Jim Tressel: 8 Coaches Most Likely to Replace Buckeyes' Head Coach

Sam WestmorelandFeatured ColumnistMay 30, 2011

Jim Tressel: 8 Coaches Most Likely to Replace Buckeyes' Head Coach

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    PASADENA, CA - JANUARY 01:  Head coach Jim Tressel of the Ohio State Buckeyes is seen during the 96th Rose Bowl game against the Oregon Ducks on January 1, 2010 in Pasadena, California.  (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
    Jeff Gross/Getty Images

    Jim Tressel resigned as the head coach of the Ohio State Buckeyes football team early Monday morning, after the coach found himself embroiled in a lengthy scandal involving players selling memorabilia to a tattoo parlor for cash and free tattoos that exploded into something much larger. 

    Tressel's trouble started when it was revealed that he'd known about the violations for several months before bringing them to the attention of the university and the NCAA, despite telling reporters when the story broke that it was the first he'd heard of the incidents. 

    Now, suddenly, one of the most prestigious jobs in the college football universe has come open, and the Buckeyes are sure to have a list of candidates a mile long. But, they'll have a tough time finding someone who can match the Sweater Vest's level of success.

    After all, Tressel leaves the school with the highest win percentage (.828) of any coach in the program's long and distinguished history, meaning the school has some sizable shoes to fill. 

    Who are the most likely candidates to take over as the school's full-time coach? Sure, assistant Luke Fickell has been named interim coach, but is he really a candidate to become the full-time head coach? 

    While it's obviously still speculative at this point, we're breaking down the odds some of the big-name candidates have of landing the Buckeyes' permanent job. 

8. Tony Dungy

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    PHILADELPHIA - AUGUST 14: Tony Dungy speaks at a press conference introducing Michael Vick at the NovaCare Complex on August 14, 2009 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Vick signed a one-year contract, with a second year option, with the Eagles.  (Photo by La
    Larry French/Getty Images

    Dungy's name has never come up in conjunction with any kind of rumor in relation to this gig, and he has given little indication that he wants to come back to coaching. 

    But, given the fact that the program has found itself facing serious trouble from the NCAA, who better to help clean up its act than the former Indianapolis Colts head coach?

    Dungy is one of the class acts in football, and his presence would help put an end to all of the trouble that players have found themselves in over the last few months. He's got the coaching chops to contend right away, and he's a big enough name that recruiting shouldn't be an issue going forward. 

    However, Dungy seems happy with his life the way it is now and has shown little anxiousness to get back into the coaching game at this point. While the prospect of coaching the Buckeyes would entice most coaches, Dungy's a Minnesota alum and might not find OSU quite so tempting. 

    Odds: 200-to-1. The longest of long shots at this point. 

7. Bo Pelini

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    ARLINGTON, TX - DECEMBER 04:  Head coach Bo Pelini of the Nebraska Cornhuskers leads his team against the Oklahoma Sooners at Cowboys Stadium on December 4, 2010 in Arlington, Texas. The Sooners beat the Cornhuskers 23-20.  (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty
    Tom Pennington/Getty Images

    An Ohio native, Pelini remains one of the hottest young coaches in the sport, having led Nebraska to a 30-12 record over the last three seasons. He's a defensive wizard and would ensure that the Buckeyes' vaunted D doesn't miss a beat with Tressel gone. He's a former Buckeye, so he knows the school's tradition well, and would respect the school's traditions. 

    But, the fit ends there. Pelini's a bit of a hothead, a stark contrast to the cool and collected Sweater Vest, and his offensive coaching acumen leaves much to be desired, as does his ability to handle players. 

    On top of that, he's already got one of the elite jobs in the country, coaching the Nebraska Cornhuskers, and something tells me Tom Osbourne won't want to give him up as long as he's still winning games. 

    Odds: 150-to-1. The Ohio State connection is there, but I just don't see Pelini jumping ship on Nebraska for the Buckeyes gig, especially with sanctions likely to come from the NCAA in the near future. 

6. Gary Patterson

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    PASADENA, CA - JANUARY 01:  Head coach Gary Patterson of the TCU Horned Frogs holds the Rose Bowl Championship Trophy after defeating the Wisconsin Badgers 21-19 in the 97th Rose Bowl game on January 1, 2011 in Pasadena, California.  (Photo by Jeff Gross/
    Jeff Gross/Getty Images

    Patterson has built quite a powerhouse at TCU over the last decade, and his coaching style would fit extremely well with the Buckeyes' boosters and alumni. His teams have always been tough, physical squads and they play with discipline and heart—something Ohio State values immensely. He can give you an elite defense and brings some offensive clout to the table as well. 

    But, at the same time, Patterson has a good thing going at TCU. He's been a BCS contender in each of the last four seasons, and seems to genuinely enjoy coaching the Horned Frogs. On top of that, he's got less reason to leave than ever, as the school moves to the Big East, a BCS conference, for next season. 

    Odds: 100-to-1. Patterson would be a good fit, but I don't think he bails on the Horned Frogs now, even if Ohio State is an upgrade for him. 

