What's next for Ohio State?

By Rusty Miller Associated Press Published:

COLUMBUS - At almost the same time that reports first started circulating that John Cooper was out, everyone started talking about who would be in as Ohio State's next head football coach. The list of candidates mentioned on call-in shows and suggested by reporters Tuesday ranged from the ridiculous to the obvious. Ohio State athletics director Andy Geiger, who fired Cooper after he spent 13 years with the Buckeyes, said he did not have a list of his own. "There's no inside track. There's not a leading candidate," Geiger said at a news conference announcing that Ohio State had bought out the final three years of Cooper's contract for $1.8 million. "I prefer to be open-minded on these things and to get the lay of the land and to learn about what's possible." Geiger has appointed an advisory committee to help with the search. But he said he would be seeking "the best possible fit" in a coach instead of meeting a deadline. The man who preceded Cooper as Ohio State's coach said it is presumptuous of Ohio State fans to immediately assume that the brightest coaching minds in the land will come calling on Geiger. "Sometimes people around the country feel the coaching job at Ohio State is much less desirable than what the people in Columbus think it is," said Earle Bruce, the Buckeyes' head coach from 1979 to 1987. Here is a partial list of names that athletics director Andy Geiger may or may not have on his list: Minnesota coach Glen Mason. A former Ohio State player under Woody Hayes and an assistant under both Hayes and Bruce (1978-85), Mason wears his heart on his sleeve when it comes to his alma mater. After leading Minnesota to a 29-17 upset of the No. 6-ranked Buckeyes in October, Mason was near tears. The Big Ten's coach of the year in 1999, he is 81-89-1 in 15 seasons as a head coach. Mason was unavailable for comment immediately after Cooper's firing was announced. Pittsburgh coach Walt Harris. An assistant coach with the Buckeyes in 1995-96, Harris helped develop the talents of Bob Hoying as the quarterbacks coach. A graduate of Pacific, Harris is 31-50 in seven years as a head coach, including a 7-5 record that ended in a 37-29 loss to Iowa State in this year's Insight.com Bowl. Harris issued a statement that said he was "extremely happy" and "not looking to leave" Pittsburgh. Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops. A Youngstown native, Stoops' Sooners will take on Florida State for the BCS national championship in the Orange Bowl tonight. The AP's national coach of the year in just his second season, Stoops is 39 years old. Youngstown State coach Jim Tressel. An assistant coach under Bruce from 1983-85, Tressel has guided the Penguins to NCAA Division I-AA championships four times (1991, '93, '94 and '97) and to the runnerup spot three other times. Miami University coach Terry Hoeppner. Has only been the head coach of the in-state RedHawks for two seasons, but his spread offense gave Ohio State fits in their meeting at Ohio Stadium in September. Miami led 10-3 in the first half and trailed just 20-16 until the Buckeyes scored a clinching touchdown with 6:43 left. Former Ohio State player Chris Spielman. An NFL veteran who now works as a broadcast analyst, Spielman has reportedly turned down opportunities to be an assistant coach with the Buckeyes. But after Cooper was fired, he again said he'd be interested in being the head coach at his alma mater. Geiger said he has no clear picture of what he wants in a new coach. But Bruce said Ohio State's fans have already made one thing clear. "People in Columbus are fed up with losing to Michigan," he said. "They care about winning."

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