Updated: Ohio State coach Meyer to retire after Rose Bowl

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Ohio State coach Urban Meyer and wide receiver Terry McLaurin, left, celebrate early Sunday after defeating Northwestern 45-24 in the Big Ten championship NCAA college football game in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio State coach Urban Meyer abruptly announced his retirement Tuesday, citing health concerns and a difficult year that included a three-game suspension over his handling of domestic violence allegations against a now-fired assistant coach. He will step down after the Rose Bowl on Jan. 1.

Meyer is leaving at the top of his profession after three national championships in a career spanning three decades, the last seven years at Ohio State, where he has an 82-9 record. The 54-year-old Meyer has an arachnoid cyst in his brain that causes severe headaches, and he had shown obvious effects of being in pain on the sideline this season.

At a packed news conference, Meyer explained that the headaches became severe last season during Ohio State’s game at Penn State and have become a persistent problem this season. But he didn’t blame only his health for stepping away. Meyer said he believed he could no longer coach the way he has from the early days at Bowling Green to Utah, Florida and, finally, with the Buckeyes.

“The style of coaching I’ve done for 33 years is very intense, very demanding. I tried to delegate more and CEO more and the product started to feel …,” he said, not finishing his thought. “I didn’t feel I was doing right by our players and by Gene (Smith, the athletic director).”

Meyer said leaving would have been more difficult if the program wasn’t healthy. The Buckeyes are 12-1 after winning the Big Ten championship and Meyer said he felt good about his replacement: Assistant coach Ryan Day will take over as the 25th coach of the storied program where Meyer won a national title in 2014 after two at Florida (2006, 2008).

“You want to hand it off to someone who could make it stronger,” Meyer said.

It was Day who led the Buckeyes when Meyer was suspended before the season opener over his role in the handling of assistant coach Zach Smith, who was accused by his ex-wife of domestic abuse.

Meyer said he knew about the allegations against Smith — grandson of former Ohio State coach Earle Bruce — but wasn’t sure they were true and kept Smith on staff because no criminal charges were filed. The university cited that lapse in suspending Meyer after an investigation.

A report issued by an investigative committee left a lasting stain, detailing behavior by Meyer that could have taken down a coach of lesser stature. The investigation showed he tolerated bad behavior for years from Smith, including domestic-violence accusations, drug addiction, lies and other acts that directly clash with the values Meyer touts publicly.

Meyer acknowledged the investigation was among the reasons for stepping down — “the decision was the result of cumulative events” — and he was asked if the suspension will affect his legacy.

“I’m sure it will,” he said. “I can lie to you and say it is not important to me.”

The announcement came as the Buckeyes begin preparations for the bowl game against Washington and less than three weeks before schools can sign a fresh batch of recruits. Meyer said his decision had to come before the early signing period opens Dec. 19.

Former players were full of praise for Meyer.

“Besides my parents, you were one of the most influential people to touch my life and I’m appreciative of that,” former Buckeyes linebacker Joshua Perry wrote on Twitter.

The Buckeyes’ strong finish this season belied on-the-field problems that made for a stressful season for Meyer and his staff. He lost star defensive end Nick Bosa to an early season-ending injury, and the defense never fully recovered.

The team alternated expected blowout wins with puzzling play that included a pair of one-point wins (Penn State, Maryland) and a closer-than-expected win over a struggling Nebraska team. A startling blowout loss at unranked Purdue on Oct. 20 pushed Ohio State to the fringe of the national championship chase and prompted questions about Meyer’s future and he was forced to address speculation that he would step down at the end of the season.

“I plan on coaching,” he said on Oct. 29. Asked if he would definitely return to Ohio State next year, he answered, “Yes.”

Ohio State followed that with five straight wins, including a rout of archrival Michigan that gave the Buckeyes another division title and then pulled away for an easy win over Northwestern in the Big Ten Championship.

The success was nothing new for Meyer, who was a standout coach at Utah before he left for Florida in 2005 and rocketed to the top of the college football coaching ranks, a peer of Alabama coach Nick Saban in terms of respect and ability. Critics noted that his success with the Gators was marred by a series of legal issues for his players, with more than two dozen arrests.

Almost exactly nine years ago, Meyer shocked college football by resigning at Florida after five seasons amid what he called stress-related health concerns that came to light when he suffered chest pains following the SEC championship game. He changed his mind, returned for another season and then stepped down in December 2010, saying he wanted to spend more time with family.

