A job fair
Atlanta place to be for Ohio St. hopefuls, others
By John Donovan, CNNSI.com
ATLANTA -- When you put 5,000 football coaches together, in one city, and let them talk about football, football jobs and other football coaches, what you inevitably get is a political convention's worth of hot air and overstatement. A veritable campaign season's worth of rhetoric.
There's Lou Holtz, declaring "I don't think there's a more awesome responsibility than to be called 'coach,'" and Bob Stoops expressing his all-out and almost undying love for Oklahoma. Bobby Bowden is somewhere around, too, interviewing coaches for maybe the most attractive non-head coaching job around, Florida State's offensive coordinator spot.
The American Football Coaches Association convention, spread out over two downtown Atlanta hotels, is just two days into its half-a-week run and the coaches are already at their back-slapping, fist-pumping, chest-thumping best.
Maybe no one in the football coaching business has pumped more fists and had his back slapped more this week than Stoops, the 40-year-old OU coach fresh off winning the national championship game. Stoops, of course, is hot not only because he beat Florida State in the Orange Bowl. That would be reason enough.
Stoops also is big because his name keeps getting dropped whenever the subject of the head coaching vacancy at Ohio State pops up. It is THE hot job left on the college market this season. Others have been mentioned for the position, most notably Minnesota coach and former Ohio State assistant Glen Mason and Youngstown State coach Jim Tressel.
But none has the mystery, the possibility, the far out strangeness of a Stoops-to-Columbus move. Win the national title and bolt? Could it really happen?
The prevailing thought around the AFCA convention is ... probably not. But if Stoops and Ohio State -- either together or separately -- are not the talk of this convention, they are at least making for nice lobby chatter.
"You listen to everybody," Stoops said Monday, still clearly not closing the door all the way on an Ohio State overture. "But I don't see where I'd go anywhere."There could still be a Stoops in Columbus. Bob Stoops said OSU called Oklahoma for permission to speak with his brother Mike, the Sooners' co-defensive coordinator.
"I seem to be pretty popular to a lot of people," Bob Stoops said. "But there's nobody more like me than him."
Asked if he would advise his brother to take the job if offered, Stoops said, ""Absolutely. Ohio State is a great program. It's one of the best jobs in the country."
And then there's Mason, sitting at the same luncheon table as Stoops. Both, possibly, are candidates for the same job. Minnesota officials have given Ohio State athletic director Andy Geiger permission to talk to their coach.
"My official line," says Mason, who has had more than enough time to establish an official line, "is that I have not met with Ohio State and I am STILL the coach at Minnesota ... that's it."
Meanwhile, out in the lobby sits John Cooper, the deposed and disposed of Ohio State coach, fired last week yet still among the coaches around this week. He's here this week to help out some of his assistants swept out in the Buckeyes bloodletting.
"I'm not down here seeking a position," he told the Columbus Dispatch. "I'm here to help my coaches."
No one knows for sure, yet, who will land at Ohio State. It's unclear whether Geiger is even in town to interview potential candidates. The lobby scuttlebutt is that he is, though if that's true, he's certainly keeping a low profile.
While the Ohio State saga plays itself out, many other coaches, from high school to college and even into some pro leagues, are working the lobbies looking to find a job, or at least a better one. Resumes and business cards are posted on a bulletin board in the lobby of one of the hotels.
The convention is a great place to interview potential assistants, too, as Bowden is doing. And, maybe, to get a line on some players. The Quad City Steamwheelers (arenafootball2), according to a posting on the bulletin board, are looking for a starting quarterback. Contact assistant coach Brian Schwartzee.
Somewhere, too, real football is being discussed. How to coach special teams. How to coach kickers. There's a discussion on North Dakota State's eight-man front.
All the while, jobs are never far from the thoughts of coaches. Who's going where? Who has an opening? Did you hear so-and-so was let go?
"I don't think coaching is about jumping from here to there," South Carolina's Holtz said in his keynote speech Monday.
Well, maybe not all of it. But it's definitely in there somewhere.