BOWLING GREEN - Urban Meyer is spending the last two weeks of his summer away from the comforts of home, in a place that would never be mistaken for the Marriott, or even Motel 6.
Where Bowling Green's second-year head coach is staying, there is no cable, no easy chair, no coffee maker, and no refrigerator. The carpet is thin and rumpled, the walls are bare, and the motif is contemporary institutional. With an upgrade, it could be called spartan.
The austere surroundings are part of training camp - an intense period of preparation for the upcoming football season. The Falcon team is housed on the BGSU campus in a Founders Quadrangle dormitory for the duration of camp, and Meyer chooses to stay with his players - around the clock.
After the 10:30 p.m. bed check, he retires to his cramped quarters just down the hall from his offensive linemen.
Meyer's assistant coaches are also staying in the dormitory this summer.
“This is a very important time for a football team, and a very difficult time, so I think it is critical to be close to the players,” Meyer said. “As a coaching staff we are very aggressive and we work them hard in practice, so it helps to have some time with them away from the football field - to eat with them and relax a little with them.”
Meyer also stayed with his team last August as it prepared for his first season as BG's head coach. He said he saw the concept work while he was an assistant at Ohio State under Earle Bruce.
“Coach Bruce thought it was important to develop a bond, that whole trust factor that is so much a part of everything you do with a football team. If you coach them hard like you should, then you want to be around to bring them back up when you're off the practice field. You don't just work them to death and then go home.”
Joe Alls, a senior running back from Sterling Heights, Mich., said having the head coach live in the dorm with the team during two-a-day workouts can only help create good chemistry.
“It is a sacrifice that he chooses to make, and I think it shows what type of man he is,” Alls said. “Coach Meyer has a nice home and a family on the other side of town, and I'm sure he'd be a lot more comfortable there, but for this couple of weeks he spends that time with the team. A lot of coaches wouldn't do that.”
Offensive lineman Dennis Wendel, one of two players on the BG team who is married, said the whole atmosphere around training camp changes when the head coach is so involved.
“I'm away from my wife too, but him making that sacrifice and staying in the dorm with us sets a strong example that the team comes first as we get ready for the season,” said Wendel, a senior from St. Henry.
“The rooms are pretty bare - there's not much there - but how can anyone complain if the head coach is living and sleeping right there, too? From top to bottom, everyone associated with this team is just concentrating on football.”
Meyer said that after the grueling double sessions in the August heat, the evenings in the dorm offer a perfect time to build relationships with the players, ward off any homesickness they might be battling, and repair egos that can take a beating during the harsh practice setting.
“As a coach you work these kids extremely hard, but you also want them to know that you care about them as individuals,” Meyer said.
“There is no patching up anyone's ego while you are out on the football field, so during camp the evening is a good time to do that. Being around the players in a setting like that gives a coach a better understanding about who these kids are, and that can only be a positive thing for the program.”