Jim Knowles Says It Would Be Hard to Leave Ohio State for Head Coaching Job Elsewhere: “This is Where I Always Worked to Be”

By Dan Hope on December 26, 2023 at 3:23 pm
Jim Knowles

Even though Jim Knowles interviewed for Duke’s head coaching job late last month, the Ohio State defensive coordinator is in no hurry to leave Columbus.

In his first interview session since the end of the regular season at AT&T Stadium on Tuesday, Knowles chose not to specifically address why he interviewed for the head coaching job at Duke, where he was previously an assistant coach from 2010-17, including seven years as the Blue Devils’ defensive coordinator. Duke ultimately hired Penn State defensive coordinator Manny Diaz as its new head coach to replace Mike Elko, who left to become the head coach at Texas A&M.

But Knowles did talk at length about the factors he would have to consider if he was offered the opportunity to become a head coach elsewhere.

While becoming a head coach at the FBS level has long been one of Knowles’ aspirations – his only previous head coaching job was at Cornell, his alma mater, from 2004-09 – so too was the opportunity to coach at one of the top programs in the country. Now that he’s there, Knowles says it would be hard for him to leave Ohio State for any job.

“I’ve really worked my whole career to get to a place where you're expected to win all the time, where you're given the resources, where you have a shot to play for the national championship every year,” Knowles said. “So any of those opportunities, while you're always grateful, I try to look at it from ‘This is where I always worked to be.’ And you have to judge that against the benefits of being a head coach vs. being at a place that's top-five, premier all the time with high expectations and talent.

“From where I started to get here, I don't take that lightly. That's not something you leave easily for any job, head coach or not. I mean, I see myself as being at the best place right now. So I have to always look at that and say ‘Why would I want to go anywhere else?’ Ohio State is the top of the top. 

“When you're a young coach and you aspire, yes, you aspire to be a head coach and all that, and I've done that. But once you get to a place where winning is expected, where it's a purpose-driven program with a great head coach and a chance to run the defense, I mean, I couldn't imagine anything better when I was a young coach. So you look at all those things, and all those opportunities, but I really appreciate where I'm at.”

“I try to look at it from ‘This is where I always worked to be.’ And you have to judge that against the benefits of being a head coach.”– Jim Knowles on his current job at Ohio State

Given that response, it certainly sounds as though Knowles will be back at Ohio State for a third season as the Buckeyes’ defensive coordinator in 2024. While the 58-year-old could continue to weigh head coaching opportunities in the future, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Knowles remain at Ohio State for years to come – especially if the defense continues to perform at the level at has this season, ranking second in the nation in points allowed per game (11) and third in the FBS in yards allowed per game (259.9).

Ryan Day has not yet announced whether he will make any changes to his coaching staff after this season, though he said last week that “we're always gonna evaluate it after every season and go from there.” Graduate assistant James Laurinaitis is viewed as a primary candidate to be promoted to a full-time job – likely as the linebackers coach, which could allow Knowles to work more with the entire defense rather than focusing on a specific position group – while special teams coordinator Parker Fleming and quarterbacks coach Corey Dennis are seen as the most likely candidates not to be retained.

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