November 23, 2011
Another day has yielded another round of anonymously sourced reports — now including both specific dollar figures and a specific timeline — that Urban Meyer has agreed in principle to become Ohio State's next head coach at the end of the season. The most reliable of the lot, from the local Columbus Dispatch, cites "two well-placed sources at Ohio State University" who have confirmed plans to announce Meyer as the new coach as early as next week, following Saturday's regular-season finale at Michigan.
In due course, the increasingly deafening chorus has yielded another obligatory denial from Meyer himself:
"I have not been offered the job. I have not taken the job. I will not comment any further. I'm going to do Thanksgiving with my family."
…which might buy him a few moments of peace over the next 36 hours or so, if he's lucky. Already, the buzz in Columbus is all Meyer, all the time. Once the clock strikes zero in Ann Arbor, the countdown officially begins.
Needless to say, it is now safe to believe the rumors. The latest additions to the chorus bring the number of reports of Meyer's impending arrival in Columbus to at least six since last Friday, some of which are already recounting the search process by members of the OSU Board of Trustees and projecting doom for athletic director Gene Smith. Some Buckeye recruits already expect to be playing for Meyer next year. At this point, Meyer could show up for work next Monday and nobody would bat an eyelash except maybe non-interim coach Luke Fickell, who'd have to go to the trouble of moving all his stuff back to his old office. But there's a good chance he never bothered to unpack it all, anyway.
Which is, of course, exactly what was supposed to happen: The marriage is so obvious — Ohio boy made good comes home to resurrect the tarnished powerhouse where he got his start — that one of Meyer's daughters felt compelled to ask her Twitter followers to shut up about it all the way back in April, when the job still belonged to Jim Tressel. The "Urban-to-Ohio State?" chatter had already gone mainstream. Seven months later, it's just a matter of who gets lucky enough to write it on the day it actually happens.
Wednesday likely will not be that day (emphasis on the word likely), if only because of the impending holiday and the most important game of the season to close out one of the most turbulent seasons in school history. For the first time since 2004, Ohio State is not going to be the Big Ten champion, is not going to a BCS bowl game, is not expected to beat its biggest rival and at 6-5 may come out of the finale with its first non-winning record since 1999.
Within a matter of weeks, it should find out just how hard the NCAA plans to come down for the series of major violations that's already cost the Buckeyes their head coach, their star quarterback, the entire 2010 season and a handful of scholarships. And if the subsequent damage is severe enough, it could still conceivably cost them the most coveted free agent in the business.
But all indications Wednesday are that Ohio State fans are going to come out of the storm soon — this weekend, next week, next month — to discover their wish has come true: Urban Meyer, owner of two national championships at Florida and arguably the most impressive resumé in college coaching over the last decade, is coming home to save the Buckeyes. In the meantime, everything else is just a diversion while they hold their breath.