We know now that Urban Meyer’s health problems were much more serious than he let on earlier in the year.
Meyer announced Tuesday that he will retire as Ohio State head coach after the Rose Bowl. His health — Meyer has been dealing with the effects of an arachnoid cyst on his brain for years — was a significant factor in the decision.
With Meyer’s decision to retire out in the open, Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith revisited a moment from earlier in the season when it became clear to observers that Meyer was really having some issues.
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During the second half of OSU’s Oct. 6 win over Indiana, Meyer dropped to a knee on the sideline and had to be tended to by medical personnel. Meyer brushed it off after the game but a few days later divulged during a press conference that it was related to the cyst. He insisted he was “fine,” but, in an effort to be more transparent about his health, later offered additional details to Yahoo Sports about the severe headaches that are associated with the cyst.
He seems fine now, but a few minutes ago Urban Meyer appeared to be having some kind of issue on the sideline pic.twitter.com/0MGQSEErUL
— Timothy Burke (@bubbaprog) October 6, 2018
In an interview with Eleven Warriors, Smith said he was so concerned about what he saw of Meyer in the IU game that he was prepared to pull the coach off the sideline if it happened again.
“That’s medical. That’s bad,” Smith said. “To the point, the following week, I had a meeting with about six people around him saying we’ve got to have a management strategy because if you go down again, I’ve got to take you out.”
From there, Smith and others close to the coach put a plan in place to assist Meyer during games. Meyer would keep his headset on as much as possible to block out noise. On top of that, Brian Voltolini, Meyer’s director of football operations, would stay by his side.
Smith said they kept a close eye on his intensity. Voltolini, who is in his 18th season working with Meyer and will be retained as general manager on soon-to-be head coach Ryan Day’s staff, was tasked with hitting him on the hip whenever his intensity rose too much.
“When he started to scream, Volt would hit him,” Smith said. “Most people didn’t even notice that. You go look at it. You can find it. There’s times when Volt” – Smith made a motion of Voltolini slapping Meyer on the side of his hip – “and walk away.”
During his news conference Tuesday, Meyer said his headaches “hit real hard” during last season’s Penn State game, leading him to ponder how much longer he could continue coaching at his usual level of intensity.
Meyer acknowledged that it’s not in his nature to assume more of a “CEO” role within the program. He has to be hands-on at all times.
“The style of coaching that I’ve done for 33 years is a very intense, very demanding … I’ve tried to delegate more, be CEO-ish more and the product started to fail,” he said.
Now the program is in the hands of offensive coordinator Ryan Day, who has been elevated to head coach. What will Meyer do next? He told Yahoo Sports’ Pete Thamel that he doesn’t have the answer to that question.
“There’s a little anxiety involved in what’s next,” Meyer said. “I’ve thought about that. I’m not a wake-up late kind of guy. I hope I find a passion.”
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