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Saban said he understood why Meyer had apparently changed his mind about returning to coaching.

“As you go through life and you do things and you make choices and decisions about what you do _ and I know his involved circumstances around his health _ but still you learn about yourself in everything you do,” Saban said. “As you learn these things, sometimes things change in terms of what his direction is. I think everybody has to do that, and I don’t think anybody should be criticized for that.”

Jim Tressel was pressured to resign on May 30 after 10 years as the coach of the Buckeyes. His downfall came about when it was learned that he knew that several of his players had accepted cash and tattoos from a tattoo parlor, the focus of a federal drug-trafficking investigation. Ohio State is awaiting NCAA penalties stemming from several violations.

Fickell, a defensive assistant coach for nine years, was promoted to head coach.

In a season with NCAA sanctions looming, several players suspended and injuries to important players, the Buckeyes have gone 6-5 _ their worst season since Tressel went 7-5 in his first season in 2001. Should the Buckeyes lose at Michigan on Saturday, the 6-6 mark would be their worst since John Cooper went 6-6 in 1999.

The speculation about Meyer has been making the rounds for weeks.

One of the top football recruits in Ohio for next fall, defensive end Adolphus Washington from Cincinnati’s Taft High School, committed to Ohio State on Tuesday. Asked at his news conference who he thought would be coaching the Buckeyes next season, he said, “I believe Urban Meyer. I hope so.”

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AP Sports Writers John Zenor in Montgomery, Ala., Arnie Stapleton in Denver and Bernie Wilson in San Diego contributed to this report.

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Follow Rusty Miller on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/rustymillerap.