The Ohio State Head Coaching Hot Board
By Tony Gerdeman
For the next seven or so months we're going to be discussing who will be Ohio State's head coach in 2012 at virtually every turn. To provide some type of scorecard, we're going to keep an updated ranking of the possible candidates.
Once the sanctions come out, we'll likely see some major shifting going on. As the season takes place, some coaches will move up or down based on performance. As new information comes out, such as statements from coaches, or contract extensions, that information will be taken into account as well.
Knowing what we know now, let's go ahead and take a look at the current Top 20 Head Coaching Candidates for 2012.
1. Luke Fickell (Interim head coach Ohio State; will be 38 years old at start of season; No career record.)
Pros: Nobody on this list knows Ohio State like Luke Fickell. He is already entrenched into the culture and the Ohio high school football universe. Has never been a head coach but won the AFCA Assistant Coach of the Year in 2010. He was Jim Tressel's choice as interim head coach for the first five games which should give Buckeye fans reason for calm.
Cons: He's never been a head coach before. Will one year be enough to convince the University that he is ready? Is he tainted by the coming sanctions? Does the big money at Ohio State already have their candidate picked out? It even possible at this point to change their minds?
Would he accept the job? He already has.
2. Bo Pelini (Head coach Nebraska; 43 years old; 30-12 career record)
Pros: Pelini has been a head coach at Nebraska for three years and had them in the Big XII Championship Game each of the last two seasons. He played safety at Ohio State and doesn't hide the fact that he loves Ohio State. He is a strong recruiter despite not having the greatest base to work with.
Cons: Probably not as straight-laced as the Buckeye brass would prefer. Did his success come from playing in the Big XII North?
Would he accept the job? Yes. He's a former Buckeye, he'd have no say in the matter. Although if word got out that he was the third or fourth choice, pride (or anger) may keep him in Lincoln.
3. Urban Meyer (ESPN Analyst; will be 48 years old at start of 2012 season; 104-23 career record)
Pros: He's a proven winner everywhere he's been and has won two BCS National Championships. One of the best recruiters ever, he would likely keep the fence around Ohio and create even greater inroads in Florida. He has Ohio ties. ESPN loves him, which would help with PR. Would give the university the splash that makes the donors happy.
Cons: He's quit on his teams twice now due to health and family concerns. How long until the next one? He has long history with player arrests. Does he need a Tebow to reach ultimate success?
Would he accept the job? Depends on the sanctions. If the sanctions are done for the most part by 2012, then I could see him saying yes. But how he feels now may change by the time the job opens--if it ever does.
4. Darrell Hazell (Kent State head coach; 47 years old; no career record)
Pros: He was Ohio State's assistant head coach from 2005-2010 under Tressel before leaving for Kent State in December. Like Fickell, he knows the culture and was considered a strong possibility to succeed Tressel over the last couple of years.
Cons: Barring a MAC championship, it's going to be hard to impress at Kent State in one season with another coach's players. In the end, he'll have just as much experience under his belt as Fickell, but will be trying to impress with a much less impressive roster.
Would he accept the job? Yes. Even Kent State knows they are a stepping stone. They would just be thrilled not to have to fire a coach or ask him to resign for a change.
5. Mark Dantonio (Michigan State head coach; 55 years old; 51-36 career record)
Pros: Won a BCS National Championship as Ohio State's defensive coordinator in 2002, so he's forever entrenched into Buckeye lore. A transition from Tressel to Fickell to Dantonio would likely be as seamless as possible. Has returned Michigan State to Big Ten prominence, winning a share of the conference championship last season.
Cons: He's probably too old for Ohio State right now. If he was five or seven years younger, he might be at the top of this list.
Would he accept the job? No. He was a Buckeye for three seasons. He is beginning his eleventh season as a Spartan. The only way I can see him accepting the job is if Ohio State came to him first and Jim Tressel personally asked him to take it. I just don't see that ever happening.
6. Bret Bielema (Wisconsin head coach; 41 years old; 49-16 career record)
Pros: In five seasons as the Badgers' head coach he has won ten more games than Barry Alvarez did in his final five seasons. Has turned Wisconsin into the second-best program in the conference at the moment--imagine what he could do with an actual recruiting base.
Cons: Lacks sex appeal--which is outrageous if you truly knew the man.
