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Published: Wednesday, 4/17/2013

UT women's coach Cullop says OSU interview was her 1st in 5 years as a Rocket

BY RYAN AUTULLO
BLADE SPORTS WRITER
"I’m extremely happy here," UT coach Tricia Cullop said of her current job. "It would have to be a perfect opportunity for me to leave.” "I’m extremely happy here," UT coach Tricia Cullop said of her current job. "It would have to be a perfect opportunity for me to leave.”
BLADE/LORI KING Enlarge

Overseeing the women’s basketball program at the University of Toledo is a good gig, one that Tricia Cullop never thought to walk away from until recently when a dream scenario unfolded.

Other schools, some whose names resonate from coast to coast, reached out to the rising star the last five years, and each was denied an interview. Ohio State broke through this week, dangling an irresistible package of big money, big budgets, and big visions.

The Buckeyes went in a different direction Tuesday, informing Cullop she is not their choice. Instead they landed Washington’s Kevin McGuff, ending a month-long search.

Cullop’s consolation prize? Returning to a job that pays her $250,000 annually to work in a city that goes bonkers over her team.

“Ohio State is an incredible opportunity, and it’s intriguing,” Cullop told The Blade. “I have a tremendous job at Toledo, and I’m very grateful and honored to be the coach at Toledo. There are very few opportunities in the country that are right for me if I was to move on. I know there are people that think I’m waiting on this job or waiting on that job.

“That’s not true. I’m extremely happy here, and it would have to be a perfect opportunity for me to leave.”

Cullop, the three-time Mid-American Conference coach of the year who averages 25 wins a season at Toledo, added, “This was the first offer for an interview I’ve accepted in the five years I’ve been here.”

Cullop met with Ohio State officials Monday about filling the position left vacant by the dismissal of Jim Foster. One week earlier Cullop signed a two-year extension, linking her to Toledo through 2022 and increasing her pay by $37,000 to $250,000 — believed to be the highest salary among MAC women’s coaches.

Athletic director Mike O’Brien said he talked with Cullop about sweetening the deal in response to OSU’s pursuit, but “there was no need to go down that path in her mind.”

“As far as Tricia staying, it is great for us, great for the university, and great for the community because we consider her a terrific coach and an even better person,” O’Brien said.

McGuff had recently signed an extension to stay at Washington. A native of Hamilton, Ohio, McGuff led the Huskies to back-to-back, 20-win seasons in his two years there. Before that, he led Xavier to five straight NCAA tournament appearances.

Unlike other recent job openings, Cullop considered this opportunity too good to not pursue. She turned down chances to get involved in other searches, with Michigan in 2012 believed to be among them. It appears only a home-run fit will pull her away from Toledo.

“What has kept me at Toledo is the amazing support we have from our administration and the fact women’s basketball is important on our campus,” she said. “That’s not the case everywhere.”

Contact Ryan Autullo at: rautullo@theblade.com, 419-724-6160 or on Twitter @AutulloBlade.



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