All this week, LGHL writers will be bring you articles with inspired by their favorite Ohio State theoretical questions. Check out all of our What If? thoughts throughout the week HERE. Whether you disagree, let us know what you think in the comments below and on Twitter @Landgrant33.
Even though “Tatgate” took down Jim Tressel in 2011, Ohio State didn’t have to look to hard to find the perfect candidate to replace The Sweatervest. After Luke Fickell filled in as Ohio State’s interim head coach for the 2011 season, the Buckeyes tabbed former Florida coach Urban Meyer as the permanent replacement for Tressel. The rest is history, as Meyer went on to lead the Buckeyes to a national title, as well as a number of New Year’s Six bowl appearances.
While Ohio State was lucky to have Meyer fall into their lap following the dismissal of Tressel, a valid question that could be asked is what would have happened had Meyer decided to stay in the television ranks, or decided to take another position in college football or the NFL? Where would you have wanted Ohio State to look had Meyer not been an option for the Buckeyes?
Today’s question: If Urban Meyer wasn’t an option for Ohio State to replace Jim Tressel, who would you have wanted the Buckeyes to hire?
We’d love to hear your choices. Either respond to us on Twitter at @Landgrant33 or leave your choice in the comments.
Brett’s pick: Bob Stoops
Nobody said these answers had to be realistic, since they are pretty much pipe dreams. I was almost about to pick Bo Pelini for this, since there was a better chance he would return to his alma mater to coach, but I figured if I was going to pick someone from Youngstown, I might as well go even bigger.
Now it would have made no sense for Bob Stoops to leave Oklahoma for Ohio State after the 2011 season, especially with Ohio State self-imposing a postseason ban in 2012. The only real argument that could have been made for Stoops exiting Norman for Columbus is the Sooners had finished third in the Big 12 in 2009 and 2011, so maybe Stoops would entertain a change of scenery.
Had the Buckeyes not been in play for Meyer, Stoops would have been the next best option not named Nick Saban. Stoops ended up as the only head coach to win a Rose, Fiesta, Sugar, and Orange Bowl in the BCS era. Oklahoma was the only place that Stoops was a head coach at, and during his 18 years with the Sooners he compiled a 190-48 record.
While Stoops didn’t go to Ohio State despite growing up in Youngstown, he did have Big Ten ties since he played college football at Iowa, and would go on to be an assistant with the Hawkeyes during his first few years of coaching. Had Stoops came to coach the Buckeyes, it would have made for some really spicy contests when Ohio State squared off with Iowa.
Also, it would have been interesting to see the type of assistant coaches that would have followed Stoops to Columbus, and the type of coaching tree that Stoops could have built with the Buckeyes. Had Stoops coached at Ohio State, it likely would have meant Luke Fickell wouldn’t have stuck around after the 2011 season, since Stoops likely would have brought his brother Mark in to be the defensive coordinator.
While it would have been great to see what Stoops would have been able to do with the Buckeyes, the way things actually played out was the best path for both schools. It also didn’t hurt that Meyer was able to lead his Buckeyes to a victory over Stoops and the Sooners in 2016 in Norman in what would be Stoops’ final season as head coach at Oklahoma.
Meredith’s Pick: Chris Petersen
This is a bananas question, knowing what we know now. The hot names who were possible candidates in 2011 don’t inspire the same excitement now that they did back then, for obvious reasons.
However, there’s a clear answer, and that’s Chris Petersen, formerly of Boise State and Washington.
Hear me out. One of the things that turned out to be so great for Meyer’s coaching, and the reason he was hired at Ohio State, was his ability to be a disruptor. He shook things up at Bowling Green, Utah and Florida in ways that led to measurable outcomes and which felt translatable to the Ohio State program at the time.
And that was important because, at the time, it was easy to look for other characteristics in coaching style. It would have been simple to find a Jim Tressel replacement a la Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio. Unfortunately, that wasn’t going to work, because the Buckeyes needed a disruptor to keep up with an ever-dominant SEC.
Yes, Ohio State needed a disruptor. Potential candidates like interim Ohio State head coach Luke Fickell and Dantonio would essentially be nonstarters. While that much seems obvious now, what with the plethora of young, innovative coaches in the college football universe, the cool young coaches of today were virtual unknowns back in 2011.
Kirby Smart was early in his tenure as Alabama’s defensive coordinator under Nick Saban. Lincoln Riley, still in his 20s, was offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach for East Carolina. Ryan Day was the wide receivers coach at Boston College. These names were a decade too young to be considered for one of the most coveted roles in football.
Of course, at the time, the hot names that did get thrown around seem almost laughable now: Bo Pelini, Gus Malzahn, Mark Stoops? Heck, even Jon Gruden’s name got thrown out.
However Petersen’s name made sense a decade ago and even holds some water with the passage of time. Petersen was several years into his tenure as head coach at Boise State, and seemed primed in the early 2010s to make that next big coaching career leap.
Petersen joined the Boise State coaching staff in 2001 as offensive coordinator under Dan Hawkins, having previously spent time as wide receivers coach at Oregon in the mid-to-late 1990s. When Hawkins left for Colorado, Petersen got the head gig.
By 2011, Petersen was a known entity, and had already demonstrated his ability to hang with the big dogs. In fact, he had already executed the famous Statue of Liberty play to defeat Oklahoma in the 2007 Fiesta Bowl and put the Broncos on the map.
Of course, while Petersen led the Broncos to two undefeated seasons and two BCS victories, the reality is Boise State was in the WAC at the time and, just like today, even with solid bowl wins, pundits still take undefeated seasons in non-major conferences with a grain of salt. How he would perform at a historic program like Ohio State remained a mystery.
The knock against Petersen would be that, at the time, he’d not filled a head coaching role at what is now known as a Power Five school. Meyer had. While Meyer had made a name for himself in just a couple seasons in Utah, he had been able to move on to fill Florida’s vacancy and carry a high level of success to the SEC. Petersen’s hire was much too risky.
However, while hindsight is 2020, Peterson managed to continue the upward trajectory we saw at Boise State. His candidacy at the time was very similar to Meyer’s. He would end up getting that next big coaching move when he was named head coach at Washington in 2014.
Had he started just a few years earlier, been tested at Washington and emerged even with the Playoff berth and two other New Year’s Six bowls, he may have been the next man up.