Gratitude for a great run
Coach Urban Meyer’s historic tenure as the Buckeyes’ head coach draws to a close with the sweet fragrance of roses.
Urban Meyer burned across the Ohio State football landscape with nonstop intensity, leaving behind a trail of victories, championships and Michigan heartache. He is a memorable meteor.
“It’s hard to find seven consecutive seasons for the Buckeyes that were this good, this outstanding for many reasons,” says Ohio State football historian Jack Park. “Urban is the No. 1 coach we’ve ever had based on performance, recruiting — everything.”
Park says it’s unfair to compare Meyer ’88 MA with Woody Hayes because Hayes coached the Buckeyes far longer, 28 years, in an era with much less scrutiny and fewer relentless demands. Still, Meyer’s achievements branded a unique mark in Ohio State lore.
Meyer, 54, retired from coaching January 1 after a Rose Bowl win over Washington gave him an 83–9 record, the best winning percentage (.902) in university history. He led the Buckeyes to their 2014 national championship and three Big Ten titles, and he’s the only Ohio State coach to go undefeated (7–0) against the archrival Wolverines.
The intensity needed to produce such grand success came from Meyer’s heart. He was born in Toledo and grew up in Ashtabula, Ohio, where a framed photo of Hayes hung in his childhood home. His coaching career began with a two-year stint as an Ohio State graduate assistant under Earle Bruce while Meyer worked toward his master’s degree in sports administration.
Meyer’s love for his home state and school gave him special motivation from the moment he took over as Ohio State coach, and his burning desire to make the state proud didn’t diminish for seven years.
“This was never a job; this was personal,” Meyer says. “I grew up a few hours from Ohio State, and I was a Buckeye as far back as I remember. I operated every day with a little bit of a sense of fear, because I never wanted to let people down, including any former great players who I idolized growing up, the state that I love and will always love, and a university I’ve always been passionate about.”
Buckeye fans were the benefactors of Meyer’s relentless drive. Their gratitude showed on a cool California night when tens of thousands of them chanted “Ur-ban, Ur-ban” as he, his family and team accepted the Rose Bowl winner’s trophy on the field.
The bowl triumph capped a 13–1 season in which Meyer dealt with severe headaches stemming from a congenital arachnoid cyst on his brain. He said health was the main factor that led to his decision to leave coaching. His confidence in successor Ryan Day made the choice easier.
“In trying to build the most comprehensive, premiere program in America, you want to hand it off to someone at some point so it can get even stronger,” Meyer says. “My witnessing of the work Ryan has done made this decision not as difficult as I thought.”
In addition to the 2014 national championship, Meyer also won two national titles at Florida and went 187–32 in a 17-year head coaching career that included stops at Utah and Bowling Green. But he’s always been a Buckeye, and he remains one. He now serves Ohio State as an assistant athletic director and co-teaches a leadership course in Fisher College of Business. He’s also fundraising, giving speeches and advising coaches in all 36 intercollegiate sports.
“I believe in Ohio State,” Meyer says. “I believe in the spirit when you walk around this campus. I believe this is a different place, and I want to help in any way I can.
I believe in Buckeye Nation, because I lived it my entire life. And I believe in our new head coach.”
Meyer’s winning percentage is the best in Ohio State history, higher than Jim Tressel (.828), Woody Hayes (.761) and Earle Bruce (.755).
Meyer is the only Ohio State coach to go undefeated against Michigan. The only Buckeye coaches with more wins over the Wolverines are Hayes, with 16, and Tressel, with 9.
Meyer’s record in Big Ten play produced three conference championships and a shared or outright division title in all seven of his seasons.
This total number of Ohio State players drafted into the NFL during Meyer’s tenure includes 10 first-round selections in the past three years.
The Buckeyes’ 2014 national championship gave Meyer a career trifecta, including two national titles he won as head coach at the University of Florida.
Meyer’s Ohio State teams hold 38 school, Big Ten and NCAA records. They also had the two longest winning streaks in school history: 24 and 23 games.