On the day Urban Meyer confirmed his retirement and Ohio State revealed Ryan Day would replace him, Gene Smith acknowledged that he had considered launching a national search before opting to stay in-house with the 39-year-old offensive coordinator. It was subsequently rumored that a pair of current college football head coaches, and one retired from the sport, were three of the four that had been on the athletic director’s short list.
Over the weekend, one report shed light on the specific names that were a part of Smith’s preliminary coaching to-do list.
Citing an industry source, David Briggs of the Toledo Blade reported that retired Oklahoma head coach Bob Stoops; current college head coaches Dino Babers of Syracuse and Matt Campbell of Iowa State; and an unnamed current NFL coach were on OSU’s radar’s before the university pulled the trigger on promoting Day as Meyer’s replacement. While the name of the NFL coach was not revealed, it’s believed to be former Ohio State player/assistant coach and current Tennessee Titans head coach Mike Vrabel.
Stoops’ former boss, OU athletic director Joe Castiglione, may have played a significant role on a couple of fronts in the direction in which Smith ultimately headed, from serving as a sounding board in the present to how he handled his own football program’s in-house transition last year from Stoops to offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley.
From Briggs’ report:
Smith made his lists and privately leaned on fellow members of the playoff committee, including Oklahoma AD Joe Castiglione, a close friend. For such an A-list job, he wondered if it was his obligation to conduct a true national search and allow one of his candidates the chance to wow him in an interview. He appreciated the risk of “not allowing them to give the pitch.”
My suspicion is Castiglione’s success with a similar transition clinched the deal. “I asked him a lot about it,” Smith said. Just as a wunderkind offensive coordinator (Lincoln Riley) replaced a retiring legend (Stoops) two years ago — and won big with the infrastructure and staff already there — Smith envisioned Day doing the same with the existing foundation in Columbus.
Stoops, who has already offered up some retirement words of wisdom to Meyer, was born and raised in Youngstown, while Campbell was born about 70 miles west in Massillon. Babers lone connection to the state of Ohio, meanwhile, was serving as the head coach at Bowling Green for two seasons (2014-15) before taking over at Syracuse.
Interestingly enough, it was announced in a three-day span earlier this month that both Babers (HERE) and Campbell (HERE) had signed contract extensions with their current schools.