The Coaching Search: Urban Meyer

Written July 1st, 2011 by Eric

This series took an interesting turn during the last week with the announcement that Gene Smith was removing the “Interim” tag from Luke Fickell.  It’s possible that the University has decided that Fickell is their guy and that any future search will be unnecessary.

At this point, though, a future coaching search is still in the plan.  Until that explicitly changes, we’re going to keep running these articles because, honestly, you really want to know.

Urban Meyer

We’ve looked at a number of different possibilities for the future of the Ohio State head coaching position so far.  We hit the obvious answer of Fickell first, and followed it with the nearly unheard-of possbility of Lovie Smith.  Just last week we took a look at one of the big possible names for the job, Nebraska’s own Bo Pelini.

Now we hit the next big name for the job, and the one that most Buckeye fans clamor for after Luke Fickell – Urban Meyer.

As an aside, I find it amazing that Buckeye fans would be interested in hiring a coach that handed us our butts on a silver platter on the national stage.  Maybe it’s because they want the best (and, lets be honest, Meyer is one of the best).  Maybe it’s because he once stated that Ohio State was one of his dream jobs.  Maybe it’s because he was a former OSU Assistant, and grew up in Ohio.

Whatever the reason, it netted Meyer a spot near the top of everyone’s wish lists.

Urban Meyer grew up in Toledo, Ohio, eventually receiving a scholarship to the University of Cincinati.  Urban spent four years playing defensive back for the Bearcats on a number of teams that simply weren’t very good.

From 1983-1986, while Meyer was on the team, the Bearcats went a combined 16-27-1 with no winning seasons.  They did show improvement, though, going 5-6 during in each of Meyer’s Junior and Senior seasons.

After his playing career wrapped up, Meyer chose to dive straight into the coaching position.  He immediately landed at Ohio State coaching the Tight End position for the 1986 season.  To be honest it’s a little surprising for a defensive player to end up as an offensive coach, but clearly that ended up working to Meyer’s advantage.

In Earle Bruce’s last season with the Buckeyes, Urban Meyer took over coaching the Wide Receivers.  He ended up teaching future NFL draftees Everett Ross, Jeff Graham and Bobby Olive while coaching that position, though Graham and Olive were likely only freshmen.

Unfortunately, Meyer was let go during a coaching overhaul when new coach John Cooper came to town.  Meyer ended up in Illinois State for two seasons (88-89) coaching first the Outside Linebackers, followed the next season with the Quarterbacks and Wide Receivers.

Urban’s time in the sub-division 1 ranks quickly ended when he found a position coaching Wide Receivers for the Colorado State Rams.  From 1990-1995, he lead a receivers position in a time of renewal for the Rams football program.

Colorado State fell on hard times in 1991, going only 3-8 after a successful 9-4 season the year before.  By time Urban Meyer had left, the Rams had earned a 10 win season in 1994 and two straight bowl invites to the Holiday Bowl.  Unfortunately the Rams lost both bowl games, the first to Michigan (24-14) and the second to Kansas state (54-21).

Meyer then moved on to take over the wide recievers at Notre Dame for five seasons (1996-2000), studying for one year under head coach Lou Holtz.  When Lou Holtz retired for the first time, defensive coordinator Bob Davie took over as the Head Coach, maintaining the majority of the coaching staff.

Meyer continued to coach under Davie until a head coaching position of his own opened up.  In 2001, Meyer took the field as the head coach of the Bowling Green State Falcons.  In his first season, Meyer engineered a spectacular turnaround, taking a 2-9 team and winning 8 of 11 games, including a huge upset of 10-2 Toledo (56-21) in the “Battle of I-75″.  The next season the Falcons improved again to 9-3, though they suffered a big loss to Toledo.

After that season, Meyer earned the head coaching position at the University of Utah.  His career at Utah is much more well known, as Meyer is the first coach to take a non-BCS member school to a BCS bowl game.

