Let’s get one thing clear. We do not believe Urban Meyer is leaving Ohio State in the near future. We do not believe there is a reason to think a Meyer departure is imminent, or even especially likely, within the next two years. I think I speak for everybody who writes for this website when I say that I hope Urban Meyer coaches Ohio State for many, many more years to come. Do not let the existence of this article lead you to think otherwise.
However, nobody coaches forever, and “lifers” at one job, even a job as prestigious and coveted as Ohio State, are harder and harder to come by. The odds that Meyer sticks around Ohio State for another 15 years are probably not that good. Eventually, somebody else is going to coach Ohio State. Maybe even sooner than we think.
It’s not hard to think of a hypothetical candidate list for Ohio State basketball, but with football, it’s a little bit trickier. Certainly Ohio State football would be one of the most attractive positions in all of college football, with all of the history and resources that come with it, so the Buckeyes could be choosy. But the program would probably want somebody who has at least some connection to the midwest and Ohio, if not Ohio State specifically.
So, in a hypothetical world where Urban Meyer decides he wants to spend more time with his family, or try the NFL, or shoot, pursue his real lifelong passion of becoming an astronaut, who are some names the Buckeyes might look toward? Let’s take a look.
Tom Herman—Head coach, Houston
Let’s get the obvious answer out of the way first. Ohio ties? Tom Herman was born in Cincinnati and not only coached at Ohio State, but won a national title as an offensive coordinator. Successful head coach? He grabbed the national spotlight after a hugely successful first year at Houston, and thanks to his recruiting prowess, the Cougars seem primed to make another run at an AAC title and New Years Bowl bid. He has an excellent record in developing offenses, he’s young, interesting, and would be a huge splash hire.
The question, of course, is if Ohio State would be able to get him. There’s a non-trivial chance Herman is coaching the Texas Longhorns in a year or two if things don’t improve in a hurry for Charlie Strong, and Herman will be at the top of every power program’s wish list for the foreseeable future. For as big a job as Ohio State is, getting a Texas guy (Herman spent years coaching all over the state) to leave Texas for the Buckeyes would be difficult.
Bob Stoops—Head coach, Oklahoma
Stoops won a national championship at Oklahoma, and “big game” disparagement aside, has been very successful with the Sooners. But a perceived dip in Oklahoma’s most recent fortunes, coupled with the inevitable cabin fever that comes with being at one place for so long, has always led to speculation that maybe he’d be interested in another gig, perhaps the NFL. Stoops, a native of Youngstown and a former Kent State assistant, could be an attractive choice as a Buckeye successor.
Mark Dantonio—Head coach, Michigan State
Mark Dantonio is rarely mentioned as a possible Buckeye successor, which is probably another sign of the DISRESPECKT that perpetually clouds Michigan State (and I’m sure suits him just fine). But maybe he should be!
Dantonio isn’t especially young (he’s 60, and has had health problems before), and might be difficult to extract from a very comfortable situation at Michigan State, but in the unlikely event Ohio State needed a coach soon, he’d probably be worth a call. He’s built Michigan State into a playoff-caliber power, and knows talent evaluation and the midwest as well as anyone. He was also an assistant at Ohio and Akron, and of course, Ohio State’s defensive coordinator under Tressell, where he won a national title.
Pat Narduzzi—Head coach, Pitt
If you liked all the good things about Dantonio, but wanted somebody a bit younger, Narduzzi would appear to be a good match. He wouldn’t be a splashy, sexy hire, but he was an outstanding DC at Michigan State, and could have a very strong season at Pitt this season. Narduzzi is a Youngstown State graduate, coached at Miami (OH), was a DC at Cincinnati, and has held his own against Urban Meyer on the recruiting trail in Ohio. Narduzzi could have a lot of options in the future if he does well at Pitt, including at a place like Ohio State.
Chris Ash--Head coach, Rutgers
This is a bit of a projection. Ash was a successful assistant just about everywhere he went, from Wisconsin to Arkansas, and helped rebuild Ohio State’s defense back into championship caliber. He wasn’t necessarily the biggest recruiter on the staff, but he built a reputation as an exceptional teacher.
He’s at one of the hardest jobs in the Big Ten, if now the Power Five, at Rutgers right now. But if he’s successful, a bump back up to Columbus isn’t impossible.
Greg Schiano—Defensive Coordinator, Ohio State
This would not be my first choice, but it’s feasible enough that it should be discussed. Schiano hasn’t coached a game yet for the Buckeyes, but he was a good enough coach at Rutgers to help them sign blue-chip recruits and establish national relevancy. Reports about his unsuccessful NFL tenure and challenging personality might rub some people the wrong way, but his ability as a football coach isn’t disputed. Schiano isn’t likely to be an Ohio State DC for very long at all...somebody will come calling for his services as a headman. Would it be Ohio State?
Matt Campbell—Head coach, Iowa State
So this is also a bit of a projection, operating on the assumption that Ohio State doesn’t actually need a coach for a long time. Somebody like Campbell might be a great option then. He’s got tons of Ohio ties, from his playing and coaching career at Mt.Union, and subsequent stops at Bowling Green and Toledo, where he became a very successful head coach. Iowa State is a hard job, but he’s already established recruiting momentum. The Buckeyes have had success hiring coaches with Iowa State experience before. Maybe, several years down the line, they’ll look smart doing that again.