COLUMBUS — Urban Meyer gave Ohio State exactly what was promised.
Maybe he even over-delivered during his time in charge of the Buckeyes.
The wins came in bunches. The elite recruits poured into the Woody Hayes Athletic Center. The Buckeyes won three Big Ten championships, including one on Saturday night that now somehow feels like an eternity ago. And, of course, there’s that national championship trophy under glass in the lobby of the practice facility.
If Ohio State would have been given the option to take that deal and skip ahead seven years knowing the end would come on a Tuesday morning in December, it absolutely would have. Meyer poured everything he had into his dream job before announcing his retirement and the succession plan with Ryan Day, so it also comes as no surprise that eventually he wouldn’t be able to physically keep doing it.
“We’ll cross that bridge when we get there,” Meyer told Lettermen Row, The Columbus Dispatch and Cleveland.com in October. “At this time, I don’t have to [have surgery].
“I put my life into this job. I love Ohio State. I grew up a Buckeye. I am 100-percent committed to putting our players in the best possible position to win games and doing right by Ohio State. Nothing about my commitment to Ohio State has changed in any way — this is only a medical issue.”
The devotion to the Buckeyes has still never changed. And that’s exactly why it became increasingly clear that the outcome after this season would be stepping down to take care of his health and spend more time with his family.
If the tears on the sideline late in the blowout win over Michigan from his wife Shelley weren’t already an obvious tell, there were others throughout the year for anybody paying close attention. Meyer became a different guy once he came to terms with the likely end of his time leading the Buckeyes. He was still intense on the sideline, and that became a flashpoint for television broadcasts obsessed with catching him rubbing his head and trying to manage the pain. But the jokes came much easier at times, he was appearing to enjoy the wins more than he ever had and those close to him saw him embrace the new opportunity that was coming to him.
Watching his son play some college baseball and spending time with his grandson is a lot better than grinding over third-and-7, after all.
Meyer wasn’t perfect at Ohio State. The suspension at the start of the season for mismanaging a troubled employee was a bit of a stain on his legacy, and the way it was perceived to be about condoning domestic violence clearly irritated him. The Buckeyes lost a couple key games over the years that kept them from potentially adding a second national championship. A few of his staff hires were questionable and appeared to create problems.
But if that’s the extent of the list, the Buckeyes clearly, undoubtedly were living in luxury.
And Meyer has positioned them to stay that way as he hands the torch to Ryan Day.
“It’s been 12, 12, 14, 12, 11, 12, 12 — those are the wins we’ve had here the last seven years,” Meyer said on Sunday. “It hasn’t been perfect, but it’s been pretty darn good.”
It’s rare for coaches to win at such a high level and dictate their own exit the way Meyer has. He leaves a Real Life Wednesday program, a couple of the most decorated recruiting classes in program history, a proven model in everything from strength and conditioning to how to operate a practice — and a team that knows how to win at an elite level.
That’s everything Ohio State could have wanted when it landed Urban Meyer.
The truth? It was probably even better than the Buckeyes imagined.