In his first season with the Utes, he improved the team from 5-6 to 10-2 with a win over Brigham Young (3-0) and a bowl victory over Southern Mississippi (17-0) in the Liberty bowl.  The following year, Urban Meyer lead the Utes to an undefeated 12-0 season and a crushing victory over Pittsburgh in the Fiesta Bowl.

At that point, Urban Meyer left Utah to head to Florida to replace the ousted Ron Zook as Head Coach of the Gators.  At that time, many believed that he wasn’t long for that program.  Part of that belief came from the fact that Meyer had only spent two seasons at each of his last two jobs – a very fast turnaround for moving up the head coaching ladder.

The other reason was that Urban’s contract at Utah included a buyout clause for three schools – Ohio State, Michigan and Notre Dame.  Surprisingly, despite the fact that Notre Dame was interested in having him coach their program, Meyer chose to go to Florida – moving against his stated interests.  You may recall who Notre Dame settled for after losing their favorite.

The fears of an early departure from Florida turned out to be unfounded.  Meyer spent a grand total of 6 seasons coaching the Gators (2005-2010).  He turned out to be wildly successful at the program, winning National Championships in two of his first four years.  He also turned in an 81.3% winning percentage over all six seasons, which ranks among the best in Division 1 football history.

If he was so successful, why then did he leave Florida?  In early December, 2009 Meyer was admitted to the hospital suffering from chest pains and dehydration.  It turned out that he suffered from frequent chest pains (caused by spasms in his esophagus) and headaches from an arachnoid cyst – both due to stress.  After some consideration, Meyer announced an indefinite leave of absence from the Florida football program.

That leave lasted only until fall camp the next year.  Again Meyer was on the sidelines with the Gators looking none the worse for wear.  Unfortunately, his team did look worse, closing in with an 8-5 record – the worst head coaching season of Meyer’s career.  After a win over Penn State in the Outback Bowl, Meyer retired from his position as Head Coach of the Gators.

At this point, Meyer is currently a college football analyst with ESPN.  His job this coming season will have him in the booth with Dave Pasch and Chris Spielman.  Spielman and Meyer’s relationship go back to Spielman’s playing days, as Meyer was a Buckeye coach during Spielman’s tenure.  This should make for a fascinating announcing crew to listen to.

I personally love the idea of Urban Meyer trolling the sidelines of Ohio Stadium in the Scarlet and Gray.  As much as the spread offense irks me as gimmicky, Meyer is clearly a master at it, and has demonstrated a knack for being able to mold his offense around his players rather than vice versa.  I view the ability to work to the strengths of the players as the hallmark of great coaches, and Meyer clearly fits the bill.

Meyer and Earle Bruce together again.

He is also experience with defense, and experienced as a coach at Ohio State.  He grew up in the state of Ohio, and therefore has plentiful experience with the OSU/Michigan rivalry.  Clearly the fact that he would be willing to coach the Wolverines (remember his three “outs” at Utah) tells you what he thinks of that rivalry.

I also think he would accept the job if it were offered to him.  While Meyer has stated unequivocally that he will be in the booth this fall, he has not said anything about his plans for next year.  That suggests that he might be open to the possibility of coaching the Buckeyes.  It is possible that he plans on taking the next year to work on his health issues before taking a shot at the Buckeye job.

I don’t, however, think that he will actually become the head coach at OSU.  While he has excellent qualifications, and is a spectacular coach overall, his one glaring failing is his health.  Given that he has backed out twice at a program like Florida, one has to wonder about his longevity as a head coach at an equally stressful job.  It would not be to the Athletic Department’s advantage to have to search for yet another head coach a couple years after taking on Meyer if something were to happen.

