Chelsea Castle / Managing editor for content
Before Urban Meyer officially became Ohio State’s new head football coach, he had to sign two contracts.
He signed the document for the university dictating his salary, benefits and various responsibilities, but Meyer couldn’t sign that contract until signing a completely different type of agreement.
He had to sign a contract with his wife, son and two daughters.
At his introductory press conference Monday, Meyer pulled out a folded-up pink piece of paper from his suit pocket.
“This is a contract that my kids made me sign before I was allowed to sign a real contract,” Meyer said. “It’s tougher than any other contract I’ve signed in my life.”
The basic idea was to ensure Meyer wouldn’t let his pursuit of success in coaching completely interfere with spending time with his family and monitoring his physical health.
Success was something Meyer had a lot of during his six years as head coach at the University of Florida. He won two national championships, coached a Heisman Trophy winner and averaged 10.8 wins a season. But according to Meyer, the success had a side effect.
He said as time went on, he became consumed with his job and the idea of attaining perfection. The obsession affected both his personal health and his family life.
Meyer said he sent texts messages to recruits while in church and once lost twenty pounds in a little more than a week because he was so focused on winning his team’s upcoming game.
“I call it the pursuit of perfection,” Meyer said. “I think at the end of the day we all know there’s no such thing. I fell victim to that.”
Meyer took a year off from coaching after the 2010 season and became a college football analyst at ESPN, in part to spend more time with family.
Todd McShay worked directly with Meyer at ESPN and said Meyer talked about the rigors of being a football coach interfering with his family life.
“When he walked away from the Florida job, he had not seen a game, I mean not a game of his daughters’ or his son in anything — any sport,” McShay said. “(Some of his kids) were in college and he had never been to a high school volleyball game. Not one.
“This year has been special to him and getting that time with his kids and his family.”
But during his time off, Meyer still had the itch to coach. He said it didn’t take him long to realize he couldn’t stay away from the profession that he dedicated the majority of his life to.
“I remember (my wife) Shelley and I went for a walk one day, and I looked at her and I said, ‘I don’t think I can do this,'” Meyer said. “She started rolling her eyes at me again. She’s had to deal with me for 22 years, really 27 years. But I said, ‘I want to (coach) again.'”
Before he could relaunch his coaching career, Meyer had to convince his family he could handle the stress of being a head coach again.
“There’s no people more important than my three children and my wife,” Meyer said. “They had some second thoughts. We had a meeting.”
The meeting helped produce a contract, which was Meyer’s 21-year-old daughter’s idea. She plays volleyball at Georgia Tech, and made sure her father would maintain balance in his life and even attend a few of his kids’ sporting events.
The terms were written down on the pink piece of paper and Meyer signed it.
As he was negotiating his contract to become OSU’s next coach, Meyer showed the contract to athletic director Gene Smith and made sure he could live up to his family’s standards.
“I feel confident that we’ll work very hard to make sure we meet the requirement of his daughter’s contract,” Smith said. “And we will make sure he has balance in his life. I think if you really listen to him, at the end of the day that’s something that he needs. And I am one of those athletic directors that believes in that.”
Smith was especially adamant that Meyer sees his daughters play volleyball.
“He’ll definitely go see his daughters play volleyball,” Smith said. “There will be no excuse.”
Meyer accepted the job at OSU with the belief he could live up to the terms of his family’s contract. During his time away from the game, Meyer said he discovered other coaches and professionals that got too caught up in their careers and seeing the problem from the outside-looking-in helped Meyer see the consequences of his previous actions.
“In this profession I found out a lot of guys … that just get so enamored or so consumed by their profession that they forget really the purpose of our whole deal is, and that’s to raise a wonderful family,” Meyer said. “When you see people too consumed with their profession that they let things go at home and then that costs them down the road.”
Former OSU linebacker Chris Spielman said he doesn’t think Meyer will have to pay those costs. Spielman, who worked with Meyer at ESPN. said he thinks Meyer has his priorities in order.
“I think that his priorities are his faith, his family and then football,” Spielman said. “And I think he’ll have people in his life to hold him accountable to that, to that priority list.”
Chelsea Castle contributed to this story.