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Excited fans in Columbus

SPECIAL TO ESPN.COM

October 24, 2006

Fans in Columbus, Ohio have a lot to be excited about these days. First off, they are happy about what is going on with the pigskin as the Buckeyes remain unbeaten and numero uno in the polls.

By the way, I have to give a plug to coach Jim Tressel. He is a regular visitor to the beautiful Sarasota, Florida area and dines at the Broken Egg! He has the Columbus fans going bananas and it looks like showdown city when Ohio State and Michigan tangle, No. 1 vs. No. 2, on November 18. Troy Smith is the leading contender for the Heisman; I feel it is his unless he really falters.

The Buckeyes fans are also going bananas talking about their hoop team. One reason for enthusiasm is basketball coach Thad Matta, who recently agreed to a contract extension. It won't be official until it is approved by the board of trustees, but that is just a formality.

Let me tell you, Matta is a star on the horizon. He has only coached six seasons in Division I (one at Butler, three at Xavier and the last two at Ohio State) and he won 20 or more games in each of those campaigns. This guy has all the makings of being a consistent winner.

One of his greatest assets is his ability to communicate with his players. He is well-liked and well-respected and that is rare in the world of coaching to have the total package. Matta has many positives going for him and the program is terrific. He has marketed the Buckeyes well and his recruiting has been outstanding.

There is no question that big things are expected with Greg Oden on the scene. The expectations are running wild, and the key is getting the big man healthy and ready to compete once the Big Ten season starts. It is too bad he won't be available for the big matchup against North Carolina; you can debate whether the Tar Heels or Buckeyes have the best group of diaper dandies. That stuff is great for radio talk shows!

This is the coming of a big star in coaching. I am not talking about a good coach, I mean a special winner. I believe he will be on that Columbus campus for many years. It feels like a perfect match as he has elevated from mid-major to high-major to big-time arena. Obviously the administration feels the same way.

It is a great time for fans of the Buckeyes. What a combination, Tressel and Matta.

Dick Vitale coached the Pistons and the University of Detroit before broadcasting ESPN's first college basketball game in 1979. Send a question for Vitale for possible use on ESPNEWS.

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