The soulful crooning group Boyz II Men would say it best: It’s hard to say good-bye. That’s where we’re at with Ohio State coach Urban Meyer. The 2019 Rose Bowl Game between Ohio State and the University of Washington is going to have a lot of tears riding on it. And a lot of memories for the college football world to remember. The end of the road for one of the most celebrated college football coaches in modern history is fast approaching.
Meyer, in a long and winding press conference on Tuesday, Dec. 4, formally announced that he is stepping down as the Buckeyes head football coach once and for all. To say the least, it is a stunning revelation coming from a man who has won three national championships and will make his last stand on the college football stage when Big Ten champion Ohio State meet up with Pac-12 Conference winner Washington in Pasadena, California on New Year’s Day.
“I can still vividly recall when I met Urban and Shelley in a hotel room in Atlanta to invite them to be a part of Buckeye Nation,” said Ohio State Athletic Director Gene Smith. “That time was filled with promise. We knew we were getting an elite coach. When he went 12-0 in the first season we realized Urban was really going to be a game-changer. What Urban has brought to Buckeye Nation by far exceeded expectations. Not only has he elevated the quality and status of our program, but his presence has elevated Big Ten football.”
Smith continued talking about how much Meyer has elevated the Buckeyes program.
“To compete with Urban-coached teams, the Big Ten colleagues have had to elevate their programs,” he added. “Urban has a very, very special gift,” Said Smith. “He’s an elite coach. His Ohio State teams excel both on and off the field. And I emphasize off the field. He was a brilliant leader of men. His command of football strategy is second to none. He’s a tireless recruiter and an innovator in creating programs for student-athletes beyond the field.”
Meyer has had a pretty good run as a college football coach. Well, he’s had a great run. At the University of Florida, he led the Gators to two national championships. Meyer clinched his third national title in 2014 when Cardale Jones, Joey Bosa, and Ezekiel Elliott and the Buckeyes whupped up on Marcus Mariota and the University of Oregon in the College Football Championship.
Meyer went 65-15 in six seasons at Florida. In his seven years at Ohio State, Meyer has increased his overall winning percentage, going 82-9 with one more game left under his watch.
“I’m honored to have represented my home state and this great university the past seven seasons,” Meyer said. “I want to thank Buckeye Nation, our students and faculty, our state high school coaches, Gene Smith for giving me this opportunity, my awesome family and most importantly our staff and student-athletes for all they’ve done during this time. My goal has always been to make this one of the premier and most comprehensive programs in America. It’s always been a goal to see a healthy, strong program handed to an elite coach and person to make it even better.”
Meyer is not leaving the game he loves on his own volition. Health woes in recent years have taken its toll on him. More specifically, recurring headaches resulting from a brain cyst has worn on Meyer. According to an article written by Sports Illustrated (Yahoo! Sports), Meyer was first diagnosed with this medical issue back in 1998.
Meyer had surgery in 2014 to counter the lingering problem. The stress of being suspended for the first three games of the 2018 college football season didn’t help matters, said Meyer.
“That was a very difficult time, very difficult time,” Meyer said. “But this has been — I’ve had to deal with the headaches for many years and it came to a head in 2014 and again last year and this year as well. As difficult a time as that was, that didn’t have an impact as much on the headaches. But it did have an impact.”
The severity of those headaches increased as recent as last season, he admitted.
“More specific was Penn State a year ago,” Meyer said. “It hit real hard. And we have a great medical team that was over the top trying to help me through it. I was on medicine and all that. But we had conversations back then about longevity and the seriousness of it. Because, as they said, it’s not your elbow or your foot. We’re talking about something else. And that was the — but also had conversations, to be honest with you, in ’14 when we went through the whole scenario.”
If that bombshell was not enough to take in, Ohio State, during the same press conference, announced Meyer’s successor. Ryan Day will be Ohio State’s new head coach on Jan. 2, 2019. Day is looking forward to the challenge.
“First, very humble to be taking over for Coach Meyer and what he’s done here,” said Day. “But the footprint that he’s left here and the infrastructure is strong. And knowing that and being here for two years and seeing exactly how it’s been done gives me great confidence. Also, walking in those shoes during the beginning of the year, during that time, took a step away from just working with the offense and the Xs and Os and then took a wider step back and looked at the leadership role of what it means to be the head coach at Ohio State and understand, like Gene spoke of, everybody that comes under your wings there. And so have walked in those shoes and had a chance to experience that. And so I’m excited and confident about it.”