NCAA Waiver Allows Meyer to Hit Recruiting Trail
By Brandon Castel
COLUMBUS, Ohio — While Luke Fickell prepares this group of Ohio State players to play in whatever bowl they are inevitably invited to, Urban Meyer stands in wait as the future of Buckeye football.
He does not stand idly.
Though he won’t begin his duties as the head football coach in Columbus until after the new year, Meyer has already began to wreak havoc on a volatile recruiting landscape that was just starting to settle in.
“My goal right now is to put together a fantastic recruiting class,” Meyer said to great applause, if only internal, during his introductory press conference on Monday evening.
“The formula is real simple. Go recruit some really good players that know how to compete, are tough, go surround them with the best coaches in the country, you usually find a way to win a few games. That's the formula we're going to use here, and we're going to go really, really hard.”
Meyer, who notably won two BCS national championship at Florida, has already begun his assault on some of the top recruits in the country. And he isn’t just going to settle for the guys in Ohio, or even the Midwest.
In the meantime, he is working on putting together one of the best coaching staffs money can buy, although it won’t take much convincing to get great coaches to join Meyer in Columbus.
“I think I 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 four to six seconds of relentless effort. You do that, you have a chance to win in every game you play.”
That’s the idea, but it has been most auspicious for Ohio State that not only was Meyer available after stepping away from his job in Gainesville after last season, but he was able and ready to step in immediately following their season-ending loss at Michigan.
“We're fortunate, rarely do you have a chance to have your new head coach come on this way, this fast, without a staff,” OSU Athletic Director Gene Smith said.
“So it's slightly unique compared to other experiences. So it affords you an opportunity to look at it differently. So I felt that this staff was the right staff to coach this team.”
Fickell has served as the interim head coach since Jim Tressel was forced to resign back in May. He and all nine of his assistant coaches from the 2011 season will remain in place to coach the Buckeyes in the postseason thanks to a special waiver from the NCAA.
Under normal NCAA guidelines, teams are only permitted to have 10 full-time coaches on staff, including the head coach. In this case, Ohio State filed what is called an SLR waiver (formerly ARS), which is Subcommittee for Legislative Relief, with the NCAA.
“What we did in this case is file the waiver to say we would like to have more than 10 coaches, but the responsibilities essentially will not go beyond 10 coaches,” said Chris Rogers, Ohio State’s Assistant Athletic Director for Compliance.
“Which is to say, for a lack of a better word, the former coaching staff will have responsibilities for on-field coaching only. The new coaching staff members who would come on would have responsibilities for recruiting and administrative responsibilities only.”
That even applies to Meyer, who will have limited access to the actual day-in and day-out coaching of Ohio State’s team until he takes over as the man in charge.
“We'll separate Urban from coaching this team,” Smith said during the press conference.
“The reality is he will go to practice on occasion. But he will focus on building his staff, building his organization and recruiting. He will not be involved in game planning.”
That will be left to Fickell and his coaches, some of whom will remain on staff under Meyer after the transition. Once Meyer fills out his new staff, the only overlap would be current assistant coaches, like Fickell, who will remain on the new staff under Meyer after the bowl game.
They would continue to coach the team and help Meyer recruit.
“Essentially our reason was that we would like this new coaching staff to start their responsibilities while the current coaches continue coaching,” Rogers said.
“These are the parameters: We won’t go over 10 people who are coaching and we won’t go over 10 people who are recruiting, and we’re still limited to seven recruiters off campus at any given time.”
Approving this waiver might sound like a huge favor for the Buckeyes, who haven’t exactly been in the NCAA’s good graces over the last 12 months. Rogers points out that it is actually quite common in the world of college football.
“This is not a waiver that is out of the ordinary,” he said.
“If you look at NCAA case precedents, there are a handful of these that go on every year, depending on football coaches or whatever spot it might be across the country. It tends to be more typical in football because of the gap between the end of football season and the bowl game, and institutions hiring coaches before the bowl games.”
We saw a similar situation at Michigan when Rich Rodriguez was hired on Dec. 17, 2007 to replace Lloyd Carr in Ann Arbor. Carr and his staff coached the Wolverines to a 41-35 win over Meyer’s Gators in the Capitol One Bowl.
After the bowl game, Rodriguez kept only one assistant, Fred Jackson, from Carr’s staff.
“In any given year you can look at a handful that are granted, because a lot of circumstances are similar to ours,” Rogers added.
“Typically they are not having the new coaching staff coach the bowl game, so they will file a waiver to allow them to begin their responsibilities, but they cannot take on their on-field responsibilities until after the bowl game.”
From now until then, Meyer will be free to pick his staff, and pick off recruits.
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