Rob Oller's Second Thoughts: Ohio State football hiring Joe Philbin makes sense

Rob Oller
The Columbus Dispatch
Joe Philpin was the Dolphins' head coach from 2012-2015.

To paraphrase Yogi Berra, “It gets late early in Buckeye Nation,” which is a way of saying it’s never too soon to talk Ohio State football, even if the season doesn’t begin for another 99 days.

At first glance, OSU coach Ryan Day hiring Joe Philbin as offensive analyst – a job that blends graduate assistant, advance scout and numbers cruncher – is a bit of a head-scratcher. After all, offense wasn’t the big problem last season. Defense dropped the ball in losses against Michigan and Georgia.

Day is an offensive mastermind, so why call in the cavalry on that side of the ball?

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∙ Day seems to feel most comfortable hiring “thinkers,” coaches who process information analytically but also have the ability to get their messages across. Defensive coordinator Jim Knowles fits that bill, as does Philbin. Day trusts smart guys, or at least guys who coached at smart places. Philbin has worked at Tulane and Harvard; Knowles coached at Cornell and Duke. Day also is not big on loose cannons. Philbin and Knowles are low-maintenance. 

∙ Philbin knows OSU offensive coordinator Brian Hartline from his days with the Miami Dolphins, where Philbin was head coach from 2012-2015 and Hartline played wide receiver. That connection should help communication between the two as Philbin comes in to hold Hartline’s hand in his new role running the offense.   

∙ Day has hinted at stepping back from the daily minutia of organizing the offense so he can concentrate on bigger picture planning as CEO of the program. Hiring Philbin, who has nearly 40 years of coaching experience, allows Day to relax knowing a steady veteran hand is in the room.

∙ The offensive line is the biggest question mark entering 2023, and the bulk of Philbin’s experience is coaching the line. Day likely has decided two sets of eyes are better than one, with offensive line coach Justin Frye being the other pair. Protecting the quarterback is job No. 1, especially with a new QB – either Kyle McCord or Devin Brown – at the controls.

Jul 26, 2022; Indianapolis, IN, USA;  Big Ten commissioner Kevin Warren talks to the media during Big 10 football media days at Lucas Oil Stadium.

Kevin Warren bailed on the Big Ten

Former Big Ten commissioner Kevin Warren got off to a rocky start at the beginning of his tenure, fumbling his way through the COVID-19 football scheduling mess, before recovering by helping bring Southern California and UCLA into the conference and negotiating a multibillion-dollar TV deal. 

But turns out he stumbled over the finish line. 

According to ESPN, Warren frustrated Big Ten administrators and coaches by failing to communicate about scheduling November night games, and also by leaving too many loose ends in the TV deal before exiting in January to become team president and CEO of the Chicago Bears.   

The conference needs to pay back nearly $40 million to Fox because Warren delivered the Big Ten championship game to NBC in 2026 without full authority to do so, ESPN reported. 

Warren also promised NBC November night games some Big Ten schools never wanted, according to ESPN. Ohio State, Michigan and Penn State pushed back, leaving new commissioner Tony Petitti scrambling to keep both the network and schools happy. Ohio State and Penn State ultimately relented, with the Buckeyes hosting a night game against Michigan State Nov. 11 and Penn State playing MSU at night on Nov. 24 at Detroit’s Ford Field.

I asked Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith for his thoughts on how Warren handled things at the end.

His response? “Pass thanks.”

Clippers honoring Columbus Blue Birds

A nice touch. The Clippers have partnered with the Indianapolis Indians to celebrate Black History Month by honoring the Columbus Blue Birds and Indianapolis ABCs that played in the Negro Leagues.  

The Clippers will honor the Blue Birds by wearing specialty jerseys against Indianapolis on Sunday at Huntington Park; the Indians will wear ABC jerseys and caps. The Negro Leagues recognition will continue June 20-24 when the teams wear the same throwback uniforms at Victory Field in Indianapolis. Both teams will auction off the game-worn, autographed jerseys to benefit Clippers and Indians charities. 

May 21, 2023; Rochester, New York, USA; Michael Block reacts as he walks up to the 18th green during the final round of the PGA Championship golf tournament at Oak Hill Country Club. Mandatory Credit: Adam Cairns-USA TODAY Sports

Listening in

“Oh my god, what I would shoot from where Rory (McIlroy) hits, it would be stupid. I think I’d be one of the best players in the world. Hands down. If I had that stupid length? All day. My iron game, wedge game, around the greens and my putting is world class.” – Club pro and PGA Championship sensation Michael Block, who then went out and shot 81 at Colonial on Thursday, good for last place. 

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Former Dispatch sports writer Bob Baptist receives an autographed photo and a handshake from Jack Nicklaus during  a press conference for The Memorial Tournament at Muirfield Village Golf Club in Dublin on June 3, 2015. Baptist retired last month. (Adam Cairns / The Columbus Dispatch)


I’m a sucker for “Where are they now?” stories, so consider this a public service to older readers of The Dispatch. Over the past decade, three colleagues retired from the paper (as opposed to leaving for other jobs or taking buyouts): former columnist Bob Hunter, former Ohio State men’s basketball/golf reporter Bob Baptist and former Ohio State women’s basketball reporter Jim Massie, who also covered the Reds.

Where are they now? 

Hunter, who clearly still has ‘it,’ told me, “Spend most of my time trying not to help current columnists in any way, in a pathetic hope that it will somehow make me look better by comparison.”

Catching up with Hunter also allowed him to "plug the Columbus Historical Society’s new journal, 'Columbus History,' which is free to all members, and my book 'The Road to Wapatomica – a modern search for the Old Northwest.' "

Bob Hunter poses for a mug shot in the portrait studio at the Columbus Dispatch Studio in Columbus, Ohio on October 18, 2011. (Columbus Dispatch photo by Brooke LaValley)

Hunts is doing just fine, folks.

Baptist, who works with the Memorial Tournament on updating its record book, texted he is temporarily sidelined from his volunteer construction activities while awaiting a hip replacement.

“Turned 70 (Tuesday),” he wrote. “But declined to post it on Facebook.”


Jim Massie

“I’m seated at the Old Mohawk bar (in German Village) with a cold Moosehead in front of me and pondering if I’ll be here long enough to watch the Triple-A Reds take another stab at playing ball.”

Man, do I miss working with these guys.