Lost in the chaotic Jim Tressel saga is the fact that someone else will be roaming the sidelines for OSU for the first time since John Cooper coached OSU on Jan. 1, 2001 against South Carolina in the Outback Bowl.
Come September 3 against Akron, co-defensive coordinator and linebackers coach Luke Fickell will be calling the shots.
Fickell was promoted to assistant head coach on March 30 and will serve as interim head coach while Jim Tressel serves a five-game suspension.
Fickell ties to Ohio State and Columbus are lengthy. He attended Columbus' DeSales High School, a Division III football powerhouse.
Fickell then went on to become a four-year starter for the Buckeyes and graduated in 1997. He started a school-record 50 straight games from 1993-96, recording 212 tackles, including 26 tackles-for-loss and six sacks.
While he was a starter, OSU went 41-8-1 and won the Rose Bowl over Arizona State his senior season.
After spending a year on injured reserve for the New Orleans Saints, Fickell joined OSU as a graduate assistant in 1999.
He then bolted to Akron to coach the Zips’ defensive line, but returned to Columbus in 2002 to coach special teams and has since rose through the ranks at OSU.
When he walks into the Horseshoe in early autumn to head the Buckeyes, Fickell will be 38 years old. Obviously, he’s an up-and-comer in the coaching ranks.
If Fickell manages to guide OSU to a 5-0 or even 4-1 start next season, his stock will go through the roof.
Now, Tressel, who is 58 years old, is under contract through 2014. However, his contract could be potentially voided by OSU due to his NCAA violations and breaches of his contract.
Actually, OSU could fire Tressel at this moment for contract infringement.
Is this Tressel’s last season? Is Fickell the coach-in-waiting? It’s too early to tell on both fronts. The latter seems to be more likely.
There are also conspiracy theories about Urban Meyer eventually taking over at OSU post-Tressel (let’s face it folks, that’s what they are at this point, conspiracy theories).
But also remember that Meyer’s tenure at Florida was not without controversy, and it’s questionable to think the University would go after a somewhat controversial, albeit ridiculously successful coach like Meyer after the Tressel saga.
Nevertheless, the point remains the same. Fickell has a once in a lifetime opportunity in front of him. We’ll see how he handles it come September.