LOS ANGELES — When defensive coordinator Greg Schiano came to Ohio State in 2016, he didn’t come because of the reputation of the program.
After coaching his sons at Berkeley Preparatory School in Tampa, Florida in the years following his brief stint in the NFL as head coach of the Buccaneers, Schiano didn’t plan on returning as a college or professional coach for at least a few more years.
Urban Meyer changed that.
“I came to Ohio State to coach for Urban Meyer, and I didn’t know a ton about Ohio State, but I knew a ton about Urban Meyer.” Schiano said. “I was coaching high school football and doing TV. And my plan was to do it until my sons graduated and then get back to college or pro coaching, whatever it was. Then Urban called, and, as persuasive as he is, I ended up at Ohio State.”
Following three seasons working together, Meyer and Schiano will share the sideline one more time during the Rose Bowl on Jan. 1 before Meyer moves to an assistant athletic director position and Ryan Day takes over as head coach.
Schiano’s future now appears uncertain, though the defensive coordinator said he won’t be concerned about it until after the upcoming matchup against Washington.
“I don’t worry about that,” Schiano said. “I’m excited about the future of Ohio State. We’re going to see where that all — after the game is when we’re going to deal with all that stuff. So I’m not overly concerned with any of it.”
But Schiano never sounded confident in his return to a program he said he loves, always prefacing a positive with a cloud of uncertainty surrounding his future.
After being a head coach for 13 seasons combined at the college and professional level, Schiano seemed reflective about his three seasons as defensive coordinator more than someone ready to come back for a fourth time.
“I love being here. My family loves being here,” Schiano said. “But anytime there’s a coaching change, whether it’s internal or not, coaches have to — a head coach has to select the staff that he feels gives the team the best chance to win, and whatever coach Day decides to do, certainly his prerogative.”
In his three seasons at Ohio State, Schiano has ranked in the top 10 twice for total defense, finishing No. 6 in his debut season and No. 9 in 2017. This season, Schiano’s defense sits at No. 67, and has allowed 38 plays of more than 30 yards through 13 games.
Schiano said he and Day have discussed his future once Day becomes head coach, but that Day has “so much on his plate” at the moment, he doesn’t want to add to it.
“I think Ohio State is in great position,” Schiano said. “Coach Meyer has developed a tremendous culture, and coach Day I know will put his stamp on it. But the makings of a long-term success are in place.”
As much as Schiano loves being at Ohio State, the school itself is not what made him take the job in the first place, and it’s not what takes precedence after three years as defensive coordinator.
“He comes before Ohio State and before everything. He’s a very dear friend,” Schiano said. “I have a longstanding relationship with Urban. I just want what’s best for him.”
For now, Schiano is focused on the Rose Bowl. He is focused on the final game Meyer has as Ohio State’s head coach.
Schiano is focused on giving one of his best friends, the guy who he took the job at Ohio State for, a victory in his send-off.
But when looking past Jan. 1, the future of Ohio State’s defensive coordinator seems anything but certain.