5. Jon Gruden

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    ATLANTA - DECEMBER 14: Coach Jon Gruden of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers directs play against the Atlanta Falcons at the Georgia Dome on December 14, 2008 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)
    Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images

    Gruden's name has been mentioned in conjunction with pretty much every single big-name coaching vacancy in college (and most of the open jobs in the pros) over the last year. He's itching to get back in the game, and he's got the chops to be an excellent recruiter and hands-on coach at the college level.

    He's a student of the game, and his ability to coach both sides of the ball (he's been studying offenses throughout his recent broadcasting career, and his defensive skills have been solid throughout his time as a coach) would bring the kind of skill the Buckeyes need to the sideline. 

    But, once again, the Buckeyes' impending sanctions could throw a wrench into their hopes of landing the Ohio native. He can essentially pick whatever job he wants at this point, so why come back and try to dig out from under heavy sanctions?

    Odds: 75-to-1. Gruden could be a decent fit, but given the sanctions looming on the horizon, he's not likely to take the gig.

4. Mark Stoops

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    The third brother in the Stoops coaching family, Mark has been an up-and-coming assistant for quite some time now. He's shown his defensive skills as Florida State's defensive coordinator and has been offered head coaching gigs in the past but turned them down to remain at the FBS level. 

    He brings the kind of clout you need to coach at Ohio State and would help ensure the defense doesn't miss a beat. But, he doesn't have much head coaching experience at the college level, which could make landing the gig in Columbus incredibly difficult. 

    Odds: 50-to-1. Stoops has the skills to do the job, but against coaches with better resumes, can he actually land it? 

3. Luke Fickell

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    COLUMBUS, OH - MARCH 30:  Assistant Head Coach Luke Fickell speaks to the media during a press conference before the start of Spring practices at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center at The Ohio State University on March 30, 2011 in Columbus, Ohio. Fickell wil
    Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

    If the Buckeyes are going to keep the job in house, Fickell is the most likely candidate to land the full-time position. 

    He's already the team's interim head coach, was an up-and-coming name in the college football coaching world (he was already a co-defensive coordinator under Tressel) and was a standout nose tackle at Ohio State in college. 

    Fickell's got the moral fiber to clean up the program, and he's shown himself as skilled with defensive players. On top of that, he essentially gets a year-long trial as the team's coach, so we should know pretty quickly whether he's actually capable of being the team's long-term answer. 

    Of course, Fickell has no head coaching experience at any level (something every other coach on this list has), which will hurt him in the race, and there's a chance the school is hesitant to hire a Tressel assistant to coach given the way things ended. On top of that, if Fickell struggles, he's as good as done in terms of landing the full-time gig. 

    Odds: 20-to-1. Fickell has an edge in that he gets an on-the-job trial, but he'll have to keep the team at a high level next season if he wants to land this job. 

2. Mark Dantonio

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    STATE COLLEGE, PA - NOVEMBER 27: Head coach Mark Dantonio of the Michigan State Spartans stands on the sideline during a game against the Penn State Nittany Lions on November 27, 2010 at Beaver Stadium in State College, Pennsylvania. The Spartans won 28-2
    Hunter Martin/Getty Images

    Dantonio has emerged as one of the best coaches in the country in recent seasons, building Michigan State into a strong program capable of contending in the Big Ten. He's a Tressel protege and knows Ohio State's tradition as well as anyone.

    Dantonio has found success at pretty much every stop in his coaching career; he was the Buckeyes' defensive coordinator when they won the national championship, found some success at Cincinnati and has built the Spartans into one of the better programs in the Big Ten. 

    That being said, the Spartans coach does have a few dings to his chances. As a Tressel disciple, taking the gig could be awkward, and if the school wants to distance themselves from their disgraced former coach, Dantonio could be out of luck. He's already 55 years old and had health issues last season, which could resurface in Columbus, and there's always a good chance he decides he's happy in East Lansing. 

    Odds: 10-to-1. Dantonio would be an excellent choice given his background and history of success. But, given his status as a Tressel protege, and his age and health, it's hard to make him the current favorite. 

1. Urban Meyer

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    TAMPA, FL - JANUARY 1:  Coach Urban Meyer of the Florida Gators directs play against the Penn State Nittany Lions January 1, 2010 in the 25th Outback Bowl at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida.  (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)
    Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images

    Meyer has been the name most frequently mentioned in conjunction with this job since people first speculated Tressel was in trouble back in March. He's got an unparalleled resume, with his national titles and status as an elite recruiter, and is the best coach available. 

    His offensive coaching skills would be a breath of fresh air in Columbus, and he could still bring elite defensive coaching talent to the table, as well. He's got ties to Ohio and remains a force in the college football world. On top of that, he's expressed a desire to coach again, and Columbus could be the perfect fit for him. 

    But, even Meyer has a couple of potential snags. He left Florida because of the stress of coaching, and to spend more time with his family, so why would he come back right away and coach at Ohio State? Sure, he'd get a season off (Fickell is the coach until the end of this season), but does he really want to jump back in so soon?

    On top of that, there's no guarantee he'd want to come back and coach a program buried under sanctions, but he remains the best man for the job. 

    Odds: 5-to-1. Urban's the favorite right now, but Meyer is hardly a sure thing at this point. He's the best man for the job, and would be a logical choice, but will he actually come back and take it?