It’s Official: Buckeyes Headed for Jacksonville, Gator Bowl
By Brandon Castel
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Most of the focus in Columbus over the last week has been on Urban Meyer and the future of the Ohio State football program, but the 2011 Buckeyes have some unfinished business to take care of first.
Ohio State confirmed Sunday evening that the Buckeyes will face the University of Florida—Meyer’s former team—in the 2012 TaxSlayer.com Gator Bowl in Jacksonville, Fla.
Interim head coach Luke Fickell has accepted a position to remain on staff in Columbus under Meyer in 2012, but first he and the current staff have to coach the 6-6 Buckeyes against the 6-6 Gators at 1 p.m. ET on Monday, Jan. 2 (ESPN2).
The game will take place at EverBank Field (formerly Jacksonville Municipal Stadium and Alltell Stadium). The current home of the Jacksonville Jaguars is located 70 miles north of Gainesville, where Meyer led the Gators to a pair of BCS national championships.
In fact, Meyer was on the other sideline the last time these two teams met in the 2007 BCS title game. This game will played under much different circumstances, as the Gator Bowl now matches the No. 5 team from the Big Ten against the No. 6 team from the SEC.
Both teams are under new leadership in 2011. Former Texas defensive coordinator Will Muschamp was hired to replace Meyer last December after Meyer announced his retirement for the second time.
Muschamp was the “coach in waiting” at Texas under Mack Brown, but he grew up in Gainesville and could not pass up a chance to come home. He will face Fickell, another hometown boy coaching his hometown school.
Fickell took over as Ohio State’s interim head coach back in May after Jim Tressel resigned amidst NCAA allegations. The Buckeyes are still awaiting a final ruling from the NCAA’s Committee on Infractions, but it appears they will not face a bowl ban for this season.
It is still possible that Ohio State could receive a postseason ban for next year, which will be Meyer’s first in Columbus, but Athletic Director Gene Smith is optimistic that won’t be a part of their punishment.
“When you look at all previous cases, there's no precedents,” Smith said.
“There were a couple of those more egregious than ours. And I'm hopeful we won't have that.”
Ohio State has not played in the Gator Bowl since the final game in the career of legendary coach Woody Hayes. That was Dec. 29, 1978, when Hayes struck Clemson nose guard Charlie Bauman on the sidelines after he intercepted a pass from OSU quarterback Art Schlichter.
The Buckeyes lost that game 17-15 after Hayes opted to have Schlichter throwing the ball late despite the fact Ohio State was in range for the game-winning field goal.
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