After the minor avalanche of reports Wednesday confirming Urban Meyer's impending move to Ohio State as the Buckeyes' next head coach, there was no way Meyer wouldn't be part of the story during Saturday's rivalry clash with Michigan. But this isn't exactly going to help quiet the speculation: According to ESPN spokesman Mike Humes, Meyer has begged out of his weekend assignment in Bristol, and will not appear on the network at all during Saturday's games. "He requested off his studio assignment," Humes tweeted, "and we obliged."
The $40 million question, then, is whether that means Meyer will be making an appearance in Columbus, where at least a half-dozen anonymous sources have suggested to as many different reporters, bloggers and distant relatives of message board readers over the last week that Meyer is expected to be introduced after the Buckeyes' return from Ann Arbor. By most accounts, that announcement was supposed to come sometime next week, or sometime shortly after the university gets official word from the NCAA regarding the series of major violations that's already cost the Buckeyes one head coach, their star quarterback, the entire 2010 season and a handful of scholarships. With the widespread consensus this week that it's a done deal, that process may have been expedited.
It could also mean, of course, that Meyer simply wants to remain out of the line of fire under the circumstances, or that his bosses want to keep him out. Two weeks ago, Meyer missed a scheduled assignment at Penn State — where his name had come up early and often as a replacement for ousted legend Joe Paterno — leaving colleagues Dave Pasch and Chris Spielman to call the Nittany Lions' loss to Nebraska while Meyer tended to the recent death of his father. (He was back in the booth last Saturday for Nebraska's loss at Michigan, where he issued the pro forma denial at the top of this post.) For Saturday, he'd already been reassigned from the booth to the studio for the Michigan-Ohio State game, for obvious conflct-of-interest reasons, and now won't be seen or heard from at all — at least, not from behind an ESPN microphone.
If you're looking for a little action on when and where he'll show his face in public again, I'd be surprised if we didn't have updated odds out of Vegas by the end of the night. And I'm pretty sure I know what's going to be at the top of that list.