Luke Fickell

Poll: who should be Ohio State’s next head coach?


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 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 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…


Auburn horticulture professor offers dire update on torched Toomer’s Corner oak

AUBURN, AL - SEPTEMBER 10: Fans of the Auburn Tigers roll trees at Toomer's Corner after defeating the Arkansas State Red Wolves at Jordan Hare Stadium on September 10, 2016 in Auburn, Alabama. The Auburn Tigers defeated the Arkansas State Red Wolves 51-14.(Photo by Michael Chang/Getty Images)
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It appears that, once again, one of the oaks at famed Toomer’s Corner in Auburn will likely need to be replaced because of the actions of a lone dolt.

Following the win over LSU in late September, students and fans, as they have done for decades, rolled the oaks with toilet paper, only to watch as one of the trees go up in flames. A 29-year-old Auburn “man,” Jochen Weist, was identified on video using a lighter to set the toilet paper on fire and arrested.

Nearly four weeks later, it’s not looking good for the tree’s survival.

“Our message to the Auburn Family about the Magnolia Avenue tree remains the same as from the outset, that it is severely damaged from the Sept. 25 fire,” AU professor of horticulture Dr. Gary Keever said in a statement according to “We have conducted three assessments of its health, the most recent one showing 60-70 percent of the tree’s canopy is dead. A few new leaves have formed on some of the live branches, however, this does not indicate additional growth will occur or that those branches will be alive in the spring.

“Although the outlook is not promising, Auburn is doing everything possible to save the tree. We will continue to monitor the tree and provide updates as they become available.”

Weist was originally taken into custody on a charge of public intoxication. Additional charges of first-degree criminal mischief, a felony, and desecration of a venerable object were later added.

The case has been sent to a grand jury.

University officials have asked that the fire-damaged tree not be rolled. That tradition had just been revived this season following a three-year absence as a result of an Alabama fan poisoning the oaks.

Notre Dame AD: Brian Kelly ‘will lead this team out of the tunnel opening day next year’

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - OCTOBER 01:  Head coach Brian Kelly of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish and his team wait to head on to the field for the start of the game against the Syracuse Orange at MetLife Stadium on October 1, 2016 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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For those looking — or hoping — for Brian Kelly to be on the coaching hot seat, it appears you’ll have to wait another year or more.

Kelly’s Notre Dame squad, which began 2016 ranked 10th in the Associated Press Top 25, has had its fair share of issues on the field, stumbling to a 2-5 start that’s the program’s worst since 2007.  There have also been issues off the field related to those on-field struggles, with Kelly firing his defensive coordinator and throwing his players under the bus for good measure.  Former Irish football players have sounded off and taken aim as well.

Add it all up, and it had some thinking that Kelly might not be long for South Bend.  At least publicly, Kelly’s boss is emphatically putting the kibosh on such talk.

“Brian will lead this team out of the tunnel opening day next year,” Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick told earlier today. “I can tell you I continue to have complete confidence in Brian. … I get to see the program day in and day out and I continue to have great confidence in Brian and confidence in our future as a program.”

Kelly is in the midst of his seventh season at the school.  In the previous six, he’d led the Irish to a 55-23 mark.  Included in that total are a pair of 10-plus win seasons as well as an appearance in the BCS title game following the 2012 regular season.

In late January of this year, Kelly and the university reached an agreement on a six-year contract extension that runs through the 2021 season.

When did Nick Saban realize he missed college football? His ‘first press conference’ in Miami

Miami Dolphins coach Nick Saban watches play   against the   Carolina Panthers   September 25, 2005 in Miami.  The Dolphins defeated the Panthers 27  to 24.  (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)
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Yeah, he’s playing to, using the vernacular of the political season, his very fervent base, but it’s still not the least bit surprising.

When Nick Saban left LSU for the job with the Miami Dolphins in 2004, there were more than a couple of observers who were surprised the coach would leave the college game to get back into the NFL. When Saban, after infamously denying it, left the Dolphins to take the job at Alabama after just two seasons, there were more than a couple of observers who were not surprised the coach made such a decision.

Why? Because Saban just seemed like a coach who could relate better to — some would say control more — college players than those in the NFL. With Verne Lundquist serving as a guest on Saban’s weekly radio show Thursday night, the retiring college football broadcaster asked the Alabama head coach, writes, “when in his Miami Dolphins tenure he realized he missed coaching college football?”

Saban’s answer was illuminating…

“Well, the day I landed in Miami and went to the first press conference,” Saban said. “I started to realize the difference between the NFL then and what the NFL was like before when I was in it with Bill Belichick from 1991-94 in Cleveland, before we had free agency, before the media had infiltrated sorta everything that was happening. I guess right then.”

… but not as illuminating as the coach, once again, addressing his version of the Drew Brees situation as it relates to the level control, or lack thereof, in the NFL compared to what he has in Tuscaloosa.

“When [the Brees situation] happened, I said I can’t control my destiny here,” Saban said. “I can’t control my destiny here. There’s too many things that, no matter how hard I work or no matter what I do, I can control my destiny better in college by working hard and making good choices and decisions and creating a good program for players. I think that happening made me lean back to coming back to college.”

Yes, Saban may have, in the eyes of some, unfinished business in the NFL. At 64 years old — he’ll be 65 Oct. 31 — don’t expect him, though, to at any point in the near or distant future to rectify that “hole” in his coaching résumé.

Long-time starting guard ruled out by Tar Heels for rest of season

CHAPEL HILL, NC - OCTOBER 17:  Quinshad Davis #14 and Caleb Peterson #70 of the North Carolina Tar Heels celebrate after a touchdown against the Wake Forest Demon Deacons during their game at Kenan Stadium on October 17, 2015 in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.  (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)
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As it turns out, the short-term hit North Carolina took to its offensive line last weekend will turn into a long-turn one.

Caleb Peterson (pictured, being uplifted) suffered a back injury earlier this month that kept him out of both the Virginia Tech (Oct. 8) and Miami (Oct. 15) games. Thursday night, the school announced that the offensive lineman will undergo surgery Friday at the Carrell Clinic in Dallas.

As a result, the senior guard will miss the remainder of the 2016 season. Peterson used his redshirt in 2012 and isn’t eligible for any type of waiver, meaning the 6-5, 300-pound lineman has likely seen his collegiate playing career come to an end.

In his Tar Heel career, Peterson had started a total of 42 games. He had a streak of 30 straight starts snapped when he missed the Tech game.

Following the 2015 season, Peterson was named second-team All-ACC by the league’s coaches.

In addition to Peterson, the football program also announced that Jonathan Smith underwent season-ending surgery Thursday to repair a fracture in his right foot. The freshman linebacker initially suffered the injury during practice in the week leading up to the game against the Hokies.

A three-star member of UNC’s 2016 recruiting class, Smith was rated as the No. 21 inside linebacker in the country and the No. 25 player at any position in the state of North Carolina. He had appeared in six games as a true freshman this season, and was credited with one tackle.