Playing Career

Defensive Back, University of Cincinnati, (1983-1986)

Pedegree

  • Tight Ends Coach: Ohio State 1986
  • Wide Receivers Coach: Ohio State 1987
  • Outside Linebackers Coach: Illinois State 1988
  • Quarterbacks/Wide Receivers Coach: Illinois State 1989
  • Wide Receivers Coach: Colorado State 1990-1995
  • Wide Receivers Coach: Notre Dame 1996-2000
  • Head Coach: Bowling Green State University 2001-2002
  • Head Coach: University of Utah 2003-2004
  • Head Coach: University of Florida 2005-2010

Awards

Mid-American Conference Coach of the Year (2001)

The Sporting News National Coach of the Year (2003)

Mountain West Conference Coach of the Year (2003)

Woody Hayes Trophy (2004)

George Munger Coach of the Year (2004)

The Home Depot Coach of the Year (2004)

Victor Award (2004)

Pro Football Weekly National Coach of the Year (2004)

Eddie Robinson Coach of the Year (2004)

Mountain West Conference Coach of the Year (2004)

Sports Illustrated Coach of the Decade (2009)

The Sporting News Coach of the Decade (2009)

Why Urban could be the next coach of the Buckeyes:

  • He is a former Buckeye coach and has experienced the Ohio State/Michigan rivalry.
  • It was rumored that he carried a Buckeye in his pocket for good luck in the 2007 Fiesta Bowl.  You’d think that particular luck charm wouldn’t work against the Buckeyes…  His wife is also rumored to carry one in her purse.
  • He has plentiful big game experience, coaching 8 teams to bowl games in his 10 year carrier (7-1 record).
  • He has won two National Championships, and every BCS bowl game he’s coached in (4-0 record).
  • He had a buyout at Utah that he could take a job at Ohio State without penalty.
  • He’s gone 1-1 in games against Michigan while coaching the Buckeyes.

Why Urban wont be the next coach of the Buckeyes:

  • He’s gone 2-4 in games against Michigan in his career, including 0-1 as a head coach.
  • He has had serious health concerns while a coach at the University of Florida.  That may eliminate him as a potential target for Ohio State, who are certainly looking for the next long term option at the position.
  • He may not want to ever coach again.  It seems unlikely with his claim that he wants to focus on his health and family that he will return to the coaching ranks in the future.

14 Comments

  1. TallTomNo Gravatar
    July 1st, 2011 at 10:03 am

    Forget Meyer and his health issues. I’ll probably always remember him and brings up bad memories of him for smirking on sidelines during the Florida debacle, or at least not be able to love him like did Tressel. Be 100% behind Fickell – you don’t get anymore Buckeye than him – Columbus native, State wrestling Champion @ Desales, 4 year starter under Cooper, Coach under Tressel.

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    EricNo Gravatar
    July 1st, 2011 at 10:20 am

    I couldn’t agree more Tom. I strongly believe Fickell is the way to go – and have believed that he was the best option to take over for Tressel for years.

    It is hard to get rid of the image of Meyer smirking on the sidelines of that game, but I can’t hate him too much for it. I know for a fact I’d have a hard time keeping a straight face while winning a national championship, no matter who I was beating.

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    RodNo Gravatar
    July 5th, 2011 at 10:24 am

    Well said, Tom. I’m certainly 100% against Meyer and 100% for Fickell. Can’t stand that smug look Meyer always seems to have, same look I saw on the faces of the Miami Heat this season (until Dallas beat them). In Fickell We Trust!

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  2. JimNo Gravatar
    July 1st, 2011 at 11:00 am

    Fickell and Meyer are the top two candidates in my mind and no one else is even close (except maybe Darrell Hazell at Kent State, who had terribly bad luck on the timing of his departure from OSU).

    If Ohio State hires Urban Meyer I won’t be angry.

    If Ohio State sticks with Luke Fickell I think I will be happy.

    Either way, Ohio State can’t go wrong.

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  3. CharlieNo Gravatar
    July 1st, 2011 at 11:31 am

    As a Florida fan I have a couple of comments that are only my opinion.
    1. Meyer’s offense needs a superstar like Tebow or Percy Harvin to be anything above average. His schemes are nothing special and the passing game especially is quite amateurish.
    So he has to out talent the other side to be successful.
    2. The good news is Ohio State quite often has the best talent in the Big 10 so that shouldn’t be an issue.
    3. The other good think is that Ohio St has the ability to attract the kind of superstar that Meyer needs to be successful.
    4. Many thought the rival defensive coaches in SEC had caught up with Meyer. There’s probably some truth to that as UF’s offense was completely dysfunctional many times last season.

