Even as it’s already been announced that Luke Fickell (pictured) will coach the Ohio State Buckeyes throughout the whole of the 2011 season, with a national search commencing shortly thereafter, that still hasn’t stopped the speculation as to just who will be the permanent successor to Jim Tressel at the school.
Obviously, Urban Meyer‘s name has been dropped squarely into the mix, and there’s little doubt that OSU officials will at least place a call gauging his interest this December, if not earlier. Meyer wrote in one of his books that Ohio State is one of three jobs — with Notre Dame and Michigan being the others — that his wife holds no veto power over, so it may just be a matter of whether the former Florida head coach wants to jump back into the coaching game just a year after temporarily stepping away.
Additionally, and as noted by PFT full-timer/CFT part-timer Mike Florio, Jon Gruden has already surfaced as a rumored possibility. The current ESPN NFL analyst is from the state of Ohio, and was rumored to be of interest to the Cleveland Browns after their firing of Eric Mangini, so the rumor mill spitting out his name at this very early stage makes sense. What wouldn’t actually make much sense, however, would be for tOSU to pull the trigger and actually hire a man whose most recent collegiate coaching experience was way back in 1989.
Bruce Feldman of ESPN.com has compiled a very early list of potential permanent replacements for Tressel, and six of the seven he names — Meyer, Gruden, Nebraska’s Bo Pelini, Michigan State’s Mark Dantonio, Florida State’s Mark Stoops and Missouri’s Gary Pinkel — have extensive ties to either the state or the university. Feldman also throws in TCU’s Gary Patterson for good measure.
Also as expected, Bob Stoops‘ name has already been mentioned as well, although it would be surprising — hell, shocking — if the Ohio native would even consider leaving his plush Oklahoma position to inherit what could be an NCAA mess in Columbus let alone being a realistic candidate. That said, his Youngstown, Oh., roots combined with a successful — and clean — Sooners program will have his name in the midst of the speculation until the position’s officially filled.
One intriguing name we had forgotten about and with a connection to the school was mentioned by Tom Dienhart of Rivals.com: Lovie Smith. The current head coach of the Chicago Bears was the defensive backs coach at Ohio State in 1995, although his name being realistically in the mix would be just as stunning as Gruden’s or Stoops’.
And then there’s Fickell. The former Ohio State player will be in charge of the football team from now until the end of the season and will certainly be given the opportunity to state his case that the “interim” tag should be stripped from his current title. Some have already begun to dismiss the possibility that Fickell could be a long-term, permanent fix on the sidelines; I haven’t, and I won’t. Fickell is a helluva football coach and will be leading a major Div. 1-A football program at some point in the next five years. Hopefully, he’ll be given serious consideration by those who will ultimately make the decision.
We would also be remiss in not mentioning Darrell Hazell. Currently the first-year head coach at Kent State, Hazell spent the past seven seasons as a valued member of Tressel’s and had been rumored to be a potential, eventual successor before moving on to the Golden Flashes.
So what say ye? Who should be the next head football coach of the the Ohio State Buckeyes? If it helps any before casting your vote, Bodog has released its initial odds on the next coach at Ohio State:
Urban Meyer 3/2
Mark Stoops 5/2
Jon Gruden 3/1
Bo Pelini 10/1
Mark Dantonio 12/1
With all of that said, fire away, both in the poll and in the comments section below…