The recent coaching-related events at Florida, USC, Tennessee, and Notre Dame have frequently sparked the conversation topic, “Who would replace Tressel?”
True, Tressel does not draw the lusty looks from the NFL the same way Carroll did, and he does not seem to share his desire to coach the pros, either. Tressel does not appear to pour himself into the job in a way that leads to health concerns as Urban Meyer does, and this is his dream job, so there is no risk of him bolting to another program. Lastly, and most importantly, he wins a lot of games, which is the ultimate decider of a coach’s longevity. Even though Tressel, and Ohio State, have nothing in common with the situations at the aforementioned schools, it illustrates how quickly things can change.
This may sound sacrilegious, but my first thought when pondering this hyppothetical, yet impending scenario is, “It is not going to be easy to get a new, successful coach.” Ohio State is one of the best jobs in college football, has a an abundance of tradition, a culture of winning, tremendous facilities, unreal support from the community. USC and Notre Dame have similar attributes, and those two programs have not exactly been plucking their first choices out of the air.
Tressel probably has four-to-five years left at Ohio State. That is purely a guess, but five seasons from now, at the conclusion of the 2014 campaign, JT would have coached 14 seasons, and likely would leave the second-winningest coach in Ohio State history (Hayes had 205 wins in 28 seasons), with the highest winning percentage (currently .817 percent) of coaches that have been on the sidelines for a measurable period of time (Carroll Widdoes went 16-2 in 1944-45.)
We have all heard the sports cliche “It is hard to follow a legend,” and that is exactly what the next Ohio State coach will be asked to do.
So, who might those individuals be? The names below are by no means a wish list, but rather a likely starting point for any discussion regarding Tressel’s successor. Chime in with your thoughts/wishes below.
Coach of the Moment
A lot can happen in five years. The next Urban Meyer or Brian Kelly is currently a position coach at a MAC school building up cred in FCS, so we cannot mention them specifically by name, but there will be hot names at the time Tressel steps that will surely be bandied about. Will they have Ohio (State) or Big Ten ties? Will they be more Urban Meyer than Dan Hawkins?
Superstar Long Shots
It has become one of college football’s greatest pastimes, naming all the major, successful coaches that are candidates for the most recent opening at tradition power. Jon Gruden’s name comes up every time. Unless he is coaching somewhere else, his name will appear in dozens of articles and blog posts across the web when OSU is looking.
Likewise, Bob Stoops names will be listed as someone with a considerable Ohio connections that may “be looking for a new challenge.” Unless Stoops really wants to come back to Ohio, it is hard to imagine why he would abandon the program he built to follow in the footsteps of a contemporary legend. It just doesn’t make sense.
Same goes for Urban Meyer. I know he was born and raised in Ohio and received graduate degree from tOSU while working as a graduate assistant under Earle Bruce , but he would have to be motivated almost entirely by a desire to come home if he were to take the job in Columbus. It could happen, but it seems very unlikely.
This group could have some overlap with the first category. Currently, this group has a membership of three: Chris Peterson at Boise State, TCU’s Gary Patterson, and Kyle Whittingham of Utah. The problem is, collectively, those three coaches have barely spent any time east of the Mississippi and, aside from the draw of coaching an all-time great program (which is significant), they would have little reason to make the move to Ohio. Oh, there is probably a salary increase in it for them.
The other non-AQ coach doing good things is Ken Niumatalolo at Navy. It seems ridiculous to think that Ohio State, with its pipeline to the NFL tradition, would be willing to entertain jeopardizing their ability to recruit top tier players and switch to the triple option. This is really not an option for OSU (pun intended).
The other super popular situation sweeping through college football right now is the “coach-in-waiting” philosophy. Florida State and Texas pioneered this set-up and the Seminoles recently executed the plan. This, however, seems impossible to expect from Ohio State. Tressel has shown no inkling to hire a big name coordinator or fire any of his current staff who may not be living up to the fans’ expectations. Moreover, there is not a coach on the staff right now that is capable of being a head coach. Darrell Hazell may get there someday, but he certainly does not warrant the CiW status right now.
Equally unlikely is a promotion form within. Aside from Mark Dantonio and Mark Snyder, no coach under Tressel has received consideration for a head coaching position. Fickell is constantly rumored to be in line for jobs, but that is all. For Fickell to end up the head man on Ohio Stadium’s west sideline, he is going to need head coaching experience somewhere.
Finally, would Ohio State take a flyer on Larry Kehres of Mount Union ? Could they possibly strike gold with another heralded coach from the lower ranks?