Would he accept the job? Depends on what his two-point conversion chart says. He might feel like he's betraying Alvarez, who hand-picked him, but it would be hard to imagine staying at Wisconsin if the Ohio State job is offered to you.
7. Pat Fitzgerald (Northwestern head coach; 36 years old; 33-29 career record)
Pros: He's actually winning at Northwestern. In 14 seasons under Gary Barnett and Randy Walker, the Wildcats finished over .500 just four times. Fitzgerald has done it in each of the last three seasons. He's the perfect representative of his university and the best would appear yet to come.
Cons: He has never won a bowl game, but every Wildcat coach since 1955 can say that. Despite smart players, his teams tend to have mental lapses.
Would he accept the job? Good question. He turned down a conversation with Michigan after last season. He has been termed a "lifer" at Northwestern, but how long will Fitzgerald tolerate a lack of interest and possibilities before he finally decides he has to move on? So would he accept the job? Yes, but maybe just not this time.
8. Gary Patterson (TCU head coach; 51 years old; 98-28 career record)
Pros: Immensely successful and preaches a style of football and defense that would fit in just fine in Columbus. Hh has four conference championships in ten seasons as a head coach. Won just about every Coach of the Year Award there was to win in 2009.
Cons: Has zero ties with the state of Ohio and its recruiting base.
Would he accept the job? No. TCU is moving to the Big East in 2012 which will bring with it a much easier road to a national championship. Sometimes the road less traveled is also the path of least resistance. Plus, he has built a tremendous program at TCU, and it appears that things are only going to get bigger.
9. Chris Petersen (Boise State head coach; 46 years old; 61-5 career record)
Pros: Just look at the record. He doesn't lose. He's one of the most innovative offensive minds in college football and has a tremendous eye for talent.
Cons: The last Boise State coach to leave and be successful somewhere else was Houston Nutt, and he was the least successful of the Boise State coaches to leave. Petersen has no ties to Ohio, but has built somewhat of a national following because of his teams' successes.
Would he accept the job? No. He probably could have had the USC job, but they were facing sanctions just like Ohio State. Hard to imagine he'd turn down USC and take Ohio State's offer, especially when he is from California. He seems pretty content to stay at Boise State for a while longer.
10. Mike Gundy (Oklahoma State head coach; will be 44 years old at start of season; 47-29 career record)
Pros: A man. He has had success in one of the toughest divisions in all of college football. His teams have won 29 games in the last three seasons.
Cons: Aside from a four-year stint at Maryland from 1997-2000, he's never been out of Oklahoma or Texas. Doesn't have the reputation of a Patterson or Petersen, so would have to work harder to build bridges among high school coaches.
Would he accept the job? Yes. But that doesn't mean it would be an easy decision. Gundy played at Oklahoma State from 1986-1989, then immediately became as assistant coach for the Pokes. He was at Baylor and Maryland from 1996-2000, then came back as offensive coordinator in 2001. Oklahoma State is his life, but being in the shadow of Oklahoma and Texas must get tiresome.
11. Bob Stoops (Oklahoma head coach; 50 years old; 129-31 career record)
Pros: Success speaks for itself. Won a BCS National Championship in 2000. Has won seven Big XII Championships in twelve seasons. Is from Youngstown, which may still be a 'pro' rather than a con.
Cons: Lack of success in BCS games? Though that's a ridiculous reason not to hire a coach.
Would he accept the job? No. He already passed on it back in 2001, so why would he take it now with sanctions looming. Besides, the Sooners are the top team in the suddenly easier Big XII. There's really no reason to leave.
12. Kyle Whittingham (Utah head coach; 51 years old; 58-20 career record)
Pros: His teams are 33-6 over the last three seasons. He has built a solid program that is now moving on to the Pac 12. Was the AFCA Coach of the Year in 2008.
Cons: His entire coaching life has been spent in either Utah or Idaho. His closest tie to Ohio is Urban Meyer. How much of his success is based on playing in the MWC?
Would he accept the job? Probably. Moving to the Pac 12 is nice, and it gives you a bigger name in the California recruiting market, but Utah is still only going to get leftovers. The main concern about whether he would take the job or not is really just a question of if he really wants to leave the area.
13. Dan Mullen (Mississippi State head coach; 39 years old; 14-11 career record)
Pros: Was Urban Meyer's right-hand man on offense prior to leaving his side and taking the Mississippi State job in 2009. Knows how to build an explosive offense. High potential as a recruiter. Became just the second Bulldogs coach to win nine games in a season in 30 years (Jackie Sherrill). Scored 119 points more than their opponents in 2010 - the first time they've scored more than their opposition in a decade.
