Meyer Hopes to Find Balance with Buckeyes


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

another year.

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 said.

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

health issues.

"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

their rivals.

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

Big Ten.

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

other penalties.

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

national title.

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.

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