The overriding theme for Ohio State heading into their opener was the fact that the Buckeyes would be playing sans a Sweatervest patrolling the sidelines for the first time since the end of the 2000 season.
As expected, given No. 18 OSU was a 34-point favorite over Akron coming in, the transition from Jim Tressel to Luke Fickell was as initially seamless as predicted, with the latter easily coming away with his first win, 42-0, in his first game as his alma mater’s head coach. Lurking high above Fickell’s head, however, was a reminder that, while the interim tag was officially stripped from his title, he truly is coaching the next three months for the opportunity to continue at his dream job beyond the one-year trial run.
In a bit of fortuitous coincidence — or foreshadowing if you’re into that type of thing — Urban Meyer was in the Horseshoe Saturday as part of ESPN’s three-man crew covering the opener. The irony was not lost upon anyone hearing Meyer, along with Buckeye great Chris Spielman, dissecting Fickell’s head coaching debut.
Even before Tressel parted ways with his beloved university, Meyer’s name was connected to what many considered would be an eventual opening. After Tressel stepped aside, the rumor mill went into overdrive and forced the former Florida coach to issue a statement saying in part that he is “committed to ESPN and will not pursue any coaching opportunities this fall.”
Of course, the “this fall” disclaimer came after OSU had already announced that a national search for the next head coach would not commence until after “this fall”, adding more fuel to the fire. While the speculation had subsided of late, it’s come back with a vengeance thanks to Meyer’s presence in the booth today. At one point during the first half, Meyer uttered the innocuous and harmless words “If I were Ohio State’s head coach…”; Twitter chatter jumped exponentially with that turning of a phrase. A photo of Meyer speaking to athletic director Gene Smith speaking before the game? You would have thought the two were crossing t’s and dotting i’s on a contract right there on the field.
In fact, the only thing missing was Meyer purchasing yet another house in (insert Columbus suburb here).
Is it fair to Fickell, all of this speculation? Of course it’s not. Instead of talking about how well his young, suspension-riddled team played in their first game of the season, we’re writing about the shadow Meyer cast over Columbus.
But, until the national search for a permanent replacement to Tressel is commenced and ultimately concluded, this type of speculation is what Fickell and the university and its football fans will have to deal with. Fair? Again, no. It is a reality that won’t allow itself to be ignored, however.
Unless, of course, Fickell’s charges peel off 12 straight wins to start the season…