Part two from Ty Kelly’s manifesto after winning our bowl competition; for background, allow him to reintroduce himself.
Now, let’s talk about the future of the head football coaching position at The Ohio State University. Clearly, we have to look at it from the administration and the athletic director’s viewpoint – whoever that may be in seven months, (because an argument can be made that A.D. Gene Smith, and Pres. E. Gordon Gee may not last another three months at Ohio State).
Regardless, the 2012 A.D. and OSU brass will likely be looking for three main criteria-
So…who fit this description ? Bo Pelini? … Probably. Jon Gruden? … Maybe. Gary Patterson? Urban Meyer? Each candidate has their pros and cons. I will go in to full detail for the top tier candidates as to why or why not they may be the head coach at OSU in 2012, and I will briefly go over the rest of the candidates who could be considered viable in the position.
The Top Tier candidates. The coach with the best chance at being Ohio State’s coach for the foreseeable future is the one guy with the very public try-out: Interim Head Coach Luke Fickell. He would be the odds-on Vegas favorite at this point. The former 1990’s Buckeyes defensive lineman has a lot of things going for him: familiarity with the system, youth (he’ll only be 38 when the Bucks kick off the ’11 season), confidence of his current players, and he is a great recruiter. So, I think if Fickell guides the Bucks to a very Tressel-like 10-13 win season this year, the overriding sentiment will have to be: “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
But, if Fickell disappoints, or even mildly disappoints, I believe some of the people making the coaching decision will look elsewhere. The one thing Fickell has going against him is that he may be seen as part of the current problem with the OSU situation, being one of Tressel’s most trusted assistants. Some of the people making the decision could already have the stack decked against him, just waiting for him to fail. Whether they truly feel it or not, the OSU Board of Directors, and the A.D. could present a rationale that they want somebody entirely fresh and disconnected from the current OSU troubles, to take the helm. This would help restore OSU’s public image, in their minds. In this scenario, Fickell would likely be the last card picked up from the deck if Smith and/or Gee are out by year’s end, too. It would be hard to say no to a first-year coach who wins 10 or more games, but there will be people in the OSU administration who are probably rooting against Fickell, so that they can say that OSU fully distanced their selves from the (overhyped) scandal, fair or unfair to Fickell. To me, these are the non-football/politically correct academia-type. If OSU goes this route, initially there may be some choppy water to navigate through with recruiting and the transition of a new regime, but…this is Ohio State. I don’t think it would take long to raise the program back up to near-Coach Tressel standards, IF the right coach were hired.
If Luke Fickell doesn’t produce a double-digit win season, then most feel Urban Meyer will be the man in charge in Columbus come 2012. Meyer’s 104-23 career record is beyond impressive and speaks for itself. Urban Meyer has been one of the top 3 coaches in college football the past 7 seasons, and he is a terrific recruiter. This is also the big-name guy that the alumni will push for, along with the majority of the fan base.
But, there are a few reasons to not be entirely sold on Meyer. First: his retirement from the University of Florida twice in less than 12 months, due to “family” and “health” issues. There could be issues going on that make him an unreliable choice for anything but a short-term investment at Ohio State. Also, Florida wasn’t exactly a squeaky clean program when Meyer resided over it for 6 seasons. There were 30 arrests of Florida players under Meyer’s tenure with the Gators, something that would not sit well with those wanting a clean start after the current OSU problems. Lastly, Florida looked mediocre for a majority of the season, after Tim Tebow graduated in 2010. I know it’s only one season of mediocrity, but like OSU, the cupboard is never bare, but stacked with blue-chip talent at Florida. All in all, though, I’d say Meyer has the next-best chance of being the coach at OSU, behind Fickell.
