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Jan. 18, 2001

By RUSTY MILLER
AP Sports Writer

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) – Ohio State apparently has settled on a coach – Jim Tressel – and it didn’t have to travel far to find him.

Tressel, who guided Youngstown State to four I-AA national championships in 15 seasons, will be introduced on Thursday as the Buckeyes’ new coach, according to several media reports.

WTVN-AM and WBNS-TV quoted unidentified sources in the Ohio State athletic department as confirming Tressel’s selection, and The Columbus Dispatch’s Web site also reported that the 48-year-old Tressel would replace the fired John Cooper. The Web site also said the Buckeyes were expected to hold a news conference on Thursday.

On Tuesday, Tressel and his wife, Ellen, were in Columbus touring the Ohio State campus. Tressel met with the school’s advisory committee and also spent 90 minutes with Ohio State president William Kirwan.

On Wednesday, Tressel returned to Youngstown State, less than 200 miles from Columbus, and told his players of his interest in the Buckeyes. By late afternoon, Tressel had left and a school spokesman said he did not know where the coach was headed.

Tressel, 135-57-2 with the Penguins, also served as the school’s athletic director. He is moving to the I-A level for the first time.

After Oakland Raiders coach Jon Gruden joined Oregon’s Mike Bellotti in dropping out of contention, Tressel and Minnesota coach Glen Mason were the finalists.

Mason took the full tour of the school on Wednesday. Mason said his meeting with Kirwan went “great.”

The hiring capped a 16-day search that finally settled on one of the top two candidates from the beginning.

Tressel was expected to sign a multiyear contract paying him around $1 million a year.

Others who either interviewed or spoke with Ohio State officials about the job included current Buckeye assistant head coach Fred Pagac, former Ohio State and NFL linebacker Chris Spielman and Stanford coach Tyrone Willingham.

Cooper was fired on Jan. 2 after Ohio State lost 24-7 to South Carolina in the Outback Bowl. Cooper was 111-43-4, shared three Big Ten titles and played in bowls in 11 of his 13 seasons.

But he was 3-8 in those bowl games and just 2-10-1 against Ohio State’s chief rival, Michigan. And in Columbus, the annual showdown with the Wolverines is called “The Game.”

Tressel’s Youngstown State teams won national titles in 1991, 1993, 1994 and 1997 – the most for a coach in I-AA history – and had 12 winning seasons.

In an interview last week, Tressel said the pressures at a I-AA program were different from those at a Big Ten power – but were pressures nonetheless.

“At Youngstown State right now, we’re supposed to win 15 games in a row and we’re supposed to have 20,000 people happy in the seats and a half-a-million people in our market happy,” he said. “At Ohio State, you’re supposed to win 12 straight games and keep 98,000 people happy in the stands and 13 million people in the state of Ohio happy. Both are pretty hard.”

Tressel took over the Penguins in 1986. After going 2-9 in his first season, Tressel guided the Penguins to their first I-AA playoff appearance with an 8-4 mark the next season and won the Ohio Valley Conference title.