Buckeyes finding familiar comforts in Scottsdale

Published: Thursday, January 4, 2007 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, January 4, 2007 at 12:00 a.m.

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Ohio State's football program may have found itself a second home — Phoenix.

The Buckeyes returned here for a bowl game this week for the fourth time in the last five years. They are staying in the same hotel (the Scottsdale Princess Resort) and are even getting excited about eating at their favorite west coast fast food chain — In-N-Out Burger.

"Coming back here is a great thing," receiver Ted Ginn, Jr. said. "It's kind of like home."

The Buckeyes are so comfortable here, they arrived here on Saturday, three days ahead of the Gators. Some Buckeyes players attended Monday night's Fiesta Bowl. On Tuesday, the team moved from a smaller hotel to the upscale Scottsdale Princess resort, where the team has stayed in previous years.

"We are not experiencing too many new things," center Doug Datish said. "Having that sense of familiarity is something I definitely appreciate."

It's obviously a stark contrast to the Gators, who are making their first trip here in a decade. Ohio State, meanwhile, knows what to expect all week. The Buckeyes played in the 2002, '03 and '05 Fiesta Bowls.

The only difference for Ohio State this time around will the stadium. The sparkling new University of Phoenix stadium in suburban Glendale has replaced Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe as the site of the Fiesta Bowl and this year's national title game.

Flanker Anthony Gonzalez said Ohio State's familiarity won't be a factor come Monday night.

"The most important thing is that it's the national championship game," Gonzalez said. "No matter where it is, both teams are going to come to play."

Nonetheless, bowl week in Phoenix is old hat for these Buckeys. Most Ohio State players say their favorite experience here is the chance to grab a meal at In-N-Out Burger.

"The thing I am most familiar with is In-N-Out Burger, which is around the corner from our hotel," quarterback Troy Smith said. "Probably the highlight of my day is getting a chance to go to In-N-Out Burger. I love those cheeseburgers."

Saban deal won't affect Tressel, yet

The lucrative deal given to Nick Saban by Alabama Wednesday will likely increase coaches salaries in the coming years.

But Ohio State athletics director Gene Smith said Wednesday he won't feel pressured to give coach Jim Tressel a substantial raise to match Saban's deal.

"No, not at all," Smith said. "We focus on the Big Ten. When we did his contract he was No. 1 in the conference. Then a month later, Iowa jumped it (with coach Kirk Ferentz). If we do it again we will look at the Big Ten and (Tressel's) peers."

Tressel signed a new deal last year that pays him an average of $2.45 million annually and runs through 2012, according to the Columbus Dispatch. Shortly thereafter, Ferentz signed a new deal paying him $2.7 annually.

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