He was 46 then. And he wasn’t gone long: He took the Ohio State job before the 2012 season after Jim Tressel was forced out for lying to the NCAA amid a memorabilia-for-tattoos scandal.

It appeared to be a dream job for the Toledo native. His contract was extended in April by two years through 2022, increasing Meyer’s salary to $7.6 million in 2018 with annual 6 percent raises. Meyer has about $38 million left on his contract.

Ohio State will now turn to Day, a second-year Ohio State assistant who had never before been a head coach before he stepped in during Meyers’ suspension.


Urban Meyer Coaching Record

W L Pct
2001 Bowling Green 8 3 .727
2002 Bowling Green 9 3 .750
2003 Utah 10 2 .833
2004 Utah 12 0 1.000
2005 Florida 9 3 .750
2006 Florida-x 13 1 .929
2007 Florida 9 4 .692
2008 Florida-x 13 1 .929
2009 Florida 12 1 .923
2010 Florida 7 5 .583
2012 Ohio State 12 0 1.000
2013 Ohio State 12 2 .857
2014 Ohio State-x 14 1 .933
2015 Ohio State 12 1 .923
2016 Ohio State 11 2 .846
2017 Ohio State 12 2 .857
2018 Ohio State-y 9 1 .900
Bowling Green Total 17 6 .739
Utah Total 22 2 .917
Florida Total 63 15 .808
Ohio State Total 82 9 .901
Overall 186 32 .853

x-national champion

y-suspended three games

Bowl Record (10-3)

Dec. 31, 2003 Liberty Bowl: Utah 17, Southern Miss. 0

Jan. 1, 2005 Fiesta Bowl: Utah 35, Pittsburgh 7

Jan. 2, 2006 Outback Bowl: Florida 31, Iowa 24

Jan. 8, 2007 BCS National Championship: Florida 41, Ohio State 14

Jan. 1, 2008 Capital One Bowl: Michigan 41, Florida 35

Jan. 8, 2009 BCS National Championship: Florida 24, Oklahoma 14

Jan. 1, 2010 Sugar Bowl: Florida 51, Cincinnati 24

Jan. 1, 2011 Outback Bowl: Florida 37, Penn State 24

Jan. 3, 2014 Orange Bowl: Clemson 40, Ohio State 35

Jan. 1, 2015 Sugar Bowl (CFC SF): Ohio State 42, Alabama 35

Jan. 12, 2015 College Football Championship: Ohio State 42, Oregon 20

Dec. 31, 2016 Fiesta Bowl (CFC SF): Clemson 31, Ohio State 0

Dec. 29, 2017 Cotton Bowl: Ohio State 24, Southern Cal 7

20 COMMENTS

  1. So let’s see how this plays out. Urb is going to “retire” because of “health issues” and “spend more quality time with his family.” Then, next fall when the USC job opens he will be “recovered” and “rested” and ready to coach the Trojans.

  2. I almost feel sorry for Urban. He seems to have spent his whole career chasing happiness that he can’t quite grasp. His longest tenure was 7 years at his supposed dream job at Ohio State. Ohio State was in his home state, he was 81-9, the University would do anything for him and he is reloaded year after year. There always seems to be something missing. I’m sure he does have health issues, but staying home with the family does not seem to satisfy him. He will probably end up at USC or Notre Dame, stay there for 5-7 years, until he realizes that he is not happy at those schools either. He is a fantastic football coach, but that doesn’t seem to be enough for him. Hopefully he finds what he is looking for, but I don’t think the answer to what ails him is on the football field.

    • Well, he certainly left the Ohio State job with a big cloud over his head. And just like he left Florida. The man could recruit and coach, but he is not a man of high character. Or even medium character. I will not miss him, and I hope ESPN and the rest of the media that covers college football stays clear of the man this time. But I am sure he already has a broadcasting job lined up.

  3. I think I now officially am dropping my disdain for Urban Meyer, and can stop rooting against Ohio State at every opportunity. Enough is enough. Obviously this guy has some issues that he and his family have and have had to deal with. I think it’s time for Gator Nation to try to get over his leaving UF the way he did. And to start to appreciate and embrace the legacy he left us when he was here. Two Championships, unbelievable recruiting classes. I’m off the Meyer hater train. Wishing Urban and his family all the best. This Gator loves and appreciates all the great things you did for the University of Florida. And yes, I’ll be rooting for your Buckeyes this bowl season. God bless.

