My lasting image of Urban Meyer was late in the 4th quarter against Michigan. The Buckeyes had pulled off the huge upset of the Wolverines. The score was 62-39 with a little over a minute left to play. They were 1st and goal and fans were egging Urban to score again. The camera pans at Meyer and you can clearly see him thinking about it. Fox analyst Joe Klatt comments
"Does he go the Woody Hayes route?"
Me, the ghost of Woody, and every fan were hoping he would score and go for the two point conversion that would have made the score 70-39. Much to the fan's chagrin, Urban showed some mercy against his arch-rival and instead instructed his quarterback Dwayne Haskins to take a knee and run the clock out. The game ended and he was a perfect 7-0 against Michigan and winning another Big Ten East title. Jim Harbaugh runs off the field cursing under his breath that Urban once again got the better of him. The fans stormed the field and little did they know it would be his last game at the Shoe.
After winning the Big Ten Championship, Urban announced that he was retiring after the Rose Bowl. The cyst inside his brain was causing too much pain as a result of the stress he endured over the years. This past season was one of the worst during his time at Ohio State. The suspension for the first three games because of his handling of the Zach Smith domestic abuse allegations and his team playing like shit all season long. He once retired from Florida because health related stress, but this time he said it would be for good.
When Meyer was hired in 2012, Ohio State was in a dark place. Jim Tressel had resigned in disgrace and the program had its first losing season since 1988. They were hit with sanctions and banned from postseason play. Urban took a team that had nothing to play for and went 12-0. He turned the Buckeyes into a juggernaut that the Big Ten had never seen before. He brought respectability back to the conference that was once seen as inferior. He recruited nationally and started to mold his team into the one that won two national championships at Florida. Gone was "Tressel Ball" and in its place was an SEC team built for speed and offensive firepower. All that fruition came together in 2014 when he won his 3rd national title.
Meyer was a driven coach who obsessed over the finest details. I lost count the number of times he blew a gasket over a penalty or a missed assignment. Over time it started to take a toll on him. The cyst inside his brain would cause severe headaches whenever he was stressed out. It had been going on for several years, but a lot people didn't know about it. I never knew about the condition until this season. I just remember watching him hunched over, grabbing his head, and looking anguished. He old and worn out. There was something not quite right about him.
His last game would be in Pasadena as they were playing Washington in the Rose Bowl. It was fitting because Meyer had never been to the Rose Bowl. They favored to win, but they didn't make it easy as they almost blew the game winning 28-23. He walked into the sunset with an 82-9 record at Ohio State. He left huge shoes to fill for new head coach Ryan Day.
The big black cloud hanging over him is the Zach Smith scandal. During his time at Florida mny of his players ran afoul with the police. I thought he handled the Smith affair poorly and it was more ammo for his critics who often called him Urban Liar. Was he perfect? Absolutely not. He had his moments as there were times when I groused and bitched that he was far too loyal to JT Barrett. He also picked the worst time to lay an egg against a team he should have thrashed soundly. That cost him a chance of making it to the playoffs. There were times I thought he was too conservative in play calling and also cost another chance of making it to the playoffs. Then there were questionable coaching hires such as Tim Beck, promoting Ed Warriner to offensive coordinator, Greg Studrawa, and worst of all Bill Davis.
But it was masterful coaching job in 2014 that will leave a lasting impression on Buckeye fans. He took a team that went through a lot at the beginning of the season and had its share of highs and lows. They were underdogs in the playoffs and they pulled off two of the biggest victories in Ohio State history. How he didn't win coach of the year is mind boggling.
His retirement don't come as a surprise to me. Urban was a very intense coach. He demanded perfection from his players and coaches. Coaches like him often have a short life expectancy as they're prone to burning out. As expected many are saying this just another short term retirement as Meyer will begin to feel better and the competitive urge will be too strong for him ignore. Some think he'll wait when a big time program is looking for new coach. Personally, I think he's done. The cyst can't be removed, his extended family is too important, and his age is a factor now. He's made his mark in college football as one of the greatest. He has nothing left to prove and Harbaugh's chance for beating him is gone forever.