Monday, November 28, 2011

URBAN MEYER ANNOUNCED AS NEW HEAD COACH OF THE BUCKEYES

Urban Meyer was introduced as the new head football coach at Ohio State on Monday. (AP Photo/Terry Gilliam)
COLUMBUS — It's no longer speculation ... Urban Meyer is the new head football coach at The Ohio State University.

The former Florida head coach and ESPN college football analyst was introduced to the media on Monday evening in Columbus and the new Buckeyes' boss spoke about a number of topics during the press conference including coming back to his home state of Ohio, his days as a graduate assistant at OSU under Earle Bruce and why he decided to take a year away from coaching following last season.

"It's great to come back to my home state, where I was born, where I met my wife," Meyer said. "I began my college coaching career here at Ohio State in 1987 working for hall of fame coach Earle Bruce. My relationship with him is extremely close, second only to my father ...

"I made the decision to step away from coaching a year ago to focus on family and determine if someday I could return to the profession that I love and realized I missed so dearly last February. After having an opportunity to work for ESPN and watching my kids compete, I had an opportunity to reflect and research ways that I could improve ...

"If it were not for the coaching position at the Ohio State University, I would have not coached this year."

Meyer's contract is for six years and an average of $4 million per, as well as another $2.4 million in incentives.

Luke Fickell, who served as interim head coach this season — after former boss Jim Tressel resigned in May — will remain on Meyer's staff, according to the coach. Fickell will also be the head coach for the Buckeyes in their upcoming bowl game.

Fickell led the Buckeyes this past season to a 6-6 overall record and a 3-5 campaign in the Big Ten — the first losing season in conference for the Buckeyes since 1999.

Meyer said he and his wife, Shelley, met with Fickell and his family yesterday and came away feeling that he should remain in the fold. Meyer said they haven't agreed on a job title as of yet, but did state that it will be a "significant" one.

Meyer, 47, was born in Toledo, raised in Ashtabula — 60 miles east of Cleveland — and is an admitted lifelong Buckeyes fan. He received his master's degree in sports administration at Ohio State.

"It goes back real strong and real thick ... " Meyer said of his Ohio State fandom. "I came back this year and I was with my (ESPN) teammate Chris Spielman, a great friend, and the band came out. I used to sneak out when I was a G.A. here at Ohio State when we had the old locker room. I knew exactly (when the band came out). There was a game clock in the locker room and there was like 16:36 left on the clock when the band would come out.

"Coach Bruce would be in there doing his stuff and I would look at that clock and I'd shoot down those stairs to watch that band come out and play 'Across the Field.'

"So I hadn't been back since 1988 in that stadium," Meyer continued. "Against Akron, I'm up there with Chris and Dave Pasch getting ready to broadcast the game and that band came out of that tunnel ... man, I was just wiping tears out of my eyes. All of the memories came back."

The aforementioned Bruce, who coached for the Buckeyes from 1979-87, was impressed with Meyer as a young coach during the two years he served on his staff in Columbus and hired him as a receivers coach in 1990 when he became the head coach at Colorado State.

Bruce told WBNS-TV in Columbus Monday that OSU made a great hire in Meyer.

"As a young coach he was enthusiastic," Bruce said. "He's just a knowledgeable football coach. As an assistant coach he recruited well, he knew his position coaching and he knew everything about offensive and defensive football because he really studied it.

"He's a student of the game. He's a great teacher, a fine recruiter and a hard worker. And he works you hard. There will be some hard practices at Ohio State, I guarantee you."

In 10 seasons as a collegiate head coach — at Bowling Green (2001-02), Utah (2003-04) and Florida (2005-10) — Meyer has been known as a pure winner, recording a 104-23 overall record, including seven wins in eight bowl games (4-0 BCS) and two national championship victories.

His first national title came in the 2006 season when he led the underdog Gators to a 41-14 rout of Tressel and the Buckeyes in the BCS Championship Game in Glendale. Two seasons later, he guided the Gators to another championship, this time in a 24-14 victory over Oklahoma in Miami.

His lowest win total in 10 seasons as a head coach is eight. He won more than 12 games in a season four times.

Meyer's transcending success goes much further than just his six years at Florida. Before there was Boise State and TCU, Meyer was the original BCS-buster.

In just his third season as a collegiate head coach, Meyer led the University of Utah to the 2005 Fiesta Bowl — the first time a team from a non-qualifying conference was ever able to break into a BCS bowl game. His Utes dispatched the University of Pittsburgh, 35-7.

Not only is Meyer known for winning, he's also earned a reputation over the years as a prolific talent evaluator and recruiter. Since 2005, Meyer has been arguably the best recruiting head coach in all of college football.

"He's an outstanding recruiter," Bruce said. "As an assistant football coach at Colorado (State) he brought in football players that we've never seen before at Colorado State. He brought in some really great football players and helped to recruit a few that ended up in the pros after I left (in 1992).

"He's just an outstanding recruiter."

Meyer will not only have the benefit of coaching in one of the most talent-rich states for prep football, he also has some great young talent already on the roster, most notably true freshman quarterback Braxton Miller.

Miller was heavily recruited by Meyer at Florida, and has all the abilities to succeed in Meyer's famed spread offense.

Meyer gushed when speaking of his new quarterback on Monday.

"I just met Braxton and I wanted to meet with Braxton, that was very important," Meyer smiled. "With all due respect to everyone in this room, that was highlight of my day, not this. It was sitting there shaking hands with that good looking quarterback with a nice smile. A very humble player.

"I watched him play throughout the year, I've watched him compete in the big game and to say that I'm 'excited' to coach him, I'm not using the right adjective ... I think you get it, right?

"I'm very excited."

Meyer has a proven history of quarterbacking success, including Alex Smith (the first pick of the 2005 NFL draft) and Tim Tebow, who won a Heisman Trophy and two national titles under Meyer's mentorship.

Of course, one of the most important factors in hiring a new head coach at Ohio State is finding a man who truly understands the program and its rich traditions — i.e., the rivalry with Michigan.

Meyer made fans understand early that he knows what 'The Game' truly means to the Buckeye Nation.

"Obviously that's the game of games," Meyer said. "It's the game I grew up watching. I know it's 362 days away, so I understand the significance of it."

Meyer stated that his biggest challenge coming back to the profession is trying to find balance between family and coaching. He said he doesn't want to be the guy that "falls asleep in my office" any longer.

He said that he will spend the next days and weeks trying to put together the best coaching staff in the country, as well as hitting the recruiting trail hard.

"I'll be on the phone tonight with a couple guys," Meyer smiled.

So much for not falling asleep in his office.