Ayers on the hot seat, future will be decided soon

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Ohio State President Gordon Gee said Sunday that Randy Ayers’ future as the school’s men’s basketball coach will be decided in the next few days by athletics director Andy Geiger.
“I think you can expect something within the next week,” Gee said. “As to the ultimate decision, I’m sure that’s something that Andy will be wrestling with tonight and tomorrow … I don’t think the decision has ultimately been made, but it’ll be made quickly.”
Geiger declined to comment before Ohio State’s season-ending game Sunday with Michigan. The Buckeyes lost 86-81 in overtime, ending their season with a 10-17 mark. It was the fourth straight losing season for Ohio State, the first time that’s happened in the school’s 98 years of basketball.
Asked if he could talk about the Ayers situation, Geiger said, “We’ll talk later this week. There’s lots of time to talk.”
In his postgame comments, Ayers confirmed that he would be meeting with Geiger and associate athletic director Miechelle Willis later this week, but would not reveal when the meeting will take place.
“I look forward to talking to Miechelle and Andy,” he said. “I’m proud of my ball club and we’ll take it from there.”
Ayers, who also spent six years as an assistant coach before succeeding Gary Williams, said he would like to be back next season.
“I’ve put 14 years into Ohio State. I love it and my family loves it,” he said.
Ayers is 124-108 in his eight seasons as a head coach. He was the national coach of the year and the Big Ten Conference coach of the year twice while winning back-to-back conference titles in 1991 and 1992.
Since then, the Buckeyes have been ravaged by losses on the court, behavior problems off it and an NCAA probation as a result of 17 violations.
Ayers said before the season that Geiger had told him the Buckeyes must show improvement from their 1995-96 record of 10-17 overall and 3-15 in the Big Ten. The Buckeyes finished 10-17 overall and 5-13 in the Big Ten this year.
“If you look at our players individually this year, everybody made strides,” Ayers said after the game. “I was happy with the effort the guys gave.”
Gee said the terms of the improvement were specific.
“Andy did give — and I know this to be true — he did give Randy very clear criteria. And it was not `improvement.’ It was a very clear set of expectations that our basketball team should perform at a certain level. That’s different than improvement. There would certainly be improvement if we met those criteria,” Gee said.
Gee said his feelings toward Ayers should not enter into the evaluation of the coach’s performance.
“Let me say this. Randy has been the coach of the men’s basketball team since I’ve been here. I have enormous personal affection for Randy. I toured South Africa with him just last summer. In that time we became close personally,” Gee said.
“But we have had four very tough seasons. This is the longest losing streak in the history of this university in terms of not going to the NCAA tournament and not meeting a set of expectations. The truth of the matter is Ohio State for years both in men’s and women’s basketball has set the standard. We’re not now.”
Ohio State’s women’s program also has fallen on hard times, finishing in the bottom half of the Big Ten for the last four seasons. There are rumors that coach Nancy Darsch’s job also may be in jeopardy.
Men’s basketball attendance is at its lowest point in 20 years. The Buckeyes averaged 10,563 fans per game this season in 13,276-seat St. John Arena. Ohio State moves into 19,500-seat Value City Arena in the fall of 1998. Sales of seat licenses for the new arena, some for as much as $5,000 per seat, have lagged while construction continues on the $84 million building.
Other construction projects on campus, or on the drawing board, have put additional strains on the athletic budget — including a new baseball stadium and renovations to Ohio Stadium. But Gee said attendance was only a peripheral measure of Ayers’ job performance.
“I think if you perform at a certain level, they (fans) will come,” he said. “You don’t have to deal with attendance issues.”