Sports Illustrated’s S.L. Price wrote in December 2009, of Urban Meyer, “Meyer had grown up worshipping Ohio State, wearing number 45 in honor of Archie Griffin; he had teared up the first time he touched a Buckeyes jersey.”
Recent television segments from Meyer’s home showed a photograph of legendary Ohio State coach Woody Hayes in his office. Meyer also counts former OSU head coach and current Columbus native/OSU radio analyst Earle Bruce as his mentor.
Now, Meyer will get his chance to lead the Ohio State program.
Ohio State has announced that it will stage a press conference this afternoon at 5:15 p.m. to announce its new football coach. Meyer, the former Florida head coach who has been working as an ESPN analyst for the past year, will be the selection, as reported numerous times in the past two weeks by BuckeyeSports.com and Scout.com.
The Coach of the Decade in the 2000s according to both Sports Illustrated and Sporting News was not announced as the new hire by the university, but that is a mere formality.
Meyer will take over for Luke Fickell, the former OSU player who went 6-6 while stepping in this season after the forced resignation of Jim Tressel after major NCAA violations hit the school. According to site insiders, Fickell will stay as a part of Meyer's staff.
Ohio State still has not received the final word on punishments from the NCAA and faces a failure to monitor charge in relation to its actions in regards to booster Robert DiGeronimo, but Meyer has a sterling reputation with the NCAA and has chosen to take the job anyway. The final decision from the governing body could be decided as early as this week.
Meyer brings with him to Columbus an almost spotless résumé, including a grand total of zero losing seasons as a head coach. The 47-year-old compiled a 104-23 record in two years at Bowling Green, two more at Utah and six at Florida before stepping down at the conclusion of the 2010 season.
He is most known for the two national championships he won at Florida, as his Gators knocked off Ohio State in 2006 and then downed Oklahoma two years later. In all, Meyer has been to four BCS bowls – three at Florida and one at Utah – and won all of them on the way to a 7-1 postseason record.
Meyer also has deep ties to the state of Ohio. Born in Toledo and raised in Ashtabula, Meyer played football at Cincinnati and dabbled in minor league baseball before taking a job at St. Xavier High School in 1985. One year later, he moved to Ohio State, spending two seasons as a graduate assistant on Bruce’s staff.
From there, Meyer served as an assistant at Illinois State (1988-89), Colorado State (1990-95) and Notre Dame (1996-2000) before taking over a Bowling Green program that went 2-9 the year before and posting consecutive records of 8-3 and 9-3 with wins over BCS foes Missouri (twice), Northwestern and Kansas.
From there he went to Utah, and Meyer used an innovative spread-option offense and the talents of No. 1 overall pick Alex Smith to produce a 22-2 mark in 2003-04. That Utes were an undefeated 12-0 in ’04, ending the season with a BCS-busting blowout of Pittsburgh in the Fiesta Bowl and earning Meyer multiple national coach of the year honors.
That opened the door to the Florida job, and Meyer replaced the ineffective Ron Zook in style. After a 9-3 record his first season, Meyer led the Gators – who were quarterbacked by a dropback passer named Chris Leak with a young runner named Tim Tebow mixed in sparingly – the SEC title in 2006.
His Gators then overtook Michigan in the last BCS standings, setting up a national title game with Ohio State. The game was no contest, as Florida’s spread offense kept OSU off balance and the defense dominated on the way to a 41-14 win that became known in Buckeye lore as “The Debacle in the Desert.”
Meyer’s Gators took a step back to 9-4 a year later, but Tebow had one of the best seasons in college football history, picking up the Heisman Trophy for his work.
A year later, the Gators were back on top, with Meyer’s squad going 13-1 and upsetting top-ranked Alabama in the SEC title game. That vaulted Florida to the BCS National Championship Game and another crown, this one the result of a 24-14 win against Oklahoma.
The Gators were ranked No. 1 to start 2009 and finished the regular season unbeaten even after Tebow suffered a concussion near the midway point, but Florida lost the SEC title game to Alabama and had to settle for a Sugar Bowl drubbing of Cincinnati.
The major story in the lead-up to that game, however, was the sudden resignation of Meyer because of health reasons and his subsequent retraction. The famously intense coach admitted he had been checked into a Gainesville hospital after the loss to Alabama and had suffered from stress-related chest pains as well as headaches brought on by an arachnoid cyst.
"I have ignored my health for years, but recent developments have forced me to re-evaluate my priorities of faith and family,” he said in announcing the move.
Alabama’s Nick Saban told reporters at the time, "He is a first-class coach, and the success he's had is unmatched in our profession, especially over the last five years at Florida. We hope he is able to regain his health and have the opportunity to coach again in the future. Urban Meyer is a great person as well as a great coach, and the game of college football is better with him as a part of it."
However, just one day later, Meyer took back his resignation, turning it into a leave of absence. By March, he was back at the controls, and Meyer won his 100th game in 2010 while piloting a disappointing Gators squad to a 7-5 season.
At the end of the campaign, Meyer announced his retirement, again pointing to the lack of balance in his life.
"At this time in my life, I appreciate the sacrifices my 24/7 profession has demanded of me, and I know it is time to put my focus on my family and life away from the field," he said. "After spending more than two decades motivating and celebrating the young men I've been so proud to coach, I relish the opportunity to cheer for my three terrific kids as they compete in their own respective sports."
Meyer soon took a job working as a gameday analyst for ESPN, even broadcasting Ohio State’s season-opening win vs. Akron with former OSU linebacker Chris Spielman on the side.
But as the season has gone on, rumors linking Meyer and his home-state school continued to mount. BuckeyeSports.com first reported the likely possibility of the move the week of the Penn State game, with Bill Greene reporting the move was a done deal Nov. 22.
The day before that, Meyer told the The Gainesville Sun, “I've found that it is possible to have balance between your job and your family, that there are coaches out there who are doing it. I'm in a good place right now mentally and physically. … I love football. It's what I am. I miss it.”
Meyer and wife Shelley, also an Ohioan who has a degree as a psychiatric nurse, have two daughters – Nicole, who plays volleyball at Georgia Tech, and Gigi, who plays at Florida Gulf Coast – and a son, Nathan.