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  1. #1

    Default WHAT IF: Ohio State Hired Glen Mason Instead Of Jim Tressel

    per Orr:

    This is part of a series looking at crucial moments, games, and decisions in Ohio State football history, and how things may have played out if they had gone a different way.

    The search to replace John Cooper as Ohio State head football coach dragged on longer than you probably remember.

    Cooper was fired on January 3, 2001, just two days after the Buckeyes no-showed the Outback Bowl against a not-very-good South Carolina team.

    With the benefit of hindsight, it’s obvious that Jim Tressel was the best possible choice for the program. But that wasn’t quite so clear at the time.

    Athletic Director Andy Geiger went through a long list of possible candidates before officially hiring Tressel on January 18.

    So how different could things have turned out if Geiger went another direction?

    What happened
    By the time Cooper was officially canned on January 3, it was pretty clear that the program needed a change. The Buckeyes were just two seasons removed from an 11-1 campaign where they finished No. 2 in the nation, but had cratered badly in next two years.

    They went 6-6 and missed a bowl in 1999. The 2000 team started hot, winning its first five games and reaching No. 6 in the national polls. But a shocking 29-17 home loss to Minnesota sent the season into free-fall. Two weeks later, they lost to Drew Brees and Purdue.

    They closed the year by losing at home to Michigan, and in the Outback Bowl. That 5-0 start melted into a 3-4 finish.

    It was the sixth time in 12 seasons that Cooper had lost both The Game and the bowl game.

    Why had Cooper failed? The consensus at the time was that it had something to do with him being an outsider. He had no previous OSU ties, which meant to many people that he simply never understood the Michigan rivalry.

    It was no coincidence that the search for his successor centered on a number of names with previous OSU connections.

    Walt Harris had been an offensive coordinator under Cooper before taking the head coaching job at Pitt in 1997. He went 6-6 and 2-9 in his first two seasons, but seemed to have things trending in the right direction with a 5-6 mark in 1999 and a 7-5 record in 2000.

    Fred Pagac was a Buckeye through-and-through. He played tight end under Woody Hayes, and served as a grad assistant and assistant coach at OSU from 1978 to 2000. He had been the Assistant Head Coach in 2000, and was the logical choice if Geiger wanted to keep things in-house.

    Mason was an intriguing name as well. He had played linebacker for the Buckeyes under Hayes, and was then the head coach of Minnesota. You’ll recall that his Gophers had just pulled off that big upset in the Horseshoe a few months earlier. He had built Kansas into a 10-win team in 1995, and taken Minnesota from 3 wins to 5 to 8 in his first three seasons. The 2000 Gophers slipped back to 6-6, but there was no denying that he had built the program up significantly since he arrived.

    Former OSU linebacker Chris Spielman had no coaching background, but got an interview with Geiger anyway.

    Oklahoma’s Bob Stoops was a Youngstown native, and coming off a national championship in his second season with Oklahoma. He was never a serious candidate.

    There were other names in the mix as well, including Oregon head coach Mike Bellotti, who had absolutely no ties to Ohio State. Bellotti was one of the hot national coaching names that year, having taken Oregon from 6 wins in 1996 to 7 in 1997, 8 in 1998, 9 in 1999, and 10 in 2000.

    There have long been rumors that during Bellotti’s interview with Geiger, he asked if Ohio State and Michigan had to play every year. That story remains in the realm of the apocryphal, but if true, likely was the end of his candidacy.

    And because it was a coaching search in the 21st century, Jon Gruden’s name was mentioned as well. (Really!)

    And then there was Jim Tressel. He served as an OSU assistant under Earle Bruce, and had four Division 1-AA national championships to his credit at Youngstown State University: 1991, 1993, 1994, and 1997. But the Penguins took a step back to 6-5 in 1998, made the national championship game in 1999, and then flamed out of the first round of the playoffs in 2000.

    He had a championship history, but had he already peaked as a coach? It was a fair question.

    Geiger chose Tressel. That night he made a promise about something that would happen roughly 10 months in the future, and Buckeye football hasn’t been the same since.

    What could have happened
    Several other coaches made the trip to Columbus to interview with Geiger. Bellotti did, and so did Mason.

    What if Geiger was leery that Tressel was past his prime? What if he was wowed by the rebuilding job Mason did at Kansas, and the growth he had shown at Minnesota? He did just thump the Buckeyes in the Horseshoe, after all.

    With the benefit of hindsight, it sounds crazy. But at the time, it was a defensible position.

    So what happens if it was Mason addressing the crowd at the Ohio State-Michigan basketball game on the night of January 18, 2001?

    It’s doubtful he would have said anything with the staying power of Tressel’s “310 days” line.

    And then after that, it’s hard to imagine he would have been able to match Tressel’s on-field success, either.

    The 2001 Buckeyes start slowly, but gradually pick up traction. They finish a 7-5 year with an inspiring win over a not particularly strong Michigan team.

    Tressel, meanwhile has found a new home. After Notre Dame fired Bob Davie following the 2001 season, the Irish chose Tressel over Georgia Tech’s George O’Leary. He immediately scores a major recruiting win, convincing Youngstown-area native Maurice Clarett to join him in South Bend.

    Despite losing out on Clarett, the Buckeyes – just like the Gophers before them – follow Mason’s pattern of improvement, putting up a solid 10-win year, including another victory over the Wolverines. They suffer a few close losses after the Maurice Hall-led running game struggles in key moments.

    The 2003 team returns virtually everyone from the year before, but some bad luck leaves them at 10-2 again, this time with a loss to Michigan.

