Urban Meyer is stepping down as the Ohio State head coach. He’ll go down – controversies and all – as one of the greatest of all-time.
It wasn’t surprising.
Urban Meyer had hinted – and people around the program had been whispering – that his time at Ohio State might be soon coming to an end after the offseason scandal involving the domestic abuse allegations against former assistant coach Zach Smith. Meyer didn’t feel like the school had his back, he didn’t like the four-game suspension, and suddenly, the job has soured.
Of course, his part in all of it was a self-inflicted wound with the way he handled the situation, his statements at Big Ten media days, and all that ensued. But that, combined with the stress and strain of the impossibly high expectations of the job, along with the pain and struggles stemming from the cyst in his brain that flares up whenever there is stress and strain, and it was time.
The guy needs a break, and that became obvious as the season wore on.
So now he’s going to step down after Ohio State’s Rose Bowl against Washington, and as these things go, the transition and timing and situation couldn’t possibly be more perfect.
There’s no lapse in continuity with the coaching staff. Ryan Day will step in and take over after more than proving himself worthy in the first three games of the season in place of Meyer. The recruiting takes a shift, but with the same pieces in place making the pitch – other than Meyer, of course – there’s plenty of time to come up with a typical whopper of a class in late December and early February.
The players coming back know what they’re getting. They played hard and played well for Day before, and while Meyer was always the man, players deal mostly with the assistants. Again, the familiarity with Day should make this easy.
And then there’s the way Meyer is going out – into the sunset as he coaches in the Rose Bowl for the first time.
Meyer’s retiring would’ve taken on a different tone and tenor had the Buckeyes made the College Football Playoff – and he probably wouldn’t have announced it now if they got in. No one likes to hear it, but bowl games are exhibitions – announcing now that he was leaving makes the Rose Bowl that much more meaningful.
He might be back coaching at some point after a few seasons off. He’s just 54, the Notre Dame job will be open someday, and he’ll always have his pick of any open coaching gig he wants. But first, hopefully he goes back into the booth as a color commentator – he was brilliant for ESPN in between the Florida and Ohio State gigs – and he’ll rest up and get healthy again.
So now the legacy factor will kick in. Just how amazing was he as the Ohio State head coach?
Steve Spurrier will always be Florida’s “head ball coach” and main man, but he one one national title for the program, and Meyer won two.
Bear Bryant will always be Alabama football. His legacy and presence will always be that school and that program, but Nick Saban has arguably been the better head man in a shorter time frame.
And Woody Hayes will always be Ohio State football, winning five national titles, 13 Big Ten championships, and 205 games in his 28-year run. He won 76% of his games over an impossibly long span.
But Urban Meyer won 90% of his games as the Ohio State head man.
Meyer’s run at Ohio State – considering the day, the age, and all that goes into the modern world of college football – is all-time impressive for a relatively short seven-year run.
82-9. Throw in the three games Ohio State won when he was suspended – that was still his team out there – and the program won 85 games and lost just nine on his watch.
He stepped in when Ohio State was suspended from going bowling or playing in the Big Ten Championship, and he went 12-0. He won 12 games or more in every season but the 11-2 2016 season and, technically, this year. He went to two College Football Playoffs, an Orange Bowl, a Fiesta and a Cotton, going 4-2 in the post-season with the 2014 national championship.
He won three Big Ten titles, came achingly close to winning seven in all seven seasons, went 54-4 in Big Ten play, and he was a clean 7-for-7 against Michigan.
The nine losses in seven years? They were so college football historic you could probably rattle them off without a problem.
The wins had become so expected, and the program had become so good, that his era will also be defined by what it took to beat him and his team.
The 2013 team didn’t run the ball enough in the Big Ten Championship loss to Michigan State, and then went on to lose a wild Orange Bowl firefight against Clemson.
The 2014 team lost early on to Virginia Tech by 14, and then rolled through the rest of the slate to the national championship. The 2015 team was every bit as national title good, but it lost to Michigan State 17-14 and missed out on the Big Ten Championship and the CFP.
The blocked kick for a score helped Penn State win 24-21 in 2016, but the Buckeyes still got into the CFP and got thumped by Deshaun Watson and eventual national champion Clemson. The next year, OSU lost to eventual Heisman winner Baker Mayfield and Oklahoma, had the ugly loss to Iowa, and this year had the clunker to Purdue.
But there’s still one more game. There’s still the Washington Huskies to deal with in Pasadena, there’s still a shot that the program wins more than 12 games for the second time in five years, and there’s still more pressure on Meyer to finish this out.
In the end, Urban Meyer – controversies and all – will go out as one of greatest coaches in college football history.
And now, Ryan Day … beat Michigan.