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COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — No sooner had the ink dried on Jim Tressel’s resignation than speculation had already started about a successor as Ohio State’s coach.It’s got to be Urban Meyer, right?
The Stoops brothers — Bob at Oklahoma and Mike at Arizona — are both Ohio natives. They’d love to have the job.
Then there are others with a Buckeye pedigree: Nebraska coach Bo Pelini, who used to be a defensive back at Ohio State; or maybe former NFL coach Jon Gruden, also an Ohio native.
Let the carousel begin.
Someone joked that it would be perfect symmetry if Ohio State President E. Gordon Gee — the man who mocked the BCS hopes of Boise State and TCU — hired one of their coaches, either the Broncos’ Chris Petersen or the Horned Frogs’ Gary Patterson. Little Sisters of the Poor, indeed.
Tressel’s startling departure from Ohio State on Monday, propelled by an NCAA investigation for improper benefits and cars and tattoos, shocked many. But for some Buckeyes fans, finding a new coach eased the pain of lamenting the loss of the old one.
In the news release announcing Tressel’s resignation, Ohio State said, “Recruitment for a new head coach — which is expected to include external and internal candidates — will not commence until the conclusion of the 2011-2012 season.”
Luke Fickell, a previously anonymous linebackers coach, will be in charge of the Buckeyes this fall.
Beyond that? It’s anybody’s guess.
Despite playing it politically correct on Monday in a statement, Meyer will probably be the people’s choice. After all, he’s won two national championships — the first came against Ohio State — and is now working for ESPN. He has Ohio ties, as he coached at Bowling Green before going to Utah and Florida.
“I am committed to ESPN and will not pursue any coaching opportunities this fall,” he said. “I have thoroughly enjoyed working with the people at ESPN this spring and remain very excited about my role with the network this fall. Jim Tressel has been a respected friend and colleague for a long time. I wish Jim and his family the very best now and in the future.”
Buckeyes fans immediately zoned in on two of the 65 words in that statement: THIS FALL. Since Ohio State isn’t hiring anyone until January or so, Meyer’s comment was the perfect non-denial denial.
No one wants a short-term solution, anyhow. Keep in mind only four men have been an Ohio State head coach over the past 60 years.
Woody Hayes was born and raised a Buckeye, and took the job after serving as coach at Miami of Ohio. He spent 28 years as Ohio State’s coach and they built statues for him after he won 205 games from 1951-1978. But he left in disgrace, fired for punching a Clemson player during the 1978 Gator Bowl.
Next up was Earle Bruce, a former Hayes disciple who won at least nine games every year for nine seasons and still got canned because prominent boosters didn’t think he had enough pizazz and didn’t court them enough.
John Cooper, a Tennessee native, had been the coach at Tulsa and Arizona State and was hired largely because he had beaten Ohio State’s archrival, Michigan, in a Rose Bowl. But people never considered his Southern drawl all that charming and they truly despised that he was 2-10-1 against Michigan and just 3-8 in bowl games. He is considered “Exhibit A” why it’s bad karma for Ohio State to think outside the box … or even think outside the state’s borders.
Tressel seemed like such a perfect fit. He had won four Division I-AA titles while at Youngstown State and was a former assistant coach under Bruce. He was welcomed back with open arms and provided the Buckeyes’ first national championship in 34 years in only his second season. But the next eight seasons are most memorable for the exploits of bad boys Maurice Clarett, Troy Smith and the Tattoo Five.
Now, once again, Ohio State is seeking a football saviour .
The Stoops brothers and Pelini are all from the Youngstown area, but they already have jobs. Gruden was considered briefly when Tressel got the job, and has shown no great interest in returning to the sideline, particularly at the college level.
It’s debatable who will want the job if the NCAA issues additional penalties for Tressel’s problems, in addition to what the sport’s sanctioning body finds out about all the players who were getting used cars at steep, steep discounts.
Someone joked that they had seen a bumper sticker on Monday that said: “(John Cooper) in ’12: Tanned, Rested and Ready.”
With a year to decide, that might not be the most outlandish suggestion you’ll hear.