    There is a big step back in 2004, as a talented senior class heads off to the NFL. The Buckeyes finish the year just 8-4, and lose to the Wolverines again as starting quarterback Justin Zwick narrowly misses wide receiver Troy Smith on a slant route late in the red zone.

    https://theozone.net/2019/07/ohio-st...d-jim-tressel/

    Go Gophers!!


  2. #2
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    Always chuckle at “what if” scenarios. Honestly, articles like these seem to indicate IMO that someone is desperate or needs “filler”. In any event - I’ll play the “game” and suggest that “the” Ohio State University would have had the following:
    1. Fewer sweater vests worn on the sidelines,
    2. Glowing, porcelain veneer teeth to look at,
    3. An incredibly dominant running game full of OL cut blocking the crap out of their opponents, and
    4. A few heartbreaking losses which the fan base would deem unacceptable.

    Pure speculation of course.

  3. #3

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    What a weird world we live in where a guy can write stuff like that and get paid.

  4. #4

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    Quote Originally Posted by FredCoxRocks View Post
    What a weird world we live in where a guy can write stuff like that and get paid.
    I think What If scenarios are tremendously entertaining. Two feet in front of me on my bookshelf is one of my favorite books - "What If? The World's Foremost Military Historians Imagine What Might Have Been", which examines possible consequences if various battles throughout history had gone differently, from Xerxes to Alexander to Cortes to Robert E. Lee to Hitler and many others.

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by Urbandale View Post
    I think What If scenarios are tremendously entertaining. Two feet in front of me on my bookshelf is one of my favorite books - "What If? The World's Foremost Military Historians Imagine What Might Have Been", which examines possible consequences if various battles throughout history had gone differently, from Xerxes to Alexander to Cortes to Robert E. Lee to Hitler and many others.
    I get that - especially from an historical perspective - due to impact, in the case above, on millions of people, the shaping of nations, etc. I just chuckle at things that, on a much smaller scale, that are pretty much meaningless in the big picture. While I would enjoy a perennial football winner out of our state’s premier institution, it is small in scope in terms of affecting quality of life - in your above examples quality of life / life itself - would’ve been significantly different with different outcomes.
    I probably sound hypocritical but - it’s a discussion board. That book you mentioned would be one I would read.

  6. #6
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    I like Jim Tresssel, but do you think he has a real chance?
    Georgia Southern Option Football - often out weighed but seldom out played!
    www.gsufans.com

  7. #7
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    Probably in the minority here, but I think Mason would've done well in Columbus. Ohio State recruits itself and I think ultimately Mason had so many collapses because his defenses lacked depth, that would not be an issue in Columbus. He also would have the resources to go get a top DC so he could worry the offense

    Sent from my XT1650 using Tapatalk

  8. #8

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    Quote Originally Posted by FredCoxRocks View Post
    What a weird world we live in where a guy can write stuff like that and get paid.
    Better than the hot takes and guys just trolling around.

  9. #9

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    Tressel, right from the FCS ranks? That will never work!! Even with his many titles and .800 winning percentage, what has he proven in the JV ranks. You are better off hiring FBS snake oil salesmen like Say, Brewster, or taking MACion coaches with .500 records.
    Last edited by Herd; 07-02-2019 at 09:56 PM.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Herd View Post
    Tressel, right from the FCS ranks? That will never work!! Even with his many titles and .800 winning percentage, what has he proven in the JV ranks. You are better off hiring FBS snake oil salesmen like Say, Brewster, or taking MACion coaches with .500 records.
    How's Craig doing at Wyoming... Crickets

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  11. #11

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    OSU won it's Championship under Uncle Sweatervest, so there is no doubting that. Mason might have won at least one more, with his more wide open running game and a real defense backing him up.

    Had Mason been able to assemble a Blue Chip defense (not a strech) and pay a top DC at OSU he might still be there, with the talent there and his running game.

  12. #12

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    Quote Originally Posted by bemidjigopher View Post
    Probably in the minority here, but I think Mason would've done well in Columbus. Ohio State recruits itself and I think ultimately Mason had so many collapses because his defenses lacked depth, that would not be an issue in Columbus. He also would have the resources to go get a top DC so he could worry the offense

    Sent from my XT1650 using Tapatalk
    I agree with you. Mason would have been very energized and motivated by being in his dream job. Think of the run game they put together here, now sub in the talent they would have had access to at Ohio State, could have been really scary.

    Regardless of how he would have done there, not getting the job killed his motivation to be here as he 100% viewed Minnesota as a stepping stone to Ohio State at the time. Not getting hired there effectively ended his desire for coaching at the time and it was the start of things going downhill for him here leading to his eventual firing.

  13. #13

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    tl;dr but I think Mason would have done great at Ohio State.

  14. #14

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    Quote Originally Posted by oak_street1981 View Post
    OSU won it's Championship under Uncle Sweatervest, so there is no doubting that. Mason might have won at least one more, with his more wide open running game and a real defense backing him up.

    Had Mason been able to assemble a Blue Chip defense (not a strech) and pay a top DC at OSU he might still be there, with the talent there and his running game.
    I’ve been assured by multiple old gopher fans that Gordy Shaw was the reason the run game was good. Mason would’ve had a terrible run game without him. If Brewster would’ve kept him he would still be the coach....


    Sarcasm

  15. #15

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    Quote Originally Posted by bemidjigopher View Post
    How's Craig doing at Wyoming... Crickets

    Sent from my XT1650 using Tapatalk
    Not sure Saban could win at Wyo.

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