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Published: Saturday, 12/3/2011

Editorial

Urban renewal

Ohio State University's decision to give its new head football coach a six-year contract that will pay him roughly $4 million a year suggests that the school may have to work a bit harder on placing its athletic program in the proper institutional perspective.

Still, Urban Meyer -- who was born in Toledo and previously coached at Bowling Green -- appears to possess all the attributes he will need not only to bring the Buckeyes success on the field, but more important, to restore the football program's tarnished credibility.

The National Collegiate Athletic Association has yet to announce how it will punish Ohio State for the scandal in which former coach Jim Tressel responded ineffectively to several star players who accepted improper gratuities. Mr. Meyer's willingness to accept the job despite that uncertainty speaks favorably of his dedication to the school.

Mr. Meyer already has made a smart move by agreeing to keep interim coach Luke Fickell, who replaced Mr. Tressel this season, on his staff. Despite the turmoil that followed Mr. Tressel's ouster and the suspension or departure of the players implicated in the scandal, Mr. Fickell led the team to a respectable (if not typical for the Buckeyes) 6-6 record and even bowl eligibility.

Coach Meyer quit his previous job at the University of Florida, where he won two national championships, because of medical problems related in part to work stress. It's to be hoped that he can remain healthy and serene in Columbus, although the pressure he will face is not likely to be any less acute. The ironclad contract he says he has made with his family is reassuring.

To succeed, Mr. Meyer and his staff will need to recruit student-athletes who display as much character as talent. They will have to exercise reasonable oversight of players' activities off the field as well as on, including their performance in the classroom.

The team's graduation rate must be as important a metric as its won-lost record, against Michigan or any other school. Somehow, Buckeye Nation needs to be convinced of that.

All these things are more likely to happen if Ohio State President E. Gordon Gee and Athletic Director Gene Smith appropriately discharge their oversight duties as well, ensuring that the football team reflects the university's educational values. They need only look to Penn State to remind themselves of the dreadful corruption that can occur when such monitoring is inadequate.

Mr. Meyer was pretty clearly Ohio State's first choice. He says he wouldn't have taken any other coaching job. Ohioans can hope that the next six years, at least, will redeem the high expectations of the new coach -- which will not be confined to the Horseshoe.



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