    Take care and good luck

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    EricNo Gravatar
    July 1st, 2011 at 11:42 am

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us Charlie! Very insightful.

    College football is known to go through cycles of strategy. One strategy that works spectacularly well for 5-10 years suddenly doesn’t work nearly so well as people adjust. I would not be at all surprised if those defensive coaches actually did figure out Meyer’s offense.

    Remember that Meyer only had 2 years at BGSU and Utah. It’s very likely that no-one ever got a really good sense for how to beat his system before he moved on. Once he was at Florida for several years, people started to figure it out.

    So that brings up a dirtier question…did Meyer realize that his time was up and decide to bail out before people caught on? In other words, did he do the thing we accuse people like Favre of not doing? In that case, maybe he’s as far from the talent we would want as a coach after all…

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    JimNo Gravatar
    July 1st, 2011 at 11:48 am

    You only mentioned offensive stars, what are your thoughts on Meyer’s defensive credentials?

    In my opinion, some unbelievably good defenses won Florida championships just as much as guys like Harvin and Tebow.

    Also, after the last decade of Tresselball, if any fan base can deal with frequent episodes of frustrating as hell offense, it’s Ohio State.

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    CharlieNo Gravatar
    July 1st, 2011 at 12:29 pm

    Based on everything I can recall I don’t know that Meyer had a lot to with the actual defense on the field except of course for assembling the talent. Prior to last season Charlie Strong who became the head coach at Louisville last year was the prime architect of the defense.

    Another thing that’s being hinted at but not openly talked about by the new regime at UF is the gaps in the roster caused by uneven recruiting classes. Seems there are certain positions that were not recruited very well or in some cases not at all.
    Again just my opinion about things as I was frankly fine with him resigning and am not bitter about losing him.

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  4. BenNo Gravatar
    July 1st, 2011 at 3:24 pm

    I don’t want to win that bad! Besides, Meyer is not a proven coach without a guy like Tebow as his QB. He will not be able to recruit all those great “SEC Speed’ type players in Ohio because they would like to stay South in the warm weather. He might get a few here and there, which Fickell can do as well. Fickell is all Buckeye and will up hold the tradition!

    Go Bucks! Can’t wait to 09/03!

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  5. Jaxman1971No Gravatar
    July 9th, 2011 at 10:50 pm

    You guys are absolutely nuts! Meyer would be the perfect coach for the program. I grew up in Ohio but went to school at Florida from 06-08. So, I know a thing or two about his success at FLA. He clearly loves tOSU and has the ability to recruit superstars. Not only would he dominate the Midwest, but steal a ton of recruits from FLA. He is one of the few, if not the only one, that would actually increase the talent in Columbus. It’s a no brainer!

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  6. BenABuckeye4LifeNo Gravatar
    July 23rd, 2011 at 11:22 am

    While I prefer Fickell for the upcoming season as opposed to any of the other coaches currently on the OSU staff, ‘The Ohio State University’ is no place to be cutting your head coaching teeth.

    Let’s get Urban in here and get this train back on the tracks.

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  7. JoeNo Gravatar
    October 11th, 2011 at 12:21 pm

    Just be interested to continue this discussion now (10-11-2011) does everyone still want to keep Fickle? I don’t

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  8. DanielNo Gravatar
    November 18th, 2011 at 1:35 pm

    Other reason he won’t take it…SANCTIONS…I have heard he is in play somewhere else…:)

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    MaliBuckeyeNo Gravatar
    November 18th, 2011 at 1:49 pm

    Yup- we’ve heard that to, and linked to it on Tuesday.

    Penn State keeps coming up, as does the “Texas 2014″ rumor from Tiger Droppings.

    Then there’s UCLA, but … yeah.

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