Meyer’s resignation closes memorable chapter
Urban Meyer should have been fired in August.
That’s my belief. Whenever a coach cites memory problems about incidents — especially ones that involve domestic violence — it’s time to go.
The Ohio State coach avoided dismissal then, getting only a three-game suspension.
And yet, when the news came earlier this week that Meyer was resigning, there was a definite sadness.
This era for Ohio State football is over. A national title. Multiple Big Ten championships. An understanding that the Buckeyes football team will always be expected to be among the country’s elite.
And perhaps Meyer’s run as one of the greatest head coaches in college football is over.
Perhaps. He says it is. He may even believe his career is finished.
But I can’t help but think he’ll be back coaching somewhere. Soon.
My interest in Meyer and his career dates back to 2001, when he was hired to be coach at Bowling Green State University. His first season was my junior year there. He turned Bowling Green from an also-ran into a winner in one season. The Falcons went 2-9 under Gary Blackney in 2000. Under Meyer, the Falcons went 8-3, which included at stunning win at Northwestern.
For me that was OK. But it didn’t have much to do with me. I wasn’t even writing about sports at the time.
But by 2002, I was firmly entrenched as a sports writer at the BG News. And my first college football story — my first college football press conference — was my first real up close look at Meyer.
Even some 16 years ago, Meyer was an intimidating figure. He was very matter-of-fact; it seemed to the 22-year-old rookie that he was one stupid question away from going off on some unsuspecting scribe.
I didn’t want to be that guy. It was my first presser, so I sat back, ran my recorder and listened.
Still, the BG News people liked the story enough that two weeks later I found myself in northeast Ohio, covering BG against Josh Cribbs, Dean Pees and the Kent State Golden Flashes.
BG won comfortably, but Meyer didn’t seem to be any better a mood than when I’d seen him two weeks earlier. Again, in a room full of reporters and photographers, he was intimidating. Again, I failed to ask a question.
But as Meyer walked out, something sparked.
I’m not going to go to two college football games — the first two of my career — and not get a question in.
I’m not going to come back empty handed. My voice will be heard.
It was as if a Bruce Springsteen album was going on in my head as I psyched myself up.
When Pees — the former Elmwood High School coach who was then leading Kent State walked in, I decided to go right at him.
“OK, questions?” the official said.
I broke in.
From then on, I decided I’d never be intimidated by a coach — or an atmosphere again.
And it was those two pressers with Meyer — where I failed — that woke me up.
Either you make it or you don’t. But you can’t be intimidated.
A year later, Meyer was gone from BG. Gregg Brandon was the new coach, and I was there for every game.
And I didn’t shut up. Another sports writer, the great John Wagner from Toledo, called me “frazzled.” I was always going a million miles an hour, trying to prove to people I belonged.
Meanwhile, Meyer was climbing. He went to Utah, and then to Florida, where he won two national titles.
When he took the Ohio State job before the 2012 season, it was a bit of a shock. Meyer was no longer coaching my team. But he was coaching the team of nearly all of my family.
But no matter how many wins Meyer got, no matter how big he became, he was always a BG coach to me. He was the football coach for only two seasons in northwest Ohio. But they were during a period that was so important for my career, so important as I, well, grew up.
Maybe that’s why his retirement hit me hard.
It was a realization of how much time has passed, but also a period to reflect on a time when he was starting out as a head coach, and I was starting out as a sports writer.
Those memories will always remain.
Meyer will never be a saint, and I can’t excuse some of his actions.
But he was important. To me, and so many others.