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Urban Meyer: A career of success

Urban Meyer: A career of success

It was a bitter cold morning on the Ohio State University campus on Tuesday, Dec. 4. Fans and athletes were still disappointed in the playoff selection committee after the No. 6 Ohio State Buckeyes were left out of the College Football Playoffs after defeating then-ranked No. 4 University of Michigan on Nov. 24 and No. 22 Northwestern University on Dec. 2 to be crowned Big 10 Champions. However, after a morning news conference on Dec. 4, the remaining pieces of their sewn-up hearts would be shattered. Buckeyes head coach Urban Meyer shocked the NCAA world announcing his retirement as coach following their Rose Bowl game against the University of Washington.

It was revealed earlier this season that Meyer has been dealing with serious health problems, including an arachnoid cyst on his brain. This same cyst caused him to step down from the University of Florida head coaching position back in 2010. Now, it looks like Meyer might be done for good.

“I believe I will not coach again,” Meyer said during Tuesday’s press conference. Several times this season Meyer could be seen in pain, hunched over on the sidelines.

When anyone retires, you often think of what they will be remembered for. The same goes for Meyer, whose legacy is up in the air. One could argue that he ranks with Nick Saban of Alabama as one of the most influential coaches of all time. One could also make the case that his tenure as coach has too many controversies to be considered a great coach. Regardless, it is no question that Meyer has one of the best coaching minds and the ability to take a team to new heights.

Meyer, age 54, has been in the coaching industry since he was hired as an assistant coach at Illinois State University in 1988. He spent time with Colorado State University and the University of Notre Dame until he got his first head coaching job in 2001 at Bowling Green State University. After winning only two games the year prior, Meyer’s first year was a success, taking the Falcons to an 8-3 mark with a 9-3 record the following season where they were ranked as high as No. 16 on the USA Today/ESPN Coaches Poll.

This earned him the head coaching job at the University of Utah. He took the Utes to a 10-2 record and outright won the Mountain West Conference title for the first time since 1957. He earned his first bowl game and win against the University of Southern Mississippi in the Liberty Bowl. Meyer then took the Utes to a perfect 12-0 season – their first since 1930. They defeated the University of Pittsburgh in the Fiesta Bowl in Meyer’s last game before he become known to all of college football.   

On Monday, Dec. 6, 2004, after mulling an offer from Notre Dame, Meyer signed a seven-year deal worth $14 million to become the head coach at the University of Florida. Meyer went 65-15 in six years at Florida, including two Bowl Championship Series National Championship Games in 2006 against his soon-to-be team Ohio State, and again in 2008 over the University of Oklahoma. He captured three Southeastern Conference (SEC) Eastern league titles and two SEC Championships. Meyer knew how to win the big games, going 5-1 in bowl games and 16-2 against three of Florida’s biggest rivals: University of Tennessee, University of Georgia and Florida State University. He also had his first Heisman Trophy winner in Tim Tebow. Meyer became the third highest paid college football coach in 2009 after a $24 million extension.

Meyer’s controversies also began in Florida, as he was criticized for having 31 players arrested during his tenure there. The charges widely varied and most cases were dropped or dismissed. Meyer’s punishments for these players also varied from no suspension to being expelled from his team. 

During the final stretch of the 2009 season, Meyer began suffering health problems, even leaving him hospitalized the night of the SEC Championship Game. After taking a leave of absence he returned to coach his final season in 2010. The Gators went 7-5 and Meyer would retire at the end of the season following their Bowl game, which the Gators won.

After a year of recovering, Meyer accepted the position of head coach at Ohio State in November of 2011. The 2011 season saw Ohio State finish No. 4 in the Big 10 standings and end with a 6-7 record. The next year, with Meyer at the helm, the Buckeyes went a perfect 12-0. However, because of the 2010 season, Meyer’s Buckeyes were not eligible for a Bowl game due to NCAA sanctions. Since taking over in 2012, Meyer has posted an 82-9 record, including a College Football Playoff National Championship win over Oregon in 2014. Meyer also went 54-4 against the Big 10 and 7-0 against rival Michigan. Meyer’s Buckeyes have won the past two Big 10 Championships and three during his tenure and has won the Big 10 division title each year.

Meyer was involved in a controversy this season regarding one of his coaches on staff, Zach Smith. Meyer had publicly announced at a press conference denial of knowledge of a domestic violence investigation into Smith. After investigations into Smith and Meyer, Ohio State placed Meyer on a three-game suspension due to how he handled the employment of Smith.

Meyer’s career as a head coach holds a 186-32 record, and he has had a winning season each year as head coach. He is No. 28 all-time in wins and currently third among active coaches behind Saban and Bill Snyder of Kansas State University. Meyer is fourth all-time in winning percentage at 85.3 and No. 7 in national titles with three. He is also the only Ohio State coach to go undefeated against rival Michigan.

Meyer has been an inspiration to coaches across the nation. His ability to win is nearly unmatched by other coaches. Even with these setbacks, Meyer is arguably one of the greatest coaches of all time. Only time will tell if his health and love for the game allow him to lead a team out of the tunnel one more time.

Photo: Jamie Sabau/Getty Images North America

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