SALT LAKE CITY — Urban Meyer always was a walking contradiction. So is his retirement. He drilled players on respect for women, but an investigation showed he retained an assistant coach who had a history of alleged domestic abuse. Meyer was suspended three games to start this season for his involvement — or non-involvement — in the case.
The Ohio State coach spoke of the importance of family, but according to former player Kyle Gunther, told his Ute team he didn’t know his daughter because of football demands. He wanted that kind of commitment from his players.
Now Meyer is leaving Ohio State’s program while still dominating at what he always wanted to do, i.e. coach the Buckeyes on the biggest stages.
On Tuesday, the former Ute coach announced he’ll retire after coaching OSU in this year’s Rose Bowl. He holds a career 186-32 record, third best in major college history.
Meyer left a customary trail of contradictions at Utah, where he built a 22-2 record.
He was a driven but likable enough personality. After going 10-2 his first season at Utah, he threatened to stop player interviews because media kept asking about going undefeated in 2004. I wrote a column about it, pointing out that LaVell Edwards put up with questions about being undefeated for two decades at BYU. That’s the expectation of winning programs.
I don’t know if Meyer even saw the column, but he apologized to media for overreacting.
When he led Florida to his first national championship, Ute beat writer Dirk Facer and I went to Arizona to cover the game with Ohio State. We corralled him for a few questions after practice a day or two before the game. Meyer greeted us warmly.
“Take care of my Utah guys here,” he told a publicist as he climbed on the team bus.
At the same time, Meyer once called an unassuming Orlando writer “a bad guy” and ranted about fighting him over a player quote the writer used.
Meyer took a leave of absence after a health scare in December 2009, but by March was back to full-time coaching. In November 2011, he denied he would become OSU’s coach, then accepted the job two weeks later.
When he was at Utah, Meyer said he couldn’t see himself coaching into his 50s, but that wasn’t true. He is 54. He gave out his cell number to Utah media members, but didn’t pick up when they needed him most — when he was leaving for Florida.13 comments on this story
At Bowling Green, Meyer told fans he was staying with the Falcons, then went to Utah. There, he said he would stay as long as the program had what it needed to succeed, and fans supported the team.
Done and done.
Gone and gone.
In the end, I’ll give him more credit than some in the media. When the husband of a colleague of mine passed away, Meyer expressed condolences with tears in his eyes. I think it was sincere. Similarly, I have few doubts Meyer loves his family. At the same time, I have zero doubts about what drove him.