Buckeyes can talk to Mason
Minnesota's head coach is an Ohio State alumnus
Updated: Saturday January 06, 2001 8:27 AM
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- Minnesota has given Ohio State permission to talk to Golden Gophers head football coach Glen Mason about the Buckeyes' coaching position, but Pittsburgh will not allow coach Walt Harris to meet with Ohio State.
"[Ohio State athletic director] Andy Geiger said he'd like to talk to our football coach, and I said I was not going to stand in the way of doing that," Minnesota athletic director Tom Moe said Friday. "I don't know any more than that."
Geiger did not get a favorable response from Pitt.
"Late today, I was contacted by Ohio State, which requested permission to talk to Walt Harris," athletics director Steve Pederson said. "Consistently, coach Harris has said he's happy and excited to be at Pitt, and he is not looking to leave.
"In that vein, and in the best interest of our program, I have denied Ohio State permission to talk with him. I have talked with coach Harris in depth, and he is comfortable with the position we have taken."
The Buckeyes fired John Cooper on Tuesday, one day after a 27-7 loss to South Carolina in the Outback Bowl. Ohio State will pay Cooper $1.8 million to buy out the last three years of his contract, which paid him more than $1 million per season.
Mason, a former Ohio State player and assistant coach, and Harris, a former Cooper assistant, were thought to be two of the top candidates on Geiger's list of possible replacement.
Geiger did not return a message seeking comment left Friday night.
Moe said he had "no idea" when Ohio State officials would contact Mason. But, Moe added, "If there's anything I can do to see that he stays, I will."
Minnesota spokesman Bill Crumley said Mason told him he would be unavailable for comment.
Mason played on Woody Hayes' 1970 Big Ten championship team at Ohio State. He later coached at the school under Hayes and Earle Bruce from 1978-85.
Mason recently signed a seven-year contract with Minnesota worth about $1 million a year. His contract has no buyout clause, but if he leaves before the end of the deal he would forfeit an incentive package worth about $2 million.
Minnesota finished the regular season 6-5, then lost to North Carolina State 38-30 in the Micronpc.com Bowl.
Harris, who in four seasons has coached Pitt to its only two bowl appearances in 11 years, was Ohio State's quarterbacks coach before being hired by Pitt in 1997.
In March, Harris signed a long-term contract with Pitt worth about $600,000 per season through 2006.
Traditionally, schools allow their coaches permission to talk with other schools -- even those with long-term contracts -- if only to prevent possibly having a disgruntled employee.
However, with Pitt coming off its first winning season since 1991 -- the Panthers were 7-4 before losing to Iowa State in the Insight.com Bowl -- Pederson clearly did not want to change coaches.
"He and I, along with the entire university community, are excited moving this program forward, and complete a great recruiting year," Pederson said.
Ohio State also may ask for permission to speak with Bob Stoops, coach of national champion Oklahoma and a Youngstown, Ohio, native, ESPN has reported.