As insane as it would have been to believe last Monday, it’s up in the air whether or not Urban Meyer is the Ohio State head coach moving forward. As long as Meyer’s status is up in the air, there will be rumors about Meyer’s possible replacement.
And for as long as those rumors exist, they will center around Iowa State’s Matt Campbell.
The math here is so simple your first grader could do it. Campbell doesn’t have any direct connection to Ohio State or Meyer (which would be a positive if Meyer is indeed pushed out), but he’s a born-and-bred Ohio Football Guy. The son of a successful high school football coach, Campbell won three state titles at Massillon’s Perry High School, then won three national championships as a defensive lineman at Mount Union.
He went into coaching as a graduate assistant at Bowling Green and spent the next dozen years in Ohio — from BG to Mount Union, from Mount Union back to BG, and then from BG to Toledo — where he went 35-15 as head coach for four seasons. That success led him to Iowa State, where he followed a 3-9 debut with an 8-5 breakthrough in 2017, scoring upsets over Oklahoma and TCU and the Cyclones’ first bowl win since 2009.
Campbell’s original contract made him untouchable with an $9.4 million buyout, but last year’s success earned the 38-year-old a new contract. Campbell’s new deal boosted his salary from $2.1 million to $3.5 million, but, even more crucially, did not increase his buyout. The buyout on Campbell’s original deal would have been around $7.2 million for the 2018 season, and the new deal dropped it to a flat $7 million. That’s not cheap by any means, but it’s not out of the question for anyone coveting a 38-year-old who’s already been named Coach of the Year in two separate conferences.
It’s long been thought Campbell has put himself in position to wait out one of the Big 3 in the Midwest — Ohio State, Michigan, Notre Dame — and now one of those jobs may be on his doorstep.
All that said, it was inevitable Campbell would be asked his thoughts on the goings on in Columbus and, as Iowa State opened training camp on Friday, the inevitable arrived.
Campbell told the Des Moines Register he’s “never going to talk about what’s going on at other schools or other universities.”
“My sole purpose in my job is to focus on, No. 1, our football players. No. 2, our coaching staff; No. 3, our fans base; and No. 4, the future of our football program. I think a lot of you guys know me. I think a lot of you guys know what I stand for. I’ve always said this: You’re either somebody in this profession who’s trying to either be somebody or try to do something. And I think over the last two-and-a-half years, I’ve proven that my whole, sole mission is to be here and to do something.
“And so, with that said, as we go forward, I have the utmost respect for you and the job you have to do, but I’ll only answer questions that pertain to our program, Iowa State football and our future. Fair enough?”
There’s one way for Campbell (or any other coach) to shut down any and all job speculation: “I’m going to be at (insert current school here) next season. Period. End of discussion.” That answer kills the speculation, and anything else just prolongs it.
To be fair, this is not the time for Campbell to issue such a quote. There is no Ohio State opening, and there may not ever be one. It would be inappropriate for Campbell to comment on a job that, at present, belongs to Urban Meyer.
But, should Meyer not remain the Ohio State coach, the onus to address the elephant in the room will come in due time.