Ohio State lost a top assistant to a head coaching job Monday, while their soon-to-be conference brethren Nebraska saw one of their top young assistants accept a defensive co-coordinator position the same day.
Based on the chatter coming out of Oxford, Ohio, one of those schools could be facing yet another raid on their respective coaching staffs.
According to a source with knowledge of the search, Buckeyes co-defensive coordinator/linebackers coach Luke Fickell and Cornhuskers offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Shawn Watson have emerged as leading contenders for the Miami of Ohio head coaching vacancy. The source would not go so far as to say that the two are finalists for the position, rather stating that both “are among a handful who are definitely in the mix.”
A decision on the replacement for Michael Haywood, who left to become Pittsburgh’s head coach last month, could happen at some point this week, although the source admitted it could drag into the weekend or even next week.
Fickell, a four-year starter at Ohio State as a defensive lineman in the mid-nineties, was on the periphery of coaching searches at both Minnesota and Indiana. He has spent the past nine seasons as a part of Jim Tressel‘s OSU staff.
Watson has spent the past four seasons as the Cornhuskers’ offensive coordinator, as well as previous BcS stops at Northwestern, Illinois and Colorado. The 51-year-old coach has also been a head coach at the collegiate level, guiding Southern Illinois from 1994 through 1996.
One of the factors that could swing in Watson’s favor is his ties to the school; he was an assistant at Miami for seven years in the late eighties and early nineties. Athletic director Brad Bates told the Hamilton Journal News late last week that a candidate with a prior connection to Miami would have an advantage “all other things being equal”.