Cons: Runs an offense that asks its quarterbacks to carry the ball and get hit an inordinate amount of times. We saw how that worked for Michigan.
Would he accept the job? Yes. Life isn't easy in a division with Alabama, LSU, Auburn and Arkansas right now. He's from Pennsylvania, however, so perhaps he's waiting for Joe Paterno to step down.
14. Charlie Strong (Louisville head coach; 51 years old at start of season; 7-7 career record)
Pros: Was Florida's defensive coordinator from 2002-2009. Gave up 13.5 points per game or less in three of final four seasons with the Gators. Tremendous recruiter.
Cons: He is entering only his second season as a head coach. Has been a lot of places, but only recently has he experienced marked success. Prior to taking the Louisville job last season, he was a defensive coordinator at South Carolina and Florida since 1999, and his defenses were up and down throughout.
Would he accept the job? Yes. He wouldn't even bother packing up. He'd just leave everything in Louisville and buy all new crap.
15. Tim Beckman (Toledo head coach; 46 years old; 13-12 career record)
Pros: Is familiar with the state of Ohio. Coached cornerbacks at Ohio State in 2005 and 2006. Very good recruiter who has upped the talent level in Toledo in just two seasons.
Cons: In his two seasons at Ohio State, the Buckeyes pass efficiency defense was some of the worst in the last six seasons under Tressel (though still top 14 in the nation).
Would he accept the job? Yes. Beckman would set the land speed record down State Route 23 on his way to Columbus.
16. Gus Malzahn (Auburn offensive coordinator; 45 years old; no career record)
Pros: Perhaps the hottest assistant coach in the nation right now. Won the Broyles Award as the top assistant coach in college football last season. One of the most prolific offensive minds in the nation.
Cons: Has only been a head coach in high school. No ties to Ohio or the midwest.
Would he accept the job? He turned down Vanderbilt after last season, so clearly he's waiting on something better. Ohio State would be impossible to turn down, but his offensive style might be too unorthodox for Columbus, Ohio.
17. Jon Gruden (Television personality; will be 48 years old at start of season; 95-81 career record in NFL)
Pros: He won a Super Bowl and he has a famous name. Has ties to Ohio. Would seem to be a good recruiter based on name recognition.
Cons: Hasn't coached in college since 1991. This will be his third consecutive year away from coaching. Is possibly friendly with Chris Berman.
Would he accept the job? He talked to Miami, FL about their opening when Randy Shannon was let go, so clearly he's looking around. He turned Ohio State down once before, but that was following a 12-4 season with the Raiders in 2000. Assuming he isn't enjoying retirement too much, he would seriously consider taking Ohio State's offer before ultimately turning it down because it's hard for TV stars to leave TV for anything other than movies.
18. Gary Pinkel (Missouri head coach; 59 years old; 150-86-3 career record)
Pros: Has been a head coach for 20 seasons and has only had a losing record four times. An Ohio guy. Played at Kent State.
Cons: Too old. Wouldn't excite the fanbase nor the money folk.
Would he accept the job? Faster than you can say, "Really? Gary Pinkel?"
19. Chip Kelly (Oregon head coach; 47 years old; 22-4 career record)
Pros: In his two seasons he has had the Ducks in the BCS twice, including last season's BCS National Championship Game. Runs an explosive offense, which would excite a fanbase.
Cons: Style of football doesn't always translate well against brutish teams. Possible recruiting scandal on the horizon at Oregon. No ties to the midwest, let alone Ohio.
Would he accept the job? No. There is no reason for him to leave the Pac 12. He has every advantage he could want, and very little pressure.
20. Mark Stoops (Florida State defensive coordinator; 44 years old; no career record)
Pros: Vegas thinks he's a possibility for some reason. He is a Stoops, which means he has Ohio ties. In first year with Florida State, helmed the Noles' best defense since 2004.
Cons: His name is Mark, not Bob. Never been a head coach. Has never produced a great, or even really good, defense.
Would he accept the job? Yes. He wouldn't even ask how much the contract would be worth.
Others to consider: Skip Holtz (USF head coach); Kevin Sumlin (Houston head coach); Dana Holgorsen (West Virginia head coach-to-be), Kirby Smart (Alabama defensive coordinator).
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