    • This is exhibit A on what is wrong with college football and basketball. That is, fans placing the concerns, wants and drama of a head coach ahead of the well being of the program. Urban Meyer left Gator football as “a broken program.” He and Jeremy Foley did not fulfill their duty to the program and the young men who sacrificed their bodies for the program. Allowing “the inmates to run the asylum” was not in the best interest of the program or the players. Meyer’s resignation, return, and subsequent resignation was a debacle and embarrassment. Only now, after eight long years of mediocrity, does it appear Gator football is emerging from the wilderness.

    • alum84….nice to see someone taking the high road. SOS put UF on the national map and URB took it further and even higher. Had he not been at UF, we would be a one-time national champ. Yeah, I know it sounds like I’m dismissing his dark side, bur UF is now at the table because of him.

    • I’m pretty sure most Gator fans respect the championships and joy those championships brought with them, but that doesn’t change everything that came along with them and what happened after. It’s one thing to respect what one was able to accomplish and another to respect them as a person. I for one can never respect someone who puts winning above everything else, and he’s proven time and time again that that’s all he cared about. Other than the 2 championships, his biggest legacy was the corrupt win at all costs program he fostered, and having more arrests under his watch than any other program in the country. That corrupt culture resulted in a bunch of players that felt like they were bigger than the program, and that directly led to the 8 year downward spiral it went into. Most of Muschamp’s tenure involved him trying to fix the culture he left behind. Hard to respect that. Gator fans still respected him after he retired. It wasn’t until he took the OSU job a year later proving every reason he gave for leaving was a lie, that he lost the fan base. Funny thing is, OSU fans are sitting on their high horses right now acting like they’re better than us for treating him with respect and gratitude on his way out, as if the 2 situations are even remotely similar. You can bet for damn sure if he takes another job in a year, that you’re going to see them turn on him just as bad if not worse than Gator fans did. Fortunately for them though, he’s leaving them in a much better situation. Safe to say he won’t be saying the program is broken like he did after leaving here. Who knows, maybe we can find some gratitude for him if we poach some of their recruits that back out now. I’ll certainly appreciate that.

      • “Most of Muschamp’s tenure involved him trying to fix the culture he left behind.” What a LOAD of BS!… most of his tenure”? What kind of incompetent coach are you then saying Muschamp is. It only takes 1 year for ANY coach to change the culture. Guys buy in and those that dont leave! Muschamps problems WEREN’T from Meyer it was from his own offensive coaching skills and lack of ability to choose good offensive coaches! To TLHGator, “allowing inmates to run the asylum”? From what I’ve read from players, their strength and conditioning was a nightmare where they were pushed beyond human capabilities(sometimes to harm), hardly the inmates running the asylum! The practices were brutal and very hard nosed, hardly the inmates running the asylum! Just because he let the best players do things that others weren’t, has nothing to do with letting inmates make the rules, decide how practices or training was done because he didn’t!!! Some of you are just mad because he was too lenient by your liking with who he chose for the team and how he administered punishment!
        I agree with alum84 and gatorsr. Im very grateful to Meyer for what he did for the University of Florida. The heights he took this program to. He made us one of the top teams in the nation and we are still benefiting from that each year from the sports writers in how we are ranked and perceived. So he didn’t do things just the way I thought he should. Well tell me this, what individual do you know in a powerful position does everything just the way you think he should??? HMMM? I cant name one in my entire life! It’s because we are all individuals with opinions that vary by great and little on every issue and on how they should be addressed! Unlike Alum84 I never had a disdain for Meyer so I dont have to get off that train that I never got on. I give any powerful person a great latitude before I disdain them. I know I will disagree with them on many things so I look on the aggregate of what they do or did. If it’s positive I support them and if not I oppose them! Mullen doesnt do everything they way I think he should(sometimes I question his play calling and funny enough he also questioned it after the game[for example]) but I have been his supporter from the day he was announced, and will continue because overall what he is doing for the university is positive. Overall what Meyer did for UF was positive and we owe him a debt of gratitude. He is inexorably linked to the greatness of this university, to its history and to its legacy. So to those who don’t like it, get over it, that’s NOT going to change!!! We were very fortunate to have had him!
        Personally, I would like to thank him publicly for some of the greatest years I’ve had as a gator fan. Oh the thrill of those championship years, it was a wonderful time, thankyou Urban. I’m sorry to hear that your health has once again changed your plans for your future, a brain cyst and debilitating migraines are no matter for levity. I know because I’ve have suffered with migraines from another source for over a decade, they make living a hell at the time. I wish you well, God’s speed!

