URBAN MEYER PROVES HE'S PERFECT MATCH WITH OHIO STATE -- MORE TITLES TO COME?
DALLAS, Texas – One night in February of 2012, Urban Meyer relaxed in the lobby of the fancy La Playa Resort in Naples, Florida. Barely three months into a new job, a football coach who already had won two national championships elsewhere had just put his first recruiting class to bed for Ohio State and now he was to greet and meet Buckeye alumni in Southwest Florida for the first time.
He was overdue, but before he entered the ballroom, he leaned forward on a sofa and grew nostalgic as he defined the dream job he had taken. He thought back to 1986 when then-Buckeyes Coach Earle Bruce gave the unproven 24-year-old a non-paying gig as a graduate assistant coach. His eyes gleamed as he spoke of those days, of the traditions he learned and cherished, almost to the point of getting misty:
“That was the first I saw what the pageantry of college football was supposed to be like. I saw what locker rooms were supposed to look like. I saw how a team was supposed to practice during the week and play on Saturdays. It is when I learned of the Captain’s Breakfast, Senior Tackle, the singing of the fight song. I learned them and how important they were in my time at Ohio State.
“It also was when I got the chance to meet Coach Hayes. I went over to the old ROTC building where he had an office and met him. Then we were at a recruiting dinner at the Scarlet and Gray golf course later and he was sitting there in his wheelchair and wasn’t doing very well at the time. There was about of line of 30 people to shake his hand and my wife Shelley, said, ‘Let’s go meet him.’
` I said, ‘I will bring you over to his office sometime’ … and I still regret that to this day, because he died the next spring.
I have been extremely busy since I was hired on November 28, 2011, but I have had time to reflect that I am in a position Woody Hayes once held. I have had a portrait of him in my home or office for a long time. When I think of his teams, I think of one word: “toughness.” When I think of him, I think of how he had a sincere interest in his players off the field. His players graduated. He was very demanding on and off the field, but he made his players better people. Those are all things I strive for as a coach.
Since I was hired, I had the chance to walk across campus a couple of times and see Mirror Lake and the Oval. It is truly an amazing campus. It has changed a lot since I was here the first time. And so far, my time has been even better than I thought it would be. The potential is here for greatness.”
Well, it’s now official: Urban Meyer and the Ohio State Buckeyes reached greatness together Monday night.
Following an undefeated 2012 season that went nowhere due to stunning NCAA sanctions, and a near-miss in 2013, it took less than three years for Meyer to get the Buckeyes back to the top of the college football world.
They will go down in history, winning the inaugural College Football Playoff Championship by blasting Oregon 42-20 at AT&T Stadium in front of a predominately delirious crowd of 85,689 made up mostly of Buckeye fans – as well as what surely was a massive television audience across the world.
And when it was over, even Meyer couldn’t quite believe the magnitude of the accomplishment.
“To bring a national title to the great state of Ohio,” he said, pausing to wipe his forehead, “it’s almost surreal.”
It certainly is.
Against all odds. Just pick a cliché’.
This is an Ohio State team that lost a Heisman Trophy candidate in August when Braxton Miller re-injured his right shoulder. A team that fell flat in the home-opener for the first time since 1978 by losing 35-21 to Virginia Tech on Sept. 6. A team that appeared to be an afterthought to even compete for a Big Ten Championship, let alone reach something like this. A team that later lost its original No. 2 quarterback, J.T. Barrett, who had set numerous school and Big Ten records in guiding it to an 11-1 season. A team that resorted to a third-string quarterback to lead them as underdogs over Wisconsin, SEC power and No. 1 seed Alabama and finally, Oregon and its Heisman Trophy winner Marcus Mariota.
“This team wasn’t supposed to do this,” Meyer admitted. “I thought we could win a bunch of games this season and then a year later, go make a run at it. But this team fought through adversity and got stronger and stronger and stronger. This is a great team. I’ve watched football for a long time and I’ve never seen anything like it.”
