As the Ohio State basketball coaching search begins to unfold, I'm struck by a simple question.
Do you think OSU wants to be great in men's basketball?
The obvious answer is, yes, because OSU men's hoops is the only sport besides football that makes money for the school's gargantuan athletic program.
But the report from ESPN's Jeff Goodman that OSU has offered the job to Creighton's Gregg McDermott suggests the answer is an emphatic, no.
McDermott is, by all accounts, a very nice guy. But the best player he's ever recruited in seven years at Creighton was his son, Doug. And before going to Creighton, McDermott had four losing records in four seasons at Iowa State, where the Cyclones hadn't had back-to-back losing seasons in 15 years before his arrival.
But maybe McDermott's blah record doesn't matter. Maybe the Nice Guy box is the first item that must be checked to get hired here. Maybe OSU athletic director Gene Smith doesn't want an alpha who'll be in his office regularly, pounding the table for additional resources to make Ohio State basketball elite.
Maybe Gene wants a guy who's thrilled to be at OSU, ecstatic to be making $2 million or more per-year, unwilling to rock the boat and certainly not given to voicing jealousy toward the school's football program.
Maybe the thought of paying a men's basketball coach comparable money to the $6 million-plus that Urban Meyer makes is a precedent Smith, a football player and assistant coach at Notre Dame before he entered athletic administration, can't philosophically embrace.
After all, OSU football makes the most money, so its coach should get the biggest salary, right?
In every other profession, the person with the harder job gets the largest paycheck.
Winning at Ohio State in football is infinitely easier than winning at OSU in basketball. It's not even close.
The Buckeyes' tradition and budget makes it virtually impossible for any coach who knows the difference between a whistle and a yard marker to win 9 or more games each season.
That's not to say Meyer isn't elite in his profession or that he's overpaid. He's either first or second in his sport's hierarchy, and he's worth every dollar -- actually more -- than OSU is paying him.
But the next basketball coach can only wish that star recruits in the state would grow up with the same devotion to OSU hoops that exists in high school football in the state.
Any talented prep football recruit who Ohio State wants also faces enormous pressure from fans and friends to play in Columbus. That same pressure doesn't begin to exist in basketball.
The depth in the Big Ten is far better in men's hoops than it is in football.
So basketball is a much harder job in many ways than football, and thus an argument could be made that it should pay at least as much as OSU pays its football coach.
Hiring Gregg McDermott would be a collosal failure by Gene Smith and OSU. Hiring anyone short of Chris Mack, Sean Miller, Billy Donovan or Brad Stevens would be underachieving.
Pay whatever it takes. Make it impossible for them to say no.
Unless you don't care.
Which is how it looks.
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