Who is Brian Hartline? Five things to know about the Cincinnati head coach candidate

The Cincinnati Bearcats are coming off a bye week following a 28-24 victory over South Florida...
The Cincinnati Bearcats are coming off a bye week following a 28-24 victory over South Florida on Oct. 8 at Nippert Stadium. Albert Cesare / The Enquirer(Cincinnati Enquirer)
Published: Dec. 1, 2022 at 8:59 AM EST
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CINCINNATI (ENQUIRER) - Ohio State Buckeyes wide receivers coach Brian Hartline is considered by many to be a candidate to replace Luke Fickell as the Cincinnati Bearcats’ new head coach, and Football Scoop’s John Brice reported Wednesday night that Hartline is expected to interview for the UC job “in the near future, perhaps as soon as Thursday.”

Brice also reported that two in-house candidates - offensive coordinator Gino Guidugli and interim head coach Kerry Coombs - already conducted formal interviews for the position. The Enquirer’s Keith Jenkins tweeted earlier that many Bearcat football players and staffers want Guidugli to be elevated to head coach.

Here are five things to know about Hartline:

Another Buckeye connection

Hartline played for the Buckeyes for three seasons from 2006 to 2008. He’s been an OSU assistant since 2017.

Fickell came to UC from OSU, and was the Buckeyes’ co-defensive coordinator and linebackers coach while Hartline played in Columbus.

Coombs and Hartline coached together on OSU’s staff for three seasons before Coombs returned to Cincinnati before the start of this season.

Bearcats defensive coordinator Mike Tressel was a grad assistant at OSU in 2002 and 2003, and is the nephew of former Buckeyes head coach Jim Tressel.

The Bearcats have two players - receiver Blue Smith and defensive lineman Noah Potter - who transferred from OSU.

Mark Dantonio, UC’s head coach from 2004 to 2006, also came to Cincinnati from Columbus.

Notre Dame reportedly wanted Hartline

According to multiple reports, Notre Dame head coach Marcus Freeman - UC’s defensive coordinator and LBs coach from 2017 to 2020 - tried to get Hartline, his former OSU teammate, to join him in South Bend. The Buckeyes promoted Hartline to passing game coordinator in Jan. 2021, on top of his duties as WRs coach.

About one year ago, Hartline said he ‘can’t imagine leaving’

During a Nov. 2021 interview, Hartline discussed how difficult it would be to leave Columbus.

“The conversations I have with my wife, we can’t imagine leaving the guys in the room,” Hartline said. “Even to this day, like it gives me chills, trying to walk in and tell them I’m not gonna be in the room anymore. That would be really hard to do, and I don’t think I can do that. Never say never, but it almost chokes me up now. I couldn’t even imagine going in there and looking at Marvin (Harrison Jr.) and (Emeka Egbuka) and Jayden (Ballard) and telling them I’m not gonna be here anymore. Low chance. … I’m also not a person to sit here and tell you like, ‘No, I’m never leaving Ohio State.’ I’m not saying I ever will. And you say go up the ladder, like, go where? This is the pinnacle of the ladder … All I know is I love Ohio State and my wife’s from here. We live here, love my house, I don’t know. It would be really hard to leave.”

Hartline is only 36

Hartline, who played receiver for the Miami Dolphins for six seasons and for the Cleveland Browns for one season, is almost one year younger than Freeman, who is one of the youngest FBS head coaches.

South Alabama head coach Kane Wommack is 35.

Younger brother Mike was a UC assistant

Mike Hartline, 34, was an offensive quality control/assistant quarterbacks coach at UC in 2017 and 2018. On Wednesday, FOX Sports’ Bruce Feldman reported that Mike, who spent last season as Auburn’s quarterbacks coach, is expected to become the new passing game coordinator and receivers coach at Charlotte.

Mike played quarterback for the Kentucky Wildcats from 2007 to 2010.

This story was written by our media partners at The Cincinnati Enquirer.