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Ohio State bets on Meyer not bailing again

December 18, 2011
The Intelligencer / Wheeling News-Register

Ohio State needed to go big. Not even a home run would do. This coaching hire had to be a grand slam.

Introducing: Urban Meyer.

And the crowd goes wild.

Article Photos

After a year that has produced almost nothing but bad news in Buckeyeville, Ohio State fans are celebrating the arrival of their new two-time national champion coach.

Star coach. Elite program. What could possibly go wrong?

Well, plenty.

Even with Meyer's triumphant return to his home state and the place his college career started, Ohio State is facing much uncertainty and coming off a 6-6 season, its worst since 1999.

The NCAA issues that led to coach Jim Tressel being ousted and the Buckeyes job coming open have not been resolved.

Scholarship losses? Bowl bans? The USC treatment? All still possible.

Athletic director Gene Smith said he hopes the committee on infractions will hand down a ruling by mid-December.

As long as Meyer means it when he says he's in this for the long haul and doesn't bail on the Buckeyes the way he did Florida, Ohio State will not stay down for long. A good coach at a strong program with a wealth of resources can overcome anything short of the death penalty.

Health issues and a desire to spend more time with his family drove Meyer from coaching after the 2010 season with Florida.

Now he says he has discovered the secrets to being a healthy and happy college football coach.

"I researched and I spent time with colleagues, colleagues that I respect in this profession," he said during a news conference on campus Monday. "And I don't want to be one of those guys that's sleeping in the office saying I missed this, I missed that.

"Believe it or not there's lot of quality coaches out there that are still able to have a little bit of balance. I was proud I had balance for quite a while. I lost that near the end."

On the other hand, when asked to describe his style, he said:

"I think go hard. I mean, like relentless. I want a bunch of coaches that coach like their hair's on fire, and I want a football team that goes 4 to 6 seconds of relentless effort. You do that, you have a chance to win in every game you play."

Can Meyer be as relentless as ever and make it through the six-year deal Ohio State just gave him? Florida gave him a similar deal in 2009. He quit twice after that.

If Meyer cannot maintain his newfound peace of mind and body and again needs to step away from coaching, it could compound the Buckeyes' problems.

Another change at the top while the program is dealing with sanctions has the potential to bog down Ohio State for years. And at a time when Michigan is getting healthy, Wisconsin is rolling and Nebraska is settling into the Big Ten, the Buckeyes cannot afford to hit the reset button again.

Smith said Ohio State is committed to helping Meyer maintain tranquility.

"I will work very hard to make sure he has balance," Smith said. "He'll definitely go see his daughters play volleyball. There will be no excuse. It's unacceptable. So I am pretty dogged on making sure that he has the balance that affords him the opportunity to lead our young men."

Make no mistake, this hire was a no-brainer for Ohio State, a move that had to be made.

In 10 years as a college coach with Bowling Green, Utah and Florida, Meyer is 104-23. With a record like that, do you think he would be scared off by the NCAA's looming hammer?

"I have great trust and faith in our athletic director and president," he said. "On my own, I did a little bit of research. But at the end of the day I asked the same question you did: 'Is there anything behind Door No. 2, 3, 4, and I feel very confident and have great trust that there's not.'

"We'll have to deal with the scholarship issue, and I have great trust that we will and we'll move forward."

If Ohio State is getting the coach who took over in Gainesville, Fla., in 2005, the celebration in Columbus will continue for years.

But if after a couple of years, the pressure cooker of coaching again proves too much for Meyer, the Buckeyes could be worse off than they are now.