  4. Best of luck to Meyer and his family. That he is a great coach cannot be denied. I for one appreciate the national championships and the development of the coach we have now. Those years with Tebow, Leak, Harvin, Nelson and many others were great fun for Gators.

    While he may be flawed and made mistakes, he didn’t do anything bad enough to warrant the absurd hatred that many small minded fans exhibit. Regarding his short term longevity at programs, he is what we used to call in my former industry a “start up guy”. He is great at going in and getting things going, starting things up in the early phase that overwhelms most people. However, he gets tired of it over the long haul. He has a need to take a break and then move on and face a fresh new challenge. I wish him the bet in whatever his next challenge may be.

  5. If Urban hadn’t returned after resigning at the end of a 12-1 season in 2009, would we still say he left a “broken program”? What if a new coach, the anti-Muschamp, who knew how to utilize John Brantley’s skill set had come in and led the team to a 10 win season? What if Cam Newton had stayed? What if Grier hadn’t taken the wrong supplement? I know… that’s a lot of “what ifs”, but those were things beyond Urban’s control.

    Regarding his tolerance for bad behavior, since when are accusations of domestic violence bad behavior? Certainly, committing acts of domestic violence is wrong, but it’s a knee-jerk, political correctness inspired reaction to suspend a coach, or anyone else, based on unsubstantiated accusations. I have no problem with a head coach and/or the university investigating and taking appropriate action when allegations are proven correct. But, in truth, domestic violence is a crime, and the police and justice system are the proper authorities. Perhaps in this case, Urban was derelict in not properly investigating, but I think universities are so desirous of being seen as expressing the proper outrage against the latest PC cause du jour that they’re willing to throw anyone under the bus without due process.

    • I thought it was an overreaction to have suspended meyer for not coming down on a coach who had a few accusations against him over many years time. Personally I dont think it was his responsibility to have done anything. If this woman was so wronged it was HER responsibility to have brought charges thru the proper authorities, not blame others for not doing what she wouldnt do!

      • So the Drug addiction, Lies and Player abuse wasn’t a good enough reason? This had been going on for 2 or 3 years!! OSU’s Board of directors took this away from the Faculty senate because the senate would have fired UM and there goes the NC! There goes the Wins, there goes the REVENUE!! To them it’s about the Money and they wins , reputation comes last! The President MADE the Board suspend him because they “didn’t find” UM was in the wrong. UM should have been fired before this season even started! Had he been at Kent state, Pitt or any of the other smaller schools, he’s gone at the snap of the fingers. Not at OSU though!

        I wish the guy well, considering he left us with a broken program which Muschump fixed in a season. Thanks to Dan Quinn we had an 11-2 season in Chumps 2nd season. Thus the drop off the next few seasons, great recruiting and poor coaching. In comes Mr. Pathetic who couldn’t coach either, good recruiting though. Thanks to Geoff Tate for us making it to the SECCG 2 seasons with that beast Defense! We just couldn’t score points. Randy Shannon takes over the D and the the Defense was as pathetic as the Offense. 4-7 speaks volumes! If it hadn’t been for the Defense helping to put points on the board for 3 of the 8 seasons, WE would have been 4-8 for the other 7 seasons. Just my opinion

  6. I wish Urban the best. But I’m tired of hearing the never-ending drama that is this guy; he put Gator Nation through the wringer with his “medical problems” and “need for family time”. Thanks for the two Natty championships Urban. I’m sure we’ll see you on the sidelines again when you get tired of family time… rinse, repeat.

  7. Urban gets a lot of blame for the failure of Muschamp and that the program was broken. The biggest mistake made by Muschamp was hiring Charlie Weis as his offense coordinator whom tried to fit speed guys recruited by Urban into a power game. The program had disciplinary problems before Meyer even with SOS, and Zook. There were issues after him with Muschamp and McElwain too. Meyer was also very frustrated with the illegal recruiting in SEC of Cam Newton and lost it when Carolos Dunlap got arrested during the week of the SEC championship game that they lost.