COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) _ Five men who currently are head coaches at other NCAA Division I-A schools are the top candidates for the Ohio State University coaching job, according to a published report Friday.

The Columbus Dispatch, quoting unidentified sources, said the top five candidates - in no particular order - appear to be Bill Mallory of Indiana, Larry Smith of Southern Cal, John Cooper of Arizona State, Don Nehlen of West Virginia and Jack Bicknell of Boston College.

The newspaper said Ohio State Athletic Director Jim Jones and an assistant, Bill Myles, have interviewed at least a couple of the candidates. But they were not identified by name.

The university is searching for a head coach to replace Earle Bruce, who was fired Nov. 16 by the university president, Edward Jennings.

The firing came a week before Bruce completed his ninth season with a 6-4-1 record, his worst at Ohio State. Rick Bay resigned as athletic director the same day in protest.

Jones said the university is getting ''closer and closer'' to naming a new coach, but would not discuss candidates.

Jones has said there is no timetable for naming a coach.