BOWLING GREEN - Bowling Green State University football coach Urban Meyer has been offered the head-coaching job at the University of Utah, according to sources in Salt Lake City close to the search process.
Sources close to the BGSU athletic department said yesterday that Meyer was expected to fly home late last night and then meet with his team and staff to inform them of his decision today.
Over the past week, Meyer, who has led Bowling Green to a 17-6 record in his two seasons as head coach, has met twice with Utah athletic director Chris Hill. The most recent meeting took place on Monday after Hill picked Meyer up at the Salt Lake City International Airport, sources said.
Hill, who has interviewed at least a half-dozen other candidates for the Utah job over the past 10 days, would not comment on the process or confirm that he had met with Meyer, a spokesman for the Utah athletic department said.
Meyer, who has been out of town on a recruiting trip for the last several days, did not return messages seeking comment.
Hill fired Utah head coach Ron McBride two days after the end of a 5-6 season in which the Utes lost six straight games. McBride was 88-63 in 13 seasons with the Utes and led his team to six bowl games, where they went 3-3. He failed to win a conference championship outright at Utah, finishing in a four-way tie for the Western Athletic Conference title in 1995, and sharing the Mountain West championship three ways in 1999. McBride had nine winning seasons, but Hill said the program had “stagnated” in recent years.
In a bizarre twist, McBride wrote a three-page letter to the university's board of trustees in the days after he was fired, questioning the reasons Hill had given for his firing and asking to be reinstated. The board turned down his request, saying it did not have the power to make such a move. McBride was paid $310,000 this year in base and supplemental income, and received another $156,000 upon his dismissal as mandated by his contract, which had one year remaining.
Meyer, who was hired by Bowling Green athletic director Paul Krebs in December of 2000 to revive its slumping football fortunes, received a base salary of $125,000 this year with additional income from radio and television appearances, and other areas. Sources near the Utah athletic department said yesterday that the new head coach of the Utes is expected to be paid up to $500,000 in base salary, supplemental income and bonuses.
Krebs declined to comment on the specifics of the current situation, saying he did not want to confirm or deny what Meyer was doing. Krebs did say he expected the matter to be resolved quickly. Krebs confirmed that a new five-year deal is in place for Meyer at Bowling Green, something that was put in the works midway through the past season.
Krebs said that he does grant permission to other schools to talk to Bowling Green coaches, but declined to detail which schools had contacted him expressing an interest in Meyer. Sources inside the BGSU athletic department said that both Utah and Wyoming had requested and received such permission since the end of the season.
Hill reportedly met with three other coaching prospects last week at the Denver airport. He interviewed Colorado offensive coordinator Shawn Watson, Notre Dame defensive coordinator Kent Baer and Kansas State co-defensive coordinator Bob Elliott in Denver. Hill has also met with Southern Cal offensive coordinator Norm Chow, and Utah defensive coordinator Kyle Whittingham.
Meyer, 38, has had his name come up nearly every time a coaching vacancy has occurred around the country, including at Michigan State. Meyer took over a Bowling Green program that had suffered through six straight losing seasons and had gone 2-9 in 2000 in its final season under Gary Blackney. Meyer went 8-3 in 2001, and started 8-0 this season before the Falcons lost three of their final four games to finish 9-3.
Utah plays in Rice-Eccles Stadium, site of the opening and closing ceremonies for the 2002 Olympic Winter Games. The 45,634-seat structure has 25 luxury suites and a natural grass playing surface. Its capacity puts it in the middle of the Mountain West Conference stadiums in size.
Utah averaged about 35,000 fans per home game this past season, but that figure is based on tickets sold, not actual attendance.