Monday, November 28, 2011

Ohio State goes Urban

COLUMBUS — One day during his brief haiatus from coaching, Urban Meyer admitted something to his wife, Shelley, while the couple were taking a walk.

“I don’t think I can do this,” Meyer said of being away from football coaching.
Starting today, he won’t have to. At least for the next six years.

Meyer ended his self-imposed break from coaching on Monday by agreeing to a six-year contract to become the 24th head football coach in Ohio State history.

“There’s a right time for certain leaders,” OSU athletic director Gene Smith said. “This is the right time for Urban Meyer to lead this football team ... He gets it.”

A 47-year old native of Ashtabula, and former assistant on coach Earle Bruce’s OSU staff in the 1980s, Meyer succeeds interim coach Luke Fickell, whose team finished the regular season at 6-6 with a 40-34 loss at Michigan last Saturday.

Fickell will remain on Meyer’s staff as an assistant coach, though Meyer did not divulge if he would be defensive coordinator or a postion coach.

“ESPN has been an exceptional experience,” said Meyer, who spent his off-year from coaching as an analyst for the station.

“If it wasn’t for the coaching position at The Ohio State University, I would not have coached this coming year.”

Meyer will be paid a base salary of $4 million. Additionally, he will receive supplemental compensation bonuses based on milestones, academic accomplishments for the football team and retention payments of $450,000, $750,000 and $1.2 million if Meyer is still employed as head coach on Jan. 31 of years 2014, 2016 and 2018.

Meyer stepped away from his coaching position with the Florida Gators last December, citing health concerns and a desire to spend more time with his family.
As he stood at the dais in front of a jam-packed room that included the likes of former OSU linebacker Chris Spielman and Bruce, Meyer clenched in his hand a pink piece of paper — a contract drawn up by one of his daughters.

Meyer said it was a contract “my kids made me sign,” presumably to keep the balance between work and family that he went in search of when he left Florida last December.

“Health-wise, I feel great,” Meyer said, noting a health scare in 2009 that gave him time to reflect. “I feel fantastic now.”

He said he was “checked out” by doctors and also talked with his family over the Thanksgiving weekend — and promised to not go “to that place” of overexertion he ventured while coaching the Gators.

“I don’t want to be one of those guys that’s sleeping in the office, saying, ‘I missed this, I missed that,’” Meyer said. “I was proud I had balance for quite a while. I lost that near the end.”

Meyer cut his coaching teeth on Bruce’s staff as a graduate assistant from starting in 1986.

He spent two years (2001-02) at Bowling Green and two years (2003-2004) bringing the Utah football program to prominance, including a berth in the 2004 Fiesta Bowl — Utah’s first BCS bid.

He then took the Florida position where he led the Gators to the 2006 and 2008 BCS national championship games — including a 41-14 win over Ohio State in the first of the two title bouts.

“Other than those 60 minutes in Glendale,” said Meyer, where the 2006 BCS national title game was held, “I’ve always followed the Buckeyes.”

Meyer brings with him to Columbus a 104-23 (.819) career record. His teams are 7-1 in bowl games, with the lone loss coming to Michigan.

In announcing Meyer, Smith said the search committee sought “an outstanding coach and an outstanding recruiter.”

Meyer, whom Smith said was the only candidate who was interviewed and offered the job, suggested more.

“Our objective is simple,” he said. “To make the state of Ohio proud, recruit student-athletes who will win in the classroom and on the field.

“My goal right now is to put together a fantastic recruiting class and ... I think Ohio State deserves the best group of assistants in America.”

Smith said recruiting and forming his staff will be Meyer’s primary duties for the coming months. Meyer will not be part of the coaching and game-planning for any bowl game Ohio State might accept.

There are possible sanctions looming from the NCAA in the aftermath of the memorabilia-for-tattoos scandal that removed former coach Jim Tressel and helped create the opening Meyer filled on Monday.

Meyer said he researched the possible bowl ban and other items, but trusts Smith and OSU president Gordon Gee that no further sanctions would be forthcoming.

Meyer admitted he had “second, third, fourth and fifth” thoughts about jumping back into the coaching fray. He said his wife and three children also had second thoughts.
But as the introductory conference, which lasted 45 minutes, wore on, he glanced over to his wife and other family members and smiled.

“This is my home state,” he said. “And it’s great to be back home.”

courtesy of John Kampf

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