Gary Patterson. If I were the AD and had to make the hire, looking at a blind resume’ – this would be my guy. More than anything in the Big 10, defense wins championships, (see the Ohio State Buckeyes in the past ten or so years), and Gary Patterson’s 4-2-5 scheme has worked brilliantly for the Horned Frogs. TCU has consistently ranked at the top of college football in defense, takeaways, and defensive pass efficiency over the past decade. Also, their offense and special teams have been impressively proficient, too. Last year, TCU averaged over 43 points per game to go along with their #1 ranked defense.
What makes him even more impressive is that Patterson has accomplished all of this with mainly second-tier (when compared to places like OSU and Texas) recruits. Patterson has largely run a problem-free program, as well. After 2010’s perfect 13-0 season, capped off with a win over a top-5 Wisconsin team in the Rose Bowl, yet not even a share of a national title for it —- this may be the time Patterson makes his big move. Gary Patterson may finally want that larger room with no ceilings. Perhaps this is the big-name job Patterson leaves for. On the negative side of having Patterson as the choice is that he has no connections to the Big 10, let alone Ohio. He appears to be a Big 12 guy who may be perfectly content staying in that area. It’s fair to say that he’s got a really, really good thing going for him in Fort Worth.
The next top-tier candidate could be Bo Pelini. The former Ohio State defensive back and Youngstown native has without a doubt revived Nebraska’s program. Pelini has asserted his fiery demeanor on his team, bringing high energy and vigor. I don’t think a lot of guys would perceive Pelini as a guy you’d want to deal with after breaking a team rule. So, perhaps Pelini probably has the disciplinarian thing down, but possibly a little too much for some people?
I would definitely play for a coach like Bo Pelini. Like Meyer, but not to the same degree, Pelini has won at a big-time program. He’s a tough authoritarian, and he’s run a pretty clean program. You rarely see Nebraska getting in any kind of real trouble. Lincoln is also a great place to be, with a remarkable tradition and a nationally-respected fan base.
The counter-argument to having Pelini as the next OSU head coach is: he’s winning at Nebraska. He’s built that program up so much that it may be illogical to move to another program right now, especially within his team’s own conference. That is unless, of course, OSU happens to be his dream job. Pelini has to be mentioned because of his success and his Buckeye pedigree. Keep an eye on Bo.
Other top candidates may be current Oklahoma Sooners head coach Bob Stoops, former NFL head coach Jon Gruden and current Rutgers head coach Greg Schiano. Stoops is also a Youngstown native, an obvious winner, who may want a new change of scenery from Norman, Oklahoma. But, I just don’t see Stoops leaving the Sooners at this point. He may see it as a lateral move, especially if the Buckeyes are hit with probation and sanctions by the NCAA.
It’s rumored that QB-therapist and Ohio native Jon Gruden would accept the job if offered, but my gut tells me he’s waiting for an NFL job to open after next season.
Schiano has done astonishing things with Rutgers, raising that program from the abyss. He is also young and energetic but there’s many who believe he has his sights set on another Big 10 school, (hint: it’s the one school with the only coach who’s been alive since the Coolidge administration). Schiano’s record at Rutgers overall is under .500, but you have to take in to account just how bad and how irrelevant Rutgers was before Schiano took over.
I believe these are six aforementioned coaches have the best shot presently, but, who knows, a lot could change between now and the next six plus months.
Other good candidates to consider would be Missouri’s Gary Pinkel, Michigan State head coach and former Buckeye defensive coordinator Mark Dantonio,(who, might I add, gives the best on-field post-game interviews ever). Also to consider — Florida State defensive coordinator and brother of Bob Stoops…Mark Stoops, and Nebraska assistant and brother of Bo Pelini…Carl Pelini. And, finally, there’s Chris Peterson of Boise State and Auburn offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn.
