November 28, 2011
His agent is busy trying to slam on the brakes as we speak, but the story is only speeding up: Urban Meyer, owner of two national championships at Florida and arguably the most impressive resumé in college coaching over the last decade, will be introduced Monday as Ohio State's new head coach, according to Buckeyegrove.com. After last week's wave of reporting on Meyer's pending arrival, all that's left is official word from the university and the man of the hour himself, which should come at a 5:15 p.m. press conference.
At this stage, any report with a dollar figure attached is pure speculation, though such speculation seems to have reached on consensus on a contract worth $40 million over seven years, which would make Meyer easily the highest-paid coach in the nation. Another source of speculation: The fate of athletic director Gene Smith, who reportedly had little to no hand in recruiting Meyer, and whose exit may be a prerequisite for Meyer to accept the job. Given the array of NCAA violations on Smith's watch — a list that's already cost the Buckeyes one head coach, a star quarterback, the entire 2010 season, a handful of scholarships and three senior starters who were suspended for much of the current season — there's a good chance that his days were numbered, anyway, in the last stage of house-cleaning following the university's ongoing waggle dance with the NCAA.
As for the dance itself, the arrival of a high-priced, high-profile headliner is another indication that the university expects to avoid a heavy-handed response for the violations that have rocked the program over the last nine months. On charges that former head coach Jim Tressel intentionally covered up his knowledge of violations by quarterback Terrelle Pryor and other players, the university fired Tressel, dismissed Pryor, suspended the other offenders and vacated all 12 wins in the 2010 season, including a Sugar Bowl win over Arkansas and a share of the Big Ten championship. In response to a dreaded "failure to monitor" charge over additional violations involving a booster, OSU formally excommunicated the booster and docked itself five scholarships. If the NCAA is appeased, there will be no bowl ban, and Meyer will be able to hit the ground running with an up-and-coming quarterback who is perfect for his spread-option system.
We should know where the Buckeyes stand in relation to the NCAA within a few weeks. In the meantime, we should have pictures of Meyer smiling beneath a scarlet and gray baseball cap by the end of the day.
It's a natural fit: Meyer grew up in Ohio, went to school in Ohio (Cincinnati) and landed his first graduate assistant job at Ohio State, where he picked up a master's degree and a wife. Who also grew up in Ohio. He's made no secret of his admiration of former Buckeye coach Earle Bruce, who served as an important father figure early in Meyer's career. From the moment Tressel's seat began to simmer in the spring, Meyer's name was at the top of the list to fill it.
It wasn't inevitable: The Buckeyes' issues with the NCAA were an obstacle, as was Meyer's health, which forced his short-lived "retirement" from Florida in 2009 and was a factor in his deciding to step away for good last year. At 46, he was burned out and had nothing left to prove. Earlier this year, he said he "went off the deep end" at Florida, and refused to let his next job consume him.
But he's also too young to spend the rest of his working years mumbling in a cramped broadcast booth and following his daughter's volleyball career. The coaching bug may sleep, but it never dies. And when it woke up, there was never any doubt where it was going to lead.
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Matt Hinton is on Twitter: Follow him @DrSaturday.
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