Wednesday, October 12, 2011

URBAN MEYER MAY BE OHIO STATE'S FOOTBALL SAVIOR ... OR MAYBE NOT

Urban Meyer (AP Photo)
COLUMBUS — Many Ohio State football fans are under the illusion that once the 2011 season is complete, former Florida head coach Urban Meyer will ride into Columbus on his white horse to save the program from recent damnation.

Fans believe that the two-time national championship winning coach will place his blessed hands on the front door of the Woody Hayes Athletic Center, cleansing the school of its sins and transgressions, all while exalting the team into the BCS title game almost instantly.

Do you see the picture I'm trying to paint here, people? Buckeye fans are treating Meyer as if he's the second coming of our lord.

In Ohio State's current situation, Meyer may just be the program's messiah — in a college football manner of speaking.

Meyer has been a winner wherever he's decided to hang a whistle around his neck. He's won 82-percent of his games as an FBS head coach — at Bowling Green, Utah and Florida — has a 7-1 record in bowl games (4-0 BCS) and two national championships to his credit. In 11 seasons as a head coach, Meyer has never won less than eight games, and has racked up at least 12 victories four times.

Yeah, make no mistake about it ... the guy can coach his rear-end off.

Add to the fact that Meyer was born and raised in Ohio, coached under Earle Bruce at OSU for two seasons in the late 1980s and has expressed often his love for the university — where he received his master's in sports administration — and his standing with the fans goes from a blushing crush to flat out worship.

However, before fans begin to build temples and hold seances with the ghosts of Paul Brown, John Wilce and Wayne Woodrow Hayes, let's make sure your savior isn't actually the Antichrist — again, in a college football manner of speaking.

As badly as Ohio State wants to get back to its winning ways, they must find a coach with stability, right?

The words 'stability' and 'Urban Meyer' won't find themselves residing in the same sentence too often, unless they are accompanied by the words 'lack' and 'of.'

Prior to this season, the Buckeyes have had just four head coaches since 1954 — three of which held the position for at least 10 years or longer. Meyer, on the other hand, has coached at three different schools in the past decade, two of which he coached for just a couple seasons a piece — Bowling Green and Utah. Meyer headed the program at Florida for five seasons, but resigned twice during his tenure in Gainesville.

Also hurting Meyer's long-term stability is his health, both physically and mentally. Meyer has been diagnosed with esophageal spasms, as well as having an arachnoid cyst in his head — each brought on by job-related stress, according to doctors.

Boy, if he's having stress-related health issues at places like BGSU, Utah and Florida, sending him to Ohio State would be the equivalent of moving an albino to Saudi Arabia.

It's also no secret that Meyer was experiencing coaching "burnout" at Florida, which also gives one cause for concern being that he became worn down after just five seasons as head coach. Again, at Florida ... not OSU. Columbus can be viewed like dog years when it comes to coaching ... every year equals seven.

Another aspect that Ohio State must find in its new football boss — if they are to hire one — is a person who's capable of policing his program effectively, something its former coach Jim Tressel failed to do so miserably.

At Florida, the only ones policing the Gators' program on Meyer's watch ... were the actual police.

During his five-year tenure in Gainesville, the Gators had 30 players arrested for various issues, including at least a dozen felonious charges, according to the Orlando Sentinel.

With that rap sheet, Meyer's teams appeared more like representatives of an institution of corrections, not one of higher learning.

Now, for those OSU fans and administrators who brought down fire and brimstone on Tressel for not punishing his players for accepting discounted tattoos and such, let me enlighten you on the man who you're wanting to come in and clean up the program.

Last season, when Meyer was in Gainesville, star tailback Chris Rainey was arrested for felonious aggravated stalking — where he threatened to murder his girlfriend via explicit text messages. Such an offense, compared to a five-game suspension for accepting discounted tats, should have warranted dismissal from the university, at the least.

Meyer initially suspended Rainey indefinitely for his actions, but after suffering three straight losses to Alabama, LSU and Mississippi State, the Gators' coach reinstated the tailback prior to their big rivalry game against Georgia, and gave the kid — who threatened to go Rae Carruth on his girlfriend — 24 touches in the win over the Bulldogs.

Some could say that Meyer reinstated Rainey because he felt he learned his lesson and was giving a kid who made a bad mistake a second chance. Some could also say that Meyer reinstated Rainey because he was in the midst of the longest losing streak of his coaching career and would try to stop the downhill spiral at any cost.

Sure, hiring Meyer may gain the school more victories, championships and recruits on the field. But his hiring may also gain OSU more off-the-field issues, something they are desperately trying to avoid moving forward. Is that what real fans want from their next boss? Win at any cost?

Another aspect of Meyer's hiring that Ohio State and its fans must take into account is the potential NCAA violations which could pop up from his days at Florida. Remember, that was an SEC school with media protection provided by big brother ESPN. I sense Meyer taking the job in Columbus would open up a closet of NCAA skeletons ... and the worldwide leader would likely be the ones opening the door.

Let's face it, Meyer leaving the booth at ESPN to head up the Buckeyes would not be in the best interest of the network. Some may call me cynical ... others, a realist.

Now, I'm certainly not advising that Meyer shouldn't be considered at all for the job. I mean, his outstanding record on the football field speaks for itself, and although it appears like I am anti-winning, I do understand that college football is a business — yeah I said it, a business — and winning games and titles translates into major dollars. So yes, I would consider Meyer as a candidate.

What I am strongly advocating, though, is that the administrators at Ohio State investigate Meyer with supreme diligence, if in fact he becomes a candidate for the head coaching position in the near future.

And don't just look at his successful offensive schemes and how it would translate beautifully to quarterback Braxton Miller for the next three seasons. More importantly, evaluate his past as an administrator, a recruiter, as well as any of those health issues which may pop its ugly head up in three or four seasons down the road.

Oh, and please examine a lot more thoroughly than those internal investigations you've conducted recently, because the one who appears to have a bright white robe and halo above his head, could actually be the guy who drags the program even deeper into the bowels of hell.

The moral of the story is: BUYER BEWARE!