Andrew Holleran / Photo editor
Whether Urban Meyer likes it or not, the expectation has been set for him to make the national championship in his second season as Ohio State’s football coach.
The Buckeyes’ last national championship came in 2002, Jim Tressel’s second season as OSU coach. Meyer won his first national championship at Florida in his second season as their coach. Furthermore, the Buckeyes were the only undefeated team in the Football Bowl Subdivision last season, finishing 12-0 although they were banned from postseason play.
Those expectations, however, aren’t coming from Meyer.
“I’m a realist,” Meyer told The Lantern in an exclusive interview Monday. “I know as of April 1, we’re not worthy of that conversation.”
Meyer acknowledged there are people in the program that do have national championship expectations but said the team’s primary goal should be competing for the Big Ten title, since even one loss could take the chance to play for a national championship out of their hands.
“I’ve heard these people say our goal is a national championship,” Meyer said. “No it’s not, because what happens if you have two injuries or bad chemistry on your team? Do you not play the rest of the year? We want to compete for championships in November.”
Meyer, who is entering his 12th season as a college football head coach, said he has “never not had a team compete for a championship in November.” He won two Mountain West Conference championships at Utah and two Southeastern Conference championships at Florida, but has never had a team finish lower than third in the division of its conference.
Meyer said he “thought we would be able to get this thing going rather quickly,” but thought an eight- or nine-win season would be a more realistic goal.
“I underestimated the power of our seniors we had last year,” Meyer said. “What was the reason we went 12-0? The leadership and toughness of our senior class.”
The Buckeyes start their fourth week of spring practice Tuesday and will also hold practices Thursday and Saturday as they continue to prepare for the LiFESports Spring Game on April 13.
Saturday’s practice will be the Buckeyes’ second-annual Student Appreciation Practice. The event will be held at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center at 11 a.m. and will be open to OSU students with a BuckID, along with siblings and parents of OSU students who are in attendance for “Sibs and Kids Weekend.”
Meyer said students are the most important support group for OSU football, with former players being the second-most important. Students tend to be overlooked, however, because of the money that boosters and other people bring in to the program, Meyer said.
“You do everything for boosters, you do a lot of things for former players … what about the students?” Meyer said. “I want them on our side. They’re the ones that create atmospheres in stadiums.”
Meyer said he wants the general student body to have a relationship with the OSU football players.
“The feedback I get from students is they felt like they don’t have access,” Meyer said. “Athletes walk on one side of the street, they walk on the other and that can’t happen. I don’t feel that here, I don’t think Ohio State’s really had that big of an issue.”
Meyer said he expects a big student turnout Saturday.
“I’d love to see thousands of students here,” Meyer said. “It’s their football team, it’s their coaching staff, it’s their facility. It’s not ours … I’m trying to give them ownership of this program.”
Taylor White, a second-year in social work, said she thinks it is important for students to have access to increase their involvement with the football program.
“Since we support them so much, we should have access to seeing practices or being involved,” White said.
Zach Brenner, a first-year in early childhood education, said he cannot attend this year’s event due to other plans but hopes the tradition continues so he can attend.
“Just seeing the team up close and personal before the Spring Game … I think it’s really a cool opportunity,” Brenner said.
About 510 of OSU’s approximately 1,100 student-athletes were honored Monday as OSU Scholar-Athletes, awarded for earning a grade-point average of at least 3.0 for the 2012-13 academic year. About 30 members of the 2012 Ohio State football team, which included more than 100 players, received the honor.
Meyer believes the number of academic achievers within the athletic department as a whole is indicative of OSU’s academic progress.
“You start talking about academic reform, and every time I hear that, I cringe and I say, ‘what do you want?'” Meyer said. “Two out of three (student-athletes above a 3.0 GPA)? How much more do you have to reform?”
Meyer said although the Big Ten is often regarded as a top academic conference, he feels that the emphasis on academic achievement has increased throughout college athletics.
“I think the Big Ten’s fantastic. I think we’re probably on the top, but does that mean other conferences don’t work on it? I don’t feel that,” Meyer said. “There’s a lot of things (that) need (to be) reformed in my mind in college athletics, but the amount of resources and time and energy spent on academics, I don’t know if you can do any more.”