By RUSTY MILLER
AP Sports Writer
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - If Ohio State did not come calling, Urban
Meyer says he was planning to stay away from coaching for at least
Meyer, the former Florida coach and native Buckeye, was
officially hired Monday by Ohio State, a program with a glittering
past that has suffered through a difficult year of NCAA violations.
"If not for the coaching position at Ohio State, I would not
have coached this year,' he said.
Meyer resigned as Gators coach after last season, citing health
concerns and a desire to spend more time with his family.
"A year ago in my mind I was convinced I was done coaching,"
He added that he is feeling great.
"I've been checked out and I'm ready to go," he said.
Meyer will become one of the highest paid coaches in college
football, along with Alabama's Nick Saban and Oklahoma's Bob
Stoops, and Texas' Mack Brown. The school says he will receive a
six-year contract that pays $4 million annually, plus another $2.4
million total in "retention payments."
Interim coach Luke Fickell, who took over when Jim Tressel was
forced out for breaking NCAA rules, will coach the Buckeyes (6-6)
in their bowl game and be retained by Meyer as an assistant.
Ohio State Athletic Director Gene Smith said his first
conversation with Meyer about becoming coach was on Nov. 20 by
phone. Smith said the two met face-to-face Nov. 23.
Meyer won two national championships in six years as the coach
at Florida. Now, the 47-year-old will return to the place where his
college coaching career began in 1986 after spending a year as an
ESPN game analyst.
Earle Bruce, the head coach at Ohio State when Meyer was a
graduate assistant, has remained a close friend and confidant of
Meyer through the years. He said he had no concerns about Meyer's
"Well, if he'd had a heart attack and his heart was bad, I'd be
worried about that," the 80-year-old Bruce said on Monday. "I'm
not worried that he was stressed out over the game of football
because he was thinking too much and not doing some things
(exercising) that would have kept him straight. I think he got
everything back under control by sitting out a year. I think he
missed football. And he's good at it."
A team meeting set for Sunday night was moved to Monday
afternoon before the news conference to allow Meyer to meet his
Alabama coach Nick Saban, who played at Kent State and coached
at Toledo in the Buckeye state, said he was happy for Meyer.
"I'm sure he's excited about it, and I'm excited for him that
he has an opportunity to go back to his home state and be the head
coach here," Saban said. "I think it's a wonderful opportunity
and I think he'll do a great job."
Meyer takes over a program that is likely facing NCAA sanctions
and was crippled by the forced resignation of Tressel. The Buckeyes
completed their only season under Fickell with a 40-34 loss to
Michigan on Saturday that snapped a seven-game winning streak to
Wolverines coach Brady Hoke underplayed the role of the head
coaches in the rivalry.
"I've known Urban, he's a good football coach, a good guy and I
welcome him in," Hoke said on Monday. "But it's still Michigan
and Ohio and neither one of us is going to play the game."
In 10 seasons as a head coach - two at Bowling Green, two at
Utah and six at Florida - Meyer has a 104-23 record. His teams are
7-1 in bowl games, including the Gators' 41-14 victory over
unbeaten and top-ranked Ohio State in the 2007 Bowl Championship
Series title game.
Meyer had persistently denied all the talk surrounding him and
Ohio State. Soon after Tressel stepped down, Meyer said he wasn't
interested in leaving ESPN, where he was a college football
The chance to coach Ohio State changed his mind, he said.
"He enjoyed what he was doing, but I think he also had the bug
to start coaching again," ESPN broadcast partner and former Ohio
State linebacker Chris Spielman said. "We just kind of talked
about the pros and cons of both throughout the year. He weighed all
the options and there were jobs out there that definitely captured
his interest and certainly Ohio State was one of them. He decided
that it was the best move. This was just an opportunity that he
couldn't pass up."
Meyer inherits a program still facing NCAA sanctions. But he
also inherits a young team led by a freshman quarterback, Braxton
Miller, who would seem to be a perfect fit for his spread offense.
A native of Ashtabula, Ohio, Meyer becomes the 24th head coach
at Ohio State. He succeeds Fickell, who took over last spring when
Tressel's 10-year reign came crashing down. Tressel was forced out
for knowing but not telling his superiors that Buckeyes players had
most likely broken NCAA rules by taking cash and free or discounted
tattoos from the subject of a federal drug-trafficking
Missing several top players because of NCAA suspensions stemming
from the tattoo mess, the Buckeyes were hit with more suspensions
when three players accepted $200 in cash for attending a charity
event and others were forced to sit out or had their existing
suspensions extended for being overpaid for summer jobs.
Ohio State's .500 record marked the most losses at Ohio State
since John Cooper's 1999 team also went 6-6 overall and 3-5 in the
The Buckeyes had already lost their string of six Big Ten titles
when the school was forced to vacate the 2010 season for the NCAA
violations. The school has also self-imposed two years of NCAA
probation, offered to return $339,000 in bowl revenue from 2010 and
to give up five scholarships over the next three seasons.
Ohio State is awaiting final word from the NCAA's committee on
infractions. The committee tagged Ohio State with a "failure to
monitor" label - second only to a lack of institutional control on
the list of most egregious charges against a university. The school
could still be hit with a bowl ban, a loss of more scholarships, or
Meyer, who spent two years playing minor-league baseball as a
shortstop in the Atlanta Braves system, also served as an assistant
at Illinois State, Colorado State and Notre Dame.
At the urging of Bruce, he took his first head coaching job at
Bowling Green (2001-2002) where he led the Falcons to records of
8-3 and 9-3 before jumping to Utah. Using a spread offense
featuring quarterback Alex Smith, the Utes went 10-2 in his first
year. In 2004, he led Utah to an 11-0 season and a Bowl
Championship Series berth - making the Utes the first team to ever
qualify for a BCS bowl from a conference (the Mountain West) that
was not an automatic qualifier. After a bowl win over Pittsburgh to
cap the 12-0 season, he was the top candidate for the jobs at both
Notre Dame and Florida. He surprised many by becoming a Gator.
In his second season with the Gators, No. 2-ranked Florida beat
unbeaten Ohio State, coached by Tressel, 41-14 to win his first
Two years later, the Gators won another national title, beating
Oklahoma 24-14 behind Tim Tebow.
The next year Florida contended for a repeat, but after losing
the SEC title game to Alabama, Meyer said he was retiring from
coaching, citing health problems. He changed his mind and was back
the next day, saying he would only take a leave of absence.
After the 2010 season, he stepped down again.