The Swift Return of Urban Meyer
Family and health. When Urban Meyer left his position as head coach of the Florida Gators at the end of last season those were the reasons he cited. It was the same spiel he had dished out at the end of the 2009 season, when after a health scare he resigned before quickly deciding on a leave of absence instead. Many believed Meyer would eventually return to the coaching ranks in three or four years, that the competition, money, and prestige of leading a big-time program would be too great for him to pass by. This proved to the case sooner than anticipated, as after a brief stint as a commentator and analyst for ESPN, today Meyer signed a 6-year contract to become the new head football coach at Ohio State.
Widely known as one of the most skilled practitioners of the spread offense, Meyer has had a great deal of success in all three of his previous head coaching stops. After leading the University of Utah to a 12-0 season in 2004, he arrived in Gainesville and had an unbelievable run with the Gators, winning two national championships and cementing his place as one of the top coaches in the country. Taking the position with the Buckeyes makes sense for Meyer - he was born in Ohio, and on paper the job seems like a perfect fit between a high profile coach and elite program.
Despite having a down year by Ohio State standards (6-6), given Meyer’s recruiting and coaching ability it is only a matter of time before he has the school regularly competing for Big Ten Championships. The success and exposure Meyer obtained at Florida should prove valuable when approaching future recruits, as going forward the Buckeyes will undoubtedly snag top recruits from not only the Midwest, but from all over the country as well. Ohio State is still facing possible sanctions for the compliance and failure to monitor issues that led to the downfall of former head coach Jim Tressel, and the severity of the penalties the school ultimately receives will likely impact the time it takes for the new coach to turns things around.
The lingering question is what brought Meyer back to coaching after just one year away? Was that enough time for his health concerns to be resolved and for him to spend the desired time with his family? He obviously loves to coach, and stated that if he didn’t take the job at Ohio State he would’ve sat out at least another year before returning. But certainly money paid a big factor in his decision; a contract that will pay him $4 million annually is hard to say no to. Also in play is Meyer’s ego, as coaches of his stature are celebrated and revered on the collegiate level. It is rather curious that he decided to leave Florida coming off his worst season (8-5), knowing full well the tough sledding his teams would endure in the coming years in the brutal SEC. Maybe he just wanted out at Florida? There is no way he could have foreseen the firing of Tressel, but in retrospect from strength of opposition standpoint his decision to leave Florida and join the Buckeyes in the Big Ten seems more favorable.
At the end of the day, only Meyer knows if he acted in good faith and what his true intentions were for leaving Florida after the 2010 season. One things for certain - whether you’re a Buckeye fan waiting for him to lead your team back into title contention or a hater who hopes he flames out faster than Rich Rod, the Big Ten Conference will be more interesting and competitive with Urban Meyer as the head coach of Ohio State. Here’s hoping his family and health agree with the decision.