Ohio State answered one big question Wednesday among several uncertainties about the upcoming 2011 football season: Who will coach while Jim Tressel is suspended?
OSU announced Wednesday that co-defensive coordinator and linebacker coach, Fickell, has been promoted to assistant head coach. Fickell will serve as interim head coach during Tressel’s five-game suspension to start the season.
Fickell will retain his role as linebackers coach and co-defensive coordinator, OSU athletic director Gene Smith said in a press release.
“I am humbled and excited about the opportunity,” Fickell said. “I’m truly proud to be able to stand up here and accept this role.”
Fickell spoke to reporters, but offered few details on how the coaching roles would change for next year.
“We coach by committee. It never has been, never will be about one person in particular,” Fickell said. “This is still Coach Tressel’s team.”
Fickell spoke about the struggles that will come along with Tressel’s five-game absence.
“It will be difficult,” Fickell said. “We have to know whose team it is. It’s our team. It’s the seniors’ team.”
Tressel acknowledged that it will be hard. He said OSU deserves his time 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
“This year,” he said, “it may be 24/6.”
Fickell is a Columbus native and a 1997 graduate of OSU. He played nose guard for the Buckeyes from 1992–96. He redshirted his first year and started the remaining four.
Fickell said he was honored to have this kind of opportunity at his alma mater.
This is Fickell’s 10th year on staff at OSU, with his responsibilities ranging from overseeing the punt team to being co-defensive coordinator.
“A final version of Fickell’s updated contract has not been completed,” the university said in a press release.
The university suspended Tressel for five games for not reporting known NCAA violations to superiors. Terrelle Pryor and four other players received improper benefits by selling memorabilia and receiving discounted tattoos in 2009.
Athletic department spokeswoman Shelly Poe said OSU is awaiting the results of an ongoing NCAA investigation, and no questions regarding the investigation could be answered.
Poe also acknowledged that the university has become aware of allegations from an HBO “Real Sports” report that former recruit Anthony McClover said he received sexual favors while on an official team visit in 2003. Poe would not say whether OSU would be investigating this and that said the university will not comment on the matter until more information is known.
Tressel took the opportunity at the spring practice press conference to again publicly apologize.
“The largest regrets I’ve had, have been when I’ve disappointed people, when I’ve let people down,” Tressel said. “The mistakes I’ve made are very disappointing. Certainly, I‘m sorry for that.
Tressel said he has received encouragement from many people throughout the ordeal.
“The strongest inspiration I’ve gotten has been from our tremendous administration, our staff and most especially, our team,” Tressel said.
OSU will begin spring football practice today, and Tressel said he is looking forward to how the new team is going to look.
“We’re excited that spring begins tomorrow. We begin that focus on these 2011 Buckeyes,” he said. “It’s going to be a little different team; there are a lot of new faces.”