By Dave Wischnowsky –
(CBS) Last Sunday, Columbus Dispatch sports columnist Bob Hunter dropped a bombshell on Ohio State Buckeyes fans.
“Maybe you heard the rumor,” Hunter wrote, his tongue bruising the heck out of his cheek. “Urban Meyer is going to be introduced as Ohio State’s football coach at halftime of the OSU-Duke men’s basketball game on Nov. 29.
“That should be filed with all those houses the former Florida coach has been buying in Upper Arlington the past several month – my guess is the city might soon change its name to Urban Estates – but hey, anything’s possible. I heard it from an astute business executive who heard it from a good source at the Athletic Club, and then heard it again from a well-connected former Ohio State athlete who knows his stuff. School officials apparently didn’t want to embarrass the Gators by doing at halftime of the Florida game on Nov. 15 … and couldn’t wait until the big game against Texas-Pan American on Dec. 3.”
While setting off sarcasm meters throughout Buckeye Nation, Hunter’s point came through loud and clear: Ohio State has far too many problems nagging its proud football program to be thinking about where its next coach will be introduced.
Besides playing the rest of this season, the school should probably first concern with itself with, you know, who its next coach will be – that’s if Luke Fickell is deemed unfit (and he probably will be) and especially if the retired Meyer isn’t interested (call him a long shot).
In his column, Hunter wrote that there are no obvious choices for Ohio State, as no former coaches or players seem prepared to step into the cauldron that is the job of coaching the Buckeyes. He pointed out Michigan State and Nebraska just increased the salaries of former OSU defensive coordinator Mark Dantonio and former Buckeyes player Bo Pelini in apparent pre-emptive strikes – but that neither of those guys were (or are) slam dunks to get the job anyway.
Then in his commentary, Hunter posed the name of a coaching candidate that seemed to come completely out of the blue – namely, that deep shade of navy that the Chicago Bears wear while knocking helmets at Soldier Field.
Would Lovie Smith be interested in the Buckeyes?
Hunter thinks Smith, who spent one season (1995) coaching defensive backs at OSU before heading into the NFL ranks, might have a shot at the Buckeyes head job – if he wants it.
So, my question today is, do you think he would want it?
And, beyond that, could Lovie Smith cut it as a major college football coach after having experienced a mixed bag of success as an NFL one?
Hunter points out that Smith, who at 53-years-old still has a lot of coaching years ahead of him, was known as a good recruiter during his stint at OSU. And although Smith has been in the NFL since 1996, he does have an extensive college background having spent the previous dozen years coaching position players at Tulsa, Wisconsin, Arizona State, Kentucky and Tennessee.
In Chicago, of course, Smith – along with his boss Jerry Angelo – are lightning rods for daily criticism and debate. Smith’s (as well as Angelo’s) current contract runs through 2013 and is believed to be worth about $5 million per year. So, if the Buckeyes did want Smith and he was still under contract with the Bears, they’d likely face some sort of hefty buyout fee – but when it comes to OSU football, pockets run deep in Columbus.
On Thursday, while dealing with the Bears’ latest controversy – the fallout from the release of veteran safety Chris Harris – Smith told the media: “Chris Harris helped us win a lot of football games, but it is a business and for us it’s about production. We felt like we had some other options that we felt pretty good about.”
If the Bears don’t make the playoffs this season, is it possible that Lovie could be saying the same about himself and the Ohio State Buckeyes a few months from now?
If nothing else, Dave Wischnowsky is an Illinois boy. Raised in Bourbonnais, educated at the University of Illinois and bred on sports in the Land of Lincoln, he now resides on Chicago’s North Side, just blocks from Wrigley Field. Formerly a reporter and blogger for the Chicago Tribune, Dave currently writes a syndicated column, The Wisch List, which you can check out via his blog at http://www.wischlist.com. Read more of his CBS Chicago blog entries here.