COLUMBUS — Minnesota came into Ohio Stadium on Saturday night looking for its fifth win of the season but also searching for its next football coach.
Is it possible an Ohio State assistant could be among the people on the Gophers’ wish list?
The Minnesota job opened up when Jerry Kill resigned for health reasons on Oct. 28. Defensive coordinator Tracy Claeys, a longtime assistant, was named interim coach and it is possible, but not very likely, he could keep the job.
Kill upgraded Minnesota’s program to the point where it had back-to-back 8-win seasons and was in the hunt for a spot in the Big Ten championship game until the final weekend last season. It would be surprising if Minnesota didn’t do an intense search for a coach it thinks could build on that momentum.
The first place most schools committed to success look for coaches is the very successful programs. And Ohio State is about as successful a football program as you’re going to find in Urban Meyer’s four years in Columbus.
Add in the fact that former OSU offensive coordinator Tom Herman has been a huge success this fall in his first season as Houston’s head coach and it’s only reasonable that Minnesota and other schools are going to think about talking with an Ohio State assistant.
Ohio State offensive coordinator Ed Warinner is usually the first name on the Buckeyes’ staff mentioned as a possible head coach.
The 53-year-old Warinner has been an offensive coordinator for 11 seasons and all five of Meyer’s previous offensive coordinators have become head coaches. He reportedly interviewed for the Kansas job last season.
Co-defensive coordinator Chris Ash is said to have interviewed for the Colorado State head coach’s job last year. The 41-year-old Ash has been a defensive coordinator at Drake, Wisconsin, Arkansas and OSU.
Defensive coordinator Luke Fickell probably can’t be ruled out as a head coach possibility, either. He was Ohio State’s head coach in 2011 on an interim basis and he has interviewed for head coaching positions in the past.
Fickell has strong family ties in Ohio and obviously loves coaching at Ohio State, where he played. But you can never say never.
All three can afford to be selective about offers to become a head coach. They are well compensated at Ohio State and it appears OSU will continue to be highly successful on the field for the foreseeable future.
Warinner and Fickell both have $600,000 base salaries and Ash gets $590,000. There are also bonuses in their deals for things like winning the Big Ten and qualifying for the College Football Playoff.
So, is Minnesota a job that could attract a top level coach?
Kill’s $2.5 million a year contract ranked seventh among Big Ten coaches, so it is willing to pay a talented coach. Kill had the program going in the right direction. TCF Bank Stadium is only six years old and there is a nice indoor facility.
Minneapolis-St. Paul is an attractive area that offers much more than just the Mall of America.
On the downside, Minnesota has been ranked in the Top 25 only twice since the early 1960s, there is not a lot of high school football talent in Minnesota and convincing recruits to sign up for four years of Minnesota winters is not easy.
Any Ohio State assistant coaches looking to move up – or assistants with ambitions anywhere – will have lots of choices this season.
Ten head coaches have either been forced out or retired already this season, including three in the Big Ten. Undoubtedly there will be more after the season is over.