Chelsea Castle / Managing editor for content
It took a year of reflection, days of contemplation and prayer with his family, but Urban Meyer was finally introduced Monday as the new head coach of Ohio State football team.
Athletic director Gene Smith introduced Meyer, the 24th head coach in the history of OSU football, at the Fawcett Center on OSU’s campus Monday night after extending an offer to the former Florida coach and ESPN analyst. Meyer accepted the job Monday morning.
“I am deeply honored and humbled that Dr. (E. Gordon) Gee, the trustees and Gene Smith have selected (me) to lead the Ohio State football program,” Meyer said. “If it was but for the coaching position at the Ohio State University, I would not have coached this coming year.”
Smith had praise for the athletic department’s newest hire, saying, “Meyer is without a doubt one of the premier leaders in football.”
“(Meyer’s leadership) is represented in his record, but also in him as a man. He gets it. This is the right time for Urban Meyer to lead our football program,” Smith said. “We’re blessed to have him as our football coach.”
A release from the OSU athletic department sent prior to the Monday press conference said Meyer, who was first contacted about the coaching position by Smith at OSU on Nov. 20, will make $4 million annually for six seasons.
Meyer comes to OSU as it awaits a final ruling from the NCAA on its rules infractions. The Buckeyes’ new coach said he did his research before agreeing to terms with the university.
“I think that’s where the faith and trust has to come in,” he said. “I have faith in (Smith) and (Gee) and knew that that conversation was had. I asked the same question you did. ‘Is there anything behind door No. 2? No. 3? No. 4? I feel very confident and I have great trust that there’s not.”
After leaving Florida in 2010 due to health concerns, Meyer said he was in good health and fit to fulfill his new contract.
“Health-wise, I feel great,” Meyer said. “I feel fantastic. I took that opportunity (after leaving Florida) to do two things. First of all, I wanted to get my health.”
Meyer said he was unsure about returning to college football but is glad to have made his return in Columbus.
“Our objective is simple — to make the state of Ohio proud,” Meyer said. “Our goal is to win Big Ten championships.”
Meyer began his coaching career at OSU as a graduate assistant in 1987 as the Buckeyes’ tight end coach before moving to wide receiver coach the following season. Meyer then spent the next 13 seasons at Illinois State, Colorado State and Notre Dame. Then came Meyer’s first crack at head coaching, when he took the reigns at Bowling Green and went 17-6 in two seasons with the Falcons.
Meyer didn’t stop there, and now brings a winning pedigree and a history of developing players to Ohio Stadium.
In 10 seasons as an NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision coach at Bowling Green, Utah and Florida, the Ohio native compiled an overall record of 104-23 and a 7-1 record in bowl games. Meyer’s bowl triumphs included two national championships and a 4-0 record in Bowl Championship Series games.
Meyer also coached seven consensus All-Americans in six seasons at Florida.
The announcement of Meyer’s hire comes just days after OSU’s 40-34 loss to Michigan, which also served as the final regular season game in which current head coach Luke Fickell would lead the Buckeyes.
The athletic department release said that Fickell, the seventh one-year coach in OSU football history, will coach the team should it receive a postseason bowl bid. Fickell will also remain on Meyer’s coaching staff, according to the release.
Meyer said that Fickell will “play a significant role with a significant title” on the staff that is to be assembled. Meyer also described a meeting he and his wife, Shelley, had as they courted Fickell and his wife, Amy, to rejoin the coaching staff next year.
“I have great respect for (Fickell),” Meyer said. “He’s a man’s man. He’s everything you want for an Ohio State former player. (My wife) and I prayed on it. We took our time and there’s no doubt that we wanted (Fickell) to be a part of this team. He shook my hand … it was a very good moment for Ohio State.”
Smith took the opportunity to thank Fickell publicly.
“(Fickell) 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 … and I think we all saw that on the field of play.”
Fickell led OSU to a 6-6 record and a 3-5 mark in Big Ten play and is the first one-season coach in the modern era of Buckeyes football. Paul Bixler, the most recent OSU coach to serve for a period of one season, led the Buckeyes to a 4-3-2 record during the 1946 season.
Other one-year head coaches in OSU football history include Charles Hickey (1896), David Edwards (1897), Howard Jones (1910), Harry Vaughn (1911) and John Richards (1912). Fickell’s six regular-season wins tie him with Jones and Richards for the most wins among one-season head coaches.
After Fickell completes his stay as head coach after a possible OSU bowl game, Meyer will be running the show at the ‘Shoe.
“It’s great to be home,” Meyer said. “I chose to pack up and move the most precious things in my life — my family — and came here. It’s great to be home.”