COLUMBUS — A guy who was born in Toledo, raised in Ashtabula, schooled in Cincinnati, and coached his first college game as a graduate assistant in Ohio’s capital city 25 years ago, came home Monday.
Urban Meyer, the former Bowling Green State University coach who went on to win two national championships at Florida, was introduced as the 24th head coach of the Buckeyes, launching the next era of Ohio State football.
“This is my home state ... and it’s great to be back home,” Meyer said to a ballroom packed with media and OSU staff.
The move had been anticipated for more than a week, and it came just two days after the Buckeyes ended the 2011 regular season with a loss at Michigan that gave Ohio State a 6-6 record and a 3-5 Big Ten mark.
- Bowling Green (2001-02): 17–6
- Utah (2003-04): 22–2
- Florida (2005-10): 65-15
National championships: 2006, 2008
Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith said the 47-year-old Meyer, who has a 104-23 record in his 10 seasons as a head coach at Bowling Green, Utah, and Florida, was the ideal choice to take over the OSU program.
“There’s a right time for certain leaders,” Smith said. “This is the right time for Urban Meyer to lead our football program.”
Ohio State, rocked by nearly a year of scandal and turmoil involving multiple NCAA violations and player suspensions, was led through the 2011 season on an interim basis by former player and longtime assistant coach Luke Fickell. Meyer said he has had two very productive conversations with Fickell over the past couple of days and that Fickell will remain on the Ohio State staff in a “significant position.”
Smith said Fickell will remain as interim head coach for the next month or so and coach the Buckeyes in the upcoming bowl game, while Meyer will focus his energy on recruiting and assembling a staff.
“Luke and this staff took on an unbelievable challenge to lead this football program through this particular year at this particular time,” Smith said. “He was the right leader for that time.”
Meyer will receive a six-year contract that will pay him about $4 million in annual compensation.
He will be eligible to receive additional supplemental bonuses for achieving certain milestones, including academic accomplishments by the football program. There are also annual retention bonuses beginning in 2014 that total $2.4 million if Meyer remains at Ohio State through the end of the contract, which runs until Jan. 31, 2018.
“In Urban Meyer we have found an exemplary person and remarkable coach to lead the university’s football program into the future,” Ohio State President E. Gordon Gee said in a statement released by OSU. “As an alumnus, he understands and believes in the core academic mission of the university. As an Ohioan, he shares our common values and sense of purpose.”
- Age: 47
- Birthplace: Toledo
- Hometown: Ashtabula
- High School: Ashtabula St. John
- Family: Wife, Shelley; daughters Nicole, Gigi, and son Nathan
- Bachelor's degree in psychology from Cincinnati 1986
- Master's in sports administration from Ohio State 1988
- Defensive back, Cincinnati
- Baseball — 13th-round selection by the Atlanta Braves in the 1982 draft and played two seasons in the Braves organization
- Spent a season interning as a defensive backs coach at Cincinnati St. Xavier High School
- Assistant at Ohio State, Illinois State, Colorado State, Notre Dame
- Head coach at Bowling Green (17-6 in two seasons)
- Head coach at Utah (22-2 in two seasons, two Mountain West championships)
- Head coach at Florida (65-15 in six seasons, two SEC championships, two national championships)
Meyer, who resigned his post at Florida following the 2010 season, worked as a college football analyst for ESPN this past year. When he was absent from the college football coverage this past weekend, his move to Ohio State was all but confirmed.
Smith said he first discussed the job with Meyer on the phone just over a week ago, on Nov. 20. The two met face-to-face on Nov. 23, but no offer was presented to Meyer until Sunday, the day after the Michigan game. Smith said Meyer accepted the offer early Monday morning.
“We’re fortunate to have a man who gets it, who has great understanding of the rich history and tradition that is embedded in The Ohio State University and embedded in being a Buckeye,” Smith said.
“I want to thank he and his family for taking on this leadership role and congratulate them for coming home, because at the end of the day, they’re coming home to Ohio.”
Meyer did not go into great detail about his plans for the on-field product, but he offered an outline for the style he will demand from the Buckeyes of 2012.
“I think go hard. I mean, like relentless,” he said. “I want a bunch of coaches that coach like their hair’s on fire, and I want a football team that goes for four to six seconds with relentless effort. You do that, you have a chance to win every game you play.”
Ohio State’s first game under Meyer will be the 2012 season opener on Sept. 1 against the Miami RedHawks.
Contact Matt Markey at: email@example.com, 419-724-6510 or on Twitter @MattMarkey.