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Archive for Wednesday, January 17, 2001

Gruden reportedly interests Buckeyes

Mason may be interviewed again

January 17, 2001

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— Two weeks after Ohio State fired John Cooper, it appears the Buckeyes still aren't close to hiring a football coach.

With a new name surfacing nearly every day, the Oakland Raiders' Jon Gruden was added to a long list of candidates on Tuesday. At the same time, Oregon coach Mike Bellotti withdrew from consideration.

Despite a salary exceeding $1 million a year, topflight facilities, rabid fans and storied football tradition, Ohio State remains the only college in the country without a coach.

Ohio State athletics director Andy Geiger and associate AD Archie Griffin, both of whom decline to comment on the search are still offering first, second and occasionally third interviews to candidates.

In addition to Bellotti withdrawing from consideration, Youngstown State's Jim Tressel was back in Columbus for another visit Tuesday and Gruden and Minnesota's Glen Mason were about to make visits.

With recruiting at a crucial stage Feb. 7 is the first day high school players can sign with a school there would seem to be a sense of urgency to hire a coach.

But Geiger, who fired Cooper after Ohio State was badly beaten 24-7 by South Carolina in the Outback Bowl, keeps interviewing candidates.

Bellotti's statement on Tuesday said he "listened to what they had to say" but Geiger's pitch "reinforced to me my commitment to the University of Oregon."

Tressel, a former Ohio State assistant who has won four I-AA titles in his 15 years at Youngstown State, toured the campus on Tuesday with Ohio State officials. He had already met with Ohio State officials face-to-face once and also received a follow-up phone call.

CBS SportsLine.com said Gruden was the top candidate for the job and was flying to Columbus on Tuesday to meet with school officials. However, Gruden told ESPN.com that he had no plans to travel to Ohio and that he hasn't spoken to anyone associated with Ohio State.

Mason, a former Ohio State player and assistant, was reported to be returning to his alma mater today for a second interview. But Minnesota's AD was unaware of Mason's trip and said Mason told him he hadn't heard anything from Ohio State since he interviewed a week ago.

Mason, a former Kansas University head coach, has been considered a likely successor to Cooper ever since his Golden Gophers defeated then No. 6-ranked Ohio State 29-17 in Ohio Stadium.

Cooper was fired Jan. 2 after Ohio State completed an 8-4 year with its loss to the Gamecocks. He was 111-43-4 in 13 years, but the program had suffered embarrassments off the field, in the classroom and in its biggest games. Cooper's Buckeyes were just 2-10-1 against rival Michigan and 3-8 in bowl games.

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