For most of its existence, Kent State football has been synonymous with losing. Coaching at Kent State has usually been a one-way ticket to unemployment.
Darrell Hazell, former Ohio State wide receiver coach, and now the head coach at Purdue, has been an exception to that painful Kent State coaching tradition. Hazell took over in 2011 at Kent State, from Doug Martin. Martin's seven year record at Kent State? 29 wins, 53 losses.
Within two seasons, Hazell was able to take Kent State, a perennial MAC doormat, and get the Golden Flashes to the brink of a BCS bowl berth. Kent State lost in a second overtime period to Northern Illinois, 44-37, in the MAC Championship Game, and will play Arkansas State in the GoDaddy.com Bowl on January 6th, 2013.
Striking while the iron is hot, Hazell has capitalized on his success at Kent State and is moving on to Purdue's head coaching position. Hazell is leaving the Kent State program on better footing than he found it two seasons ago.
Who will be the next head coach at Kent State? Will Kent State promote from within its coaching staff, or will they go outside of the program for Hazell's replacement?
If Kent State does decide to go outside, could Ohio State's Luke Fickell be under consideration for the position?
Probably not, right?
We know some have already come out and said that Fickell purportedly isn't interested in the vacancy, but this is likely due to the ostensible pay decrease it could entail. But say some eager Kent State boosters or an athletic department wanting to keep their recent success alive and well decide to make an offer more in like with expectations for someone of Fickell's experience/pedigree. Would he weigh it?
Think about this from a Kent State perspective. Kent State will recruit all around the country, like every program, but its focus will always be on players within northeast Ohio, especially the Cleveland area.
Why not hire a coach whose name is recognizable to recruits? Why not hire a coach who those players have seen on the sidelines with the state's biggest football program? Most importantly - why not hire a coach with previous head coaching experience, as Fickell gained during his interim period with the Buckeyes in 2011?
Why would Luke Fickell want this job? For one thing, as noted up above, Fickell would be taking over a program in decent shape from his former Ohio State coaching colleague Darrell Hazell. Instead of having to completely start from square one, Fickell could be taking over a program that could potentially contend for the MAC championship.
Secondly, as noted up above, Fickell had the opportunity to coach Ohio State during the turbulent 2011 season. Fickell was able to lead Ohio State to a 6-7 record, despite having a team that lost several key players such as DeVier Posey and Daniel "Boom" Herron to suspension for most of the season.
Luke Fickell was told by Gene Smith about the hiring of Urban Meyer as Ohio State's head coach following the loss at Michigan on November 28, 2011. To Luke Fickell's credit, Fickell resumed his role as Ohio State's co-defensive coordinator with Everett Withers, as well as linebackers coach, for the 2012 season with no complaints about the demotion, earning the respect of both Urban Meyer as well as Ohio State fans.
Luke Fickell interviewed for the Pittsburgh coaching job last year, losing out to former Wisconsin offensive coordinator Paul Chryst. Could Kent State yet be a job that would interest Fickell?
Please understand that I am not pushing Luke Fickell to leave Ohio State for a job that he may not want. Fickell seems very comfortable on Coach Meyer's staff, and probably enjoys living in the Columbus area very much with his wife and children.
It simply seems likely that Luke Fickell has had a previous taste as a head coach, and may want to see what he could do on his own with his coaching staff, unlike in 2011 when Fickell inherited former Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel's staff. The opportunity to grow as a head coach at a place like Kent State could be what he is looking for in regards to a good stepping stone to a bigger coaching job, like Darrell Hazell did with his time at Kent State.
Will Luke Fickell remain with the Buckeyes in 2013? Or will the opportunity present itself for Fickell at Kent State? While Ohio State fans have to feel good about their chances to retain giving information suggesting otherwise, this is a question Ohio State fans may be asking until that vacancy is filled.