(The school later announced the hiring on Friday afternoon.)
Schiano sat out the past two seasons after getting fired in Tampa Bay in 2013 with an 11–21 record. He’d worked this season as an NFL analyst for ESPN, which first reported the story. Schiano is not expected to coach in the Fiesta Bowl against Notre Dame.
The hiring is a splash for Ohio State coach Urban Meyer, with Schiano replacing co-defensive coordinator Chris Ash after Ash’s departure to become Rutgers’s head coach last week. Schiano was linked to multiple open jobs during this cycle, including USC, South Carolina, UCF and Miami. The new job will mark a return to Schiano’s roots, as he worked as a defensive coordinator at Miami before becoming the Rutgers head coach in 2001. Schiano will run the defense with co-coordinator Luke Fickell, who has been on the Buckeyes staff since 1999.
Schiano and Meyer are close friends both personally and professionally. They got to know each other after years of spending time together on the annual Nike trips. Meyer considers Schiano one of his closest friends, and Schiano is expected to help Meyer as a veteran sounding board for running the program. Schiano took a handful of trips to Columbus to observe practices and talk with the defensive coaches there during the past two years. Meyer’s background is on the offensive side of the ball, so he’d often pick Schiano’s brain about defense. (Patriots coach Bill Belichick is another Schiano confidant who speaks with him frequently.)
Schiano led Rutgers to six bowl games during his 11 seasons there, and his turnaround job at one of the country’s most hapless programs is considered one of the most impressive in the past generation. Schiano went 56–33 there during his final seven years from 2005 to ’11, earning a good enough reputation in the industry that he turned down jobs at Miami and Michigan.
Along with his experience and defensive expertise, Schiano will offer the Buckeyes a huge boost on the recruiting trail. Schiano is well connected in New Jersey, where he won the approval of the veteran high school coaches during his time at Rutgers. He also built Rutgers through recruiting in South Florida, where he has strong ties to the major high school programs.
Schiano spent the past two years traveling the country to study other programs in preparation for his return to coaching. That included extensive time with the New England Patriots and also college programs like Ohio State, Alabama and Arkansas. He sat down for an extensive interview with SI’s The MMQB last year and spoke in detail about how he’d evolve his coaching philosophy when he returned. He stepped back and explored his whole approach: “I’m not that freewheeling, but I can appreciate that in a guy,” he said last year. “I need to do that more.”
Schiano will inherit a defense that is expected to lose many of its key cogs, as junior stars Darron Lee, Joey Bosa and Vonn Bell are all expected to declare for the NFL draft. The loss of Ohio State’s best linebacker, lineman and safety to early entry will leave a talent void for the Buckeyes, who will also lose star defensive lineman Adolphus Washington and linebacker Josh Perry.