.J. Simpson and Southern Cal in the 1969 Rose Bowl, Hayes showed the John Wayne movie, "The Hellfighters."

Players were excited to see it, but the impatient Hayes couldn't figure out how to wind the film onto the lower reel. By the time the first half of the movie was over, there was a huge pile of film around Hayes' ankles.

Rather than put on the second reel, Hayes barked, "That's enough. It's time to go to bed anyway."

So the players shuffled off to their Spartan rooms while glancing back at what looked like a mammoth plate of brown spaghetti covering up Hayes' shoes.

The Buckeyes split those two Rose Bowls they played after spending time in Hayes' form of solitary confinement, winning the 1968 national championship by beating USC but being upset by Stanford two years later.

Hayes also showed his taciturn side when he brought Ohio State to its first Sugar Bowl after the 1977 season.

After the bus pulled up to the very same Hilton where today's Buckeyes are staying, the team started getting off.

Hayes wandered over to the nearby Mississippi River where a Russian freighter had been docked near the hotel.

"Get back on the bus! We're not going to stay here!" he thundered, according to Ohio State sports information director Steve Snapp. "We're not going to sleep with any Russians!"

It took two hours of pleading by a Sugar Bowl representative before Hayes relented, but only on the condition that the Russian ship had to leave.

The next morning it was gone. No one knew if it was merely departing on time or if it was another example of the power Hayes wielded.

Chances are Hayes blamed the Red Menace for Ohio State's lopsided 35-6 loss to Bear Bryant and Alabama in the game a few days later.

Current Buckeyes stress they could go out on the town, but they don't want to leave anything to chance after a 41-14 pounding by Florida in last year's national championship game.

"I've actually not gone anywhere," safety Kurt Coleman said Friday. "I've lived in the hotel room and the film room. I haven't been anywhere."

Defensive tackle Doug Worthington said he and teammate Nader Abdallah, a New Orleans native, spent 30 minutes on Bourbon Street earlier this week but hustled back to their rooms because of temperatures in the 30s.

Others have said the only thing they've seen of New Orleans is through the windows of their bus on the way to and from practices.

Woody would have loved these guys.