Ohio State administrators met with Jim Foster on Tuesday morning to inform him he will no longer be the head coach of the Buckeye women’s basketball team.
Associate athletics director Miechelle Willis would not say if the move would be characterized as a firing or a retirement, but Foster had at least five years left on a contract that paid an average of more than $900,000 per year.
“We’re still ironing out the details of the end of Jim’s career here," Willis said Tuesday afternoon. "All I can say is he will no longer be our coach.”
With a record of 279-82 record (.772) in 11 years as head coach, Foster departs Columbus as the winningest coach in program history in terms of both wins and winning percentage.
The Buckeyes won an unprecedented six consecutive Big Ten regular season championships and had a run of eight straight years with a Buckeye named conference player of the year, but the month of March became a source of frustration for OSU fans as a string of early exits from the NCAA tournament got longer by the year.
Ohio State won four Big Ten tournament titles but never advanced beyond the Sweet 16 in 10 NCAA tournament appearances. That was despite receiving a at least a top-4 seed five times.
Foster’s last season as head coach of the Buckeyes was his worst. With injuries taking their toll and some young players playing through inconsistencies, Ohio State slipped to eighth place in the Big Ten at 7-9, the only sub.-500 conference mark in Foster’s tenure.
Willis confirmed an expectation to perform better in the season’s biggest month but said there was no single factor that caused the administration to act at this point in time.
“We evaluate the program every year,” she said. “We strive to be nationally competitive and believe we have everything in place here to be nationally competitive. We believe that means we should be deep into postseason, so that’s what went into the decision.”
A four-time Big Ten coach of the year, Foster recently completed his 35th year as a collegiate head coach. He won 783 games at St. Joseph’s, Vanderbilt and Ohio State and is is one of only two coaches – men’s or women’s at any level – to win at least 200 games at three different schools.
His exit comes at a time when recruiting in the program had hit a lull.
After signing six McDonald’s All-Americans in his first seven years at Ohio State, Foster brought in none in the past four classes.
The early signing period for the class of 2013 passed last fall without the Buckeyes signing anyone, but Willis said that was little or no a factor in the decision to move now.
With Ohio lacking the depth of top-quality prospects it typically does in the current senior class, Ohio State focused more of its attention on major national prospects but came up empty.
However, several elite in-state prospects have emerged for the 2014 class, and Ohio State hopes to find a coach able to convince some to stay home.
“When you look at the facilities and the resources that we have at Ohio State, the talent in the state of Ohio, we sincerely believe this is a top five coaching job and we feel confident we will be able to attract a very strong candidate,” said Willis.
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