Chatting With Urban Meyer—Part I
By Brandon Castel
COLUMBUS, Ohio — It was an interesting morning at Ohio State as new head coach Urban Meyer sat down for an informal chat with a small group of central Ohio media members.
Meyer admitted he did not do the best job of handling the media whenever the pressure was on at Florida, but vowed that he was going to be a different person in this job than he was at the end of his last one.
"Sometimes I get real defensive about my program and my players, but I’m going to be much better about that,” Meyer said during a gathering that he requested with members of the beat media in Columbus.
“I just migrate more to the football guys – the guys who appreciate the game, appreciate the players. I will do better. At Bowling Green, I thought we did great.”
Admittedly, it was a lot easier to deal with the media back then.
“I was excited whenever we had a press conference if somebody showed up,” he said with a chuckle.
“My first press conference at Bowling Green, there were two people there. Then when we went to media day, I walked into the room and was there 20 minutes and no one talked to me. That was my first media day. No one cared.”
They certainly care now.
In just 10 short years, Meyer has gone from a complete unknown at Bowling Green, where he took over after five years as the wide receivers coach at Notre Dame, to one of the most recognizable names and faces in all of college football.
If his two BCS National Championships were not enough to grab everyone’s attention, he has certainly done a good job capturing headlines with his recruiting since taking over as the head coach at Ohio State back on Nov. 28.
“I think it has been our staff. When you can go into a young man’s home and talk about what you passionately believe in, it’s not very difficult,” Meyer pointed out.
“It’s what I really like to do. And I think some of our players—Braxton Miller and others—are very good when we get those recruits on our campus.”
Meyer credited interim head coach Luke Fickell and his staff with keeping the infrastructure in place at Ohio State so that he did not have make complete overhauls of a broken system when he agreed to take the job.
“We are jumping in knee deep in (recruiting),” Meyer said.
“The good thing is there was a solid class here. We’ve been able to have great communication with those guys. The reception has been very good. That’s a tribute to Coach Fickell and those guys and what they did and a tribute to this great institution and what it stands for.”
Meyer grew up in Ashtabula, and although he played defensive back at the University of Cincinnati, he already knew Ohio State was the place he wanted to be when he started his coaching career back in the mid 1980s.
“In 1986, I had graduated from Cincinnati. I could be a GA at Cincinnati or I could come here,” Meyer said Monday morning.
“I came here because I was a fan. Tom Lichtenberg was the guy who brought me up for the interview and there were some great guys here.”
The one guy who immediately made an impact on Meyer’s life, and his career, was then-head coach Earle Bruce, who had taken over the Ohio State football program after Woody Hayes was fired for striking Charlie Bauman in the 1978 Gator Bowl.
“My relationship with Coach, I’m not embarrassed to say it – other than my dad, that’s it,” said Meyer, whose father recently passed away.
“He’s a man’s man. He’s what football is. He’s what Ohio State football is.”
Meyer only spent two seasons in Columbus working with the tight ends and wide receivers before Bruce was fired after nine seasons as the head coach. The two would be reunited at Colorado State in 1992, when Bruce hired Meyer to coach his wide receivers, and those experiences have helped to shape the man, and the coach, he is today.
“When Coach Bruce walked through the door, I couldn’t believe I was sitting in the same room with him,” Meyer recalled about his first job as a graduate assistant at Ohio State.
“The amount of football integrity … not cheating, do it the right way, recruit hard, coach hard. Coach Bruce’s coaching tree, there is one common denominator – they do it right, they work extremely hard and they treat their players like they’re their kids. That’s what I learned from him.”
Meyer was in a very casual mood Monday, joking with reporters about Kirk Herbstreit and all of the homes he supposedly purchased in Upper Arlington during his year away from football. He did get emotional at one point, however, when he was asked about the passing of Earle’s wife Jean.
“That’s tough. I will have dinner tonight with Coach,” Meyer said in a somber tone.
“There are some coaches’ wives who are good at a fundraiser or whatever. To this day, Shelley and Jean were close. Jean and her hit it off. She genuinely cared about the coaches’ wives and their kids. How did Shelley grow up in the profession? Jean Bruce. Jean was always there. I talked to Coach. He’s pretty torn up.”
Meyer said he plans to move his wife, Shelley, and son to Columbus in the early spring, once they have a chance to find a place in Ohio. Right now they are in Gainesville, but don’t expect to catch Meyer in Jacksonville around New Year’s Day for Ohio State’s Gator Bowl matchup with Florida.
“I might not even watch it,” he said.
“I may just lay low. I love both places, obviously, and I have a lot invested in both places. I have a lot of respect for both places.”
To those of us there, it sounded like he really meant it.
Part II: Tressel & NCAA Sanctions
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