U waits; Mason still a prospect for coaching position at Ohio State

The University’s men’s athletics department is in a holding pattern.
Football coach Glen Mason is waiting. Men’s athletics director Tom Moe is waiting. Gophers players, assistant coaches and fans are waiting.
They’re all eager to see what will happen to the coaching vacancy at Ohio State, which opened Jan. 2 when the Buckeyes fired coach John Cooper.
In the past two weeks, Mason’s name has come up quite often as a leading candidate for the job at his alma mater.
Mason confirmed he was interviewed for the job by Ohio State athletic director Andy Geiger while in Atlanta last week for the American Football Coaches Association convention, although he downplayed their meeting.
“I don’t know if it was an interview or more of just a conversation,” Mason said.
Moe, who granted permission for Ohio State officials to contact Mason, was unavailable for comment Monday afternoon.
Mason said whether he will take the job if offered, or even be offered the job at all, was “speculation.”
“I don’t make a habit of speculating on things,” Mason said, just two weeks after the Gophers lost to North Carolina State 38-30 in the Micronpc.com Bowl.
But speculate is what Ohio State fans — and media — in Columbus love to do about their beloved Buckeyes, and so they have.
Other names rumored to be in the running with Mason include Oregon’s Mike Bellotti and Youngstown State’s Jim Tressel.
Bellotti, who at this point might be the favorite for the job, was reportedly seen on Ohio’s campus Monday visiting with Geiger.
On Sunday, however, Geiger wouldn’t confirm any of the people who are still in the running for the position.
“I won’t get into names,” Geiger said. “There are people involved who don’t want their name in the paper. You have to coax these things along. This is a fairly important decision.”
Geiger also said he expects the search to go on for “a few more days,” meaning a new coach should be in place by the end of the week, if not sooner.
“It’s not dragging,” Geiger said. “There are a lot of things involved — reference checking, background checking.”
So if Mason is offered the job in the coming days, why would he want to leave Minnesota after signing a seven-year, $7 million contract last summer?
Obviously Mason has connections there, but a good deal of it has to do with recognition.
In Minnesota the Gophers football team takes a back seat to the Vikings. That isn’t the case in Columbus, where Ohio State football is the talk of the town 12 months a year.
Upon returning to the Twin Cities Thursday, Mason was met by several media members at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.
After a brief and informal press conference, Mason continued on his way.
That’s when several onlookers approached the media and asked who they were talking to. Such inquires wouldn’t likely take place in Buckeye country.
Ohio State treats their football coaches and players like they are at Cheers — everybody knows their names.
Mason soon could be one of those names.
In other men’s athletics news
Thirteen Minnesota football players were suspended Dec. 20 for illegal use of an athletic department long-distance access code.
The players were not allowed back on the team until they repaid the school for about $420 in charges, which they all did before the Micronpc.com Bowl on Dec. 28.
However, only 12 of the 13 players involved in the misuse of the access code were allowed to make the trip to Miami. Gophers coach Glen Mason said one player was “eliminated” for other reasons.
The 13 players were suspended after a preliminary investigation conducted by Frank Kara, the athletic compliance director, found improper calls were made from Aug. 29 to Nov. 29. At least 1,500 calls costing more than $1,600 were made by the athletes and five other students.
Mason and University General Counsel Mark Rotenberg did not name the involved athletes, citing the Buckley Amendment. The amendment prohibits university officials from naming or discussing anyone involved in a student disciplinary matter.
The players admitted to using the calling code, which was taken from an athletics staff member at the Bierman Complex or one of the other university athletic complexes, but denied knowing it was only for University-authorized use. Three of the players charged more than $100 while one charged about a $1.30.
— The Associated Press contributed to this report.

John R. Carter covers football and men’s basketball and welcomes comments at [email protected]