Pinkel has said he’s perfectly happy at Mizzou, but if Ohio State offered — I’m sure he’d consider. I’m a big Mark Dantonio fan, but the Spartans have had too many players show up on the police report the past few seasons, which would not work in his favor for the perceived required criteria if he wanted the OSU job. The sibling Stoops and Pelini are interesting alternatives. Both are hot assistant coaching names on the rise, and they will both be D1 head coaches within the next three seasons. Boise State’s Chris Peterson is a great young coach, who annually turns down big-name jobs. But, I just don’t see Peterson having interest in coming to Ohio State at this time. If he left Boise State in the near future, my guess would be that it would be for a Pac 12 program.
And, then we have Gus Malzahn. To me, Malzahn was the biggest reason Auburn turned their offense around to be next to unstoppable last season. It didn’t hurt to have Cam Newton (rented?) for a year, but Malzahn is an offensive mastermind. He is the top assistant coach in the country and sure to be a head coach when he decides it is his time. However, given Malzahn’s Southwestern roots, this would be a real long-shot. Malzahn just seems destined to be a head coach soon in the South or the Southwest, most likely in the SEC or the Big 12.
The last list of potential Ohio State head coaching candidates is filled with dark horses and wild cards. First, keep a sharp eye on former Buckeyes assistant Darrell Hazell, who is in his first season as the head coach of Kent State. If Hazell turns in an 8-4 type season, and suddenly becomes a hot candidate for a bigger school, (much like Mike Haywood did last year with MAC surprise Miami of Ohio), Hazell could surprise a lot of people and be right in the mix for the OSU job. There is the negative possibility for Hazell that some may see him as having been too close to the current OSU allegations.
A similar name to look for is Don Treadwell, who is in a situation like Hazell’s. Treadwell is taking over another MAC school in Miami of Ohio. Treadwell’s coaching career started under Jim Tressel in 1986. If Hazell and Treadwell find success early in their first head coaching positions, then I see their names being catapulted to the top of the list for consideration of head coaching vacancies at larger schools after next season.
A few other names to look for, though they may only have outside chances to be the next head coach at OSU, are: Iowa’s Kirk Ferentz, Louisville’s Charlie Strong, former Minnesota Golden Gophers head coach and Buckeye player Glen Mason, and Minnesota Vikings defensive coordinator and former Buckeye player Fred Pagac. I don’t see Ferentz leaving Iowa for Ohio State, and I think Strong will stay at a fully-invested Louisville program for at least two more years. Mason is intriguing, and I like how he won at Minnesota – with a superior running game predicated by tremendous offensive line play.
Freddy Pagac is a defensive guru, Mr. “Silver Bullets” himself. Coach Pagac has finally got his just due as a defensive coordinator in the NFL. I think he may want to continue his way with the Vikings, and he’s getting close to 60, so he may be content where he is now — more power to him. I don’t think a lot of NFL coaches, who have been in the NFL for awhile want to have to deal with the state of affairs of today’s college football, the NCAA’s confounding rules, and worrying about if a player is driving a car that was discounted and whether a foaming-at-the-mouth sports “journalists” will make a titanic deal of it during an offseason.
To sum it up, if Luke Fickell takes the Buckeyes to a BCS Bowl, or even has a solid 10-win season, you have to believe he’d have the interim tag removed and he would be the Ohio State head coach in 2012, and beyond. Fickell can transition the team seamlessly. I believe in him. It doesn’t hurt that he, along with Taver Johnson, Jim Bollman and Jim Heacock do a great job as a team on the recruiting trail. I hope Fickell does well and remains the head coach. He is more than capable.
Coach Tressel will be extremely hard to replace, I wish there was a way that he could come back and coach the Buckeyes. He’s set a standard that will be hard to attain right away…but, I believe Ohio State will not be shaken by the current difficulties, no matter who the next head coach is. Perception is worse than reality many times. Thought it seems dark right now, there is light at the end of the tunnel, Buckeye fans. I think this year’s Ohio State team will have an “us-against-the-world” mentality and the Buckeyes will surprise and the sky’s the limit. After next season, hopefully the new head coach can pick up where Coach Tressel left off, by carrying on with proud Buckeye tradition while winning at an elite level in college football.