Ohio State cornerbacks coach Kerry Coombs didn’t have time to think about what would have happened if Greg Schiano had left the Buckeyes for Tennessee.
As the co-defensive coordinator of Ohio State’s coaching staff, Coombs could have been thrust into defensive play calling duties by the end of the season – depending on whether Schiano decided to stay through the end of the season – if Tennessee had not decided to back out of its deal to make Schiano its new head coach.
Coombs said his focus as Sunday’s events unfolded, however, wasn’t on thinking about what would happen in hypothetical situations, but on preparing for the Buckeyes’ appearance in the Big Ten Championship Game against Wisconsin this upcoming Saturday.
"All we were doing was grading film, working on Wisconsin, getting ready for practice. And that’s absolutely the truth," said Coombs, who represented the defensive coaching staff in place of Schiano during media availability on Tuesday, of how the coaching staff handled Sunday’s events. "I don’t think people understand that, but we don’t have time to sit in our offices and talk about this or that or this or that, it’s go. Because we got to play Wisconsin, who’s one of the best teams in the country, and we’re not going to beat them if we don’t spend every spare minute we have preparing for them."
Ohio State offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson echoed a similar sentiment about the situation.
"Around here, we just kind of work," Wilson said. "We don’t sit around and talk about it. I haven’t had a conversation with him."
“We got to play Wisconsin, who’s one of the best teams in the country, and we’re not going to beat them if we don’t spend every spare minute we have preparing for them.”– Kerry Coombs
Ohio State’s defensive players who met with the media on Tuesday said Schiano did address the team about what happened, but not in great length, because he, too, wanted to keep his focus this week on preparing for the conference title game.
"He just kept it simple and kept it straight-forward, because we have a task at hand this weekend," said Ohio State defensive end Tyquan Lewis.
While Ohio State’s coaches and players have chosen not to allow the Schiano situation to distract them from taking care of their business this week, that’s not to say they don’t care. Lewis said he felt the backlash toward Schiano on Sunday, which stemmed in part from a 2015 deposition that alleged Schiano witnessed a sexual assault by Jerry Sandusky (which Schiano has denied) during his time at Penn State, was unfair to Schiano’s reputation.
Coombs said he thought "what transpired was unfortunate," and that he had never seen a situation like that before in his coaching career.
Wilson empathizes with Schiano, because he knows what it’s like to have off-field allegations derail a head coaching opportunity. Wilson resigned from his previous job as Indiana’s head coach after multiple investigations regarding his treatment of injured players, as reported by Zach Osterman of the Indianapolis Star, though Wilson has since denied wrongdoing. Wilson said his wife reached out to Schiano’s family in the aftermath of the public outcry directed toward Schiano on Sunday.
"You live in a public world, there are a lot of things reported that aren’t accurate – we’ve been a part of that, we know that – and I know my family just reached out and said, 'We know your family’s hurting,'" Wilson said. "Because when you get those personal attacks sometimes, it affects your children. He’s got three boys. It affects your wife."
Like Ohio State linebacker Chris Worley and head coach Urban Meyer on Monday, the Ohio State coaches and players who were asked about Schiano on Tuesday praised the defensive coordinator as both a coach and a person.
Wilson described Schiano as an "awesome man" and "tremendous coach." Lewis described Schiano as "a great, great leader." And Coombs, who has worked as closely with Schiano as anyone on Ohio State’s coaching staff, said he has "learned to love him like a brother in the last two years."
"I think he’s a great man," Coombs said. "I think that he’s one of the finest people I’ve ever been around, and he’s absolutely one of the best coaches I’ve ever been around."
Most of all, Coombs said he admired the way Schiano dealt with the difficult situation.
"He handled it like you would expect because he’s a man’s man," Coombs said. "If I was ever in that situation, I would hope that I would handle it that well. I don’t know that I would, but he is a man’s man."