What a difference a few games — or maybe even one pass — can make! After Ohio State lost a home game to Michigan State by the grim score of 10-7, then blew a big lead and lost at Nebraska, the Buckeye Nation was ready to run head coach Luke Fickell out of town on a rail. Now that the Buckeyes have beaten undefeated Illinois and downed mighty Wisconsin on an improbable, last-second pass from Braxton Miller, Columbus is abuzz with talk about whether Coach Fickell should be hired permanently.
A labor economist would tell you that, in making a hiring decision, you need to consider the knowledges, skills, attributes, and other characteristics that are required to do the job well. The head football coach at one of the nation’s premier college programs obviously must know about football, but there’s a lot more that also is required. Can he recruit talented players? Can he run a clean program that avoids the NCAA embarrassment that has bedeviled the Buckeyes for the past year? Can he motivate his players, coach them up to higher levels of performance, and figure out how they can best help the team? Can he impress and inspire when he speaks to the news media, the boosters, and the small-town touchdown clubs?
Luke Fickell was dealt a horrible hand when he took over the Ohio State program and began the season with the distraction of ongoing NCAA issues and with his best offensive player and the core of his offensive unit unavailable. He’s played the hand reasonably well, but there is still a lot of the story of the Buckeyes’ 2011 season yet to be written. After the regular season is over, there will be plenty of time for reflection and consideration of whether Coach Fickell really has the qualities we want in our head football coach.