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Published: Tuesday, 8/30/2011 - Updated: 3 years ago

Meyer misses coaching but satisfied at ESPN

BY MATT MARKEY
BLADE SPORTS WRITER
Health concerns forced Urban Meyer to leave Florida, where he won two NCAA titles. Health concerns forced Urban Meyer to leave Florida, where he won two NCAA titles.
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COLUMBUS -- Former Florida head coach Urban Meyer will arrive here this weekend to be part of the ESPN team that will broadcast the Buckeyes' 2011 season-opener against Akron.

For the first time in a quarter century, the Ohio native will not be in the locker room and patrolling the sideline on a football Saturday in the fall.

Meyer, whose name is the one most frequently mentioned when speculation percolates over a potential long-term successor to recently deposed Ohio State coach Jim Tressel, said he still feels the tug to be in the midst of the action.

"I miss it horribly," said Meyer, who resigned as the Gators' head coach last December after leading Florida to two national championships. "But it's the right time to do what I'm doing, and that's working at ESPN and watching my kids play."

Meyer's oldest daughter is a member of the volleyball team at Georgia Tech, while his younger daughter plays volleyball at Florida Gulf Coast. His son is a youth football player in Gainesville.

"That part outweighs me sincerely missing coaching," the 47-year-old Meyer said.

When Tressel's 10-year run as Ohio State's coach ended abruptly in late May as an NCAA investigation into the tattoo and memorabilia scandal continued to swirl around him, Meyer had to issue a statement to derail the rampant rumors that he would take over at the top of the Buckeyes' program.

"I am committed to ESPN and will not pursue any coaching opportunities this fall," Meyer said at the time, when Ohio State had already named former defensive coordinator Luke Fickell to take over for Tressel for the 2011 season.

His use of the phrase "this fall" seemed to leave the door open to a potential return to coaching at some point, and a lot of Buckeyes' fans were quick to make that assumption at the time. That door is still ajar following Meyer's recent comments, which came during an ESPN promotion for its coverage of the coming football season.

"I'm in a little bit of an evaluation phase in my life, also. I'm trying not to look too far in advance," Meyer said. "There's a big part of me that hopes I love what I'm doing and really enjoy witnessing some of these things with my kids growing up. But I do miss coaching very badly, so I don't know. I'm not going to evaluate until it's time to evaluate."

Meyer's first job in coaching was as a graduate assistant at Ohio State on the staff of Earle Bruce in 1986-87, then he worked as an assistant at Illinois State, Colorado State, and Notre Dame before being named the head coach at Bowling Green in 2001. He led the Falcons to a 17-6 mark in two seasons before moving on to Utah.

He went 10-2 in his first season at Utah, then delivered the school's first unbeaten season in nearly 75 years when his 2004 team went 12-0, beating Pittsburgh in the Fiesta Bowl.

Florida hired the University of Cincinnati graduate in 2005 and won a national championship with Meyer the following season, humiliating the Buckeyes 41-14 in the title game. He won a second national crown with the Gators in 2008.

Meyer resigned from the job at Florida late in December of 2009, citing health concerns, but later he reconsidered his decision and took a conditional leave of absence. He returned in time for spring practice and coached the team last season, winning his final game with the Gators, a 37-24 Outback Bowl victory over Penn State.

Meyer will work the ESPN broadcast of the No. 18 Buckeyes' game with Akron, teaming with former Ohio State All-American Chris Spielman and commentator Dave Pasch.

Contact Matt Markey at: mmarkey@theblade.com or 419-724-6510.



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