Take Monday’s game as a microcosm of this season. The Buckeyes (14-1) committed four turnovers to none for the Pac-12 Champion Ducks – and still won by three touchdowns. You don’t need to know X and Os, my friends, to realize that is unheard of in today’s game of college football.
“Don’t want to get overdramatic,” Meyer said, “but that’s incredible.”
Although this is where Meyer – and probably thousands of Ohio State fans – envisioned the Buckeyes would be someday when he was hired after a one-year layoff from coaching, they probably didn’t know when exactly.
The extremely gifted, driven coach who always seems to get the max out of his teams and players got the Buckeyes to the top of the mountain in his third year. He’s only 50, in his prime, and seems to have balanced his family and professional life perfectly since coming home to Ohio – something he admitted he never did at the University of Florida.
“It’s extremely impressive, what he’s done and I said that coming in,” Oregon Coach Mark Helfrich said. “Whatever those adjectives are or descriptions … an icon, a Hall of Famer and Ohio State is a tremendous program with a very proud tradition -- and he’s just added to it.”
Now the one-time baseball player from Ashtabula has captured three national championships (one at the expense of Ohio State), joining his idol Hayes, and the Buckeyes have six overall, not counting those magazine or pre-bowl wire titles in 1961 and ‘70.
How much more will the numbers grow in the coming years?
Will he build the type of dynasty Alabama’s enjoyed recently and win multiple titles? Can the Buckeyes become the prettiest girl at the ball year in and year out and enjoy the type of envy the Crimson Tide enjoyed when they won three titles in five seasons recently?
I am here to tell you, that not only are the other 13 Big Ten coaches scared to death of the thought that this too-big-to-fail program is just getting rolling, but so is the once-mighty SEC, especially since the Crimson Tide was one large stepping stone here to Dallas.
Now that anyone wants to get greedy right now. The inaugural College Football Playoff Trophy hasn’t yet had the Buckeyes sweat and lip prints wiped off yet -- before it will be placed in the Woody Hayes Athletic Center. However, you would have to be crazy not to think this may just be the first of a few championships to come. With his recruiting machine rolling, the next five or six years may provide a few more ticket-tape parades down High Street in Columbus come January.
And who’s complaining?
This state deserves all the sports celebrations it can get its greedy fingers on.
Northeast Ohio has suffered for 50 years of ineptitude since the Browns won an NFL title in 1964. The Indians, only two outs away in 1997, aren’t close and may never be again the way market size parallels Major League Baseball success. And as far as Lebron returning to the Cavs, how’s that turning out so far?
Southwest Ohio …. well the Queen City doesn’t care much for the Buckeyes anyway. But then again, the Buckeyes don’t need Cincinnati, either.
As far as the other 98 percent of the great state, it has been awash in the tradition and pride of Ohio State Buckeyes football, dating to the days when Chic Harley ran wild at old Ohio Field on North High, prompting university leaders to build the now-famed Ohio Stadium in the shape of a horseshoe in 1922 to accommodate the overflow crowds.
There is no major football program that has ever been one game from so many championships. Not Notre Dame. Not Alabama. Not USC. Look it up. Even when the Buckeyes came close to others (1969, ’70, ’73, ’75, ’79, ’96, ’99, 2006 and ’07), there’s no denying they have always been the state’s pride and joy, from Lake Erie to the Ohio River. This could have gone down the same way Monday night in Texas.
But this time, the pride and joy became euphoria for only the sixth time in 125 years.
Here’s some advice, Buckeye fans: Drown in it.
… For days, weeks even, before even thinking of recruiting, what Jim Harbaugh is doing up North, or the quarterback situation for spring practice.
Now etched in stone in the record books, the 2014 college football season will be forever colored in shades of Scarlet and Gray.
And the native son who brought it home may just be getting started at the place he truly belongs.
Last Updated (Thursday, 15 January 2015 12:41)