|A stressed Meyer left behind a super successful Florida program in 2010. (AP)|
People will focus on the timing. Or they'll focus on the family he's leaving at home, or the Florida program he bailed on, or his health or the itinerant way Urban Meyer can't seem to stay settled for more than a few years at a time. People will focus on any of those things or all of those things -- and when they do, they'll obscure the point. Maybe they'll want to obscure the point. Out of fear.
Because this is what matters most today:
Urban Meyer to Ohio State is the perfect hire.
It's Calipari-to-Kentucky perfect. The marriage of Urban Meyer to Ohio State is a game-changer for college football, a move that will propel Ohio State back to the top of the national heap with such velocity that it will pull along the rest of the Big Ten in its jet stream.
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I don't write this sort of thing very often. I may like a hire here and there, but when a hire is as perfect as this one, you'll see words from me like you saw in March 2009 when Kentucky hired John Calipari. That was a game-changer for college basketball, and while everyone sees it now, I saw it back then. Why? Because I didn't focus on the other stuff -- Marcus Camby's agent, Calipari's unsuccessful dalliance with the NBA, the peripheral stuff that had nothing to do with the awesome merger of one force of nature (John Calipari) with another (Kentucky basketball).
Now it has happened in college football, one force of nature (Urban Meyer) merging with another (Ohio State football). In college football, it's the most perfect hire since January 2007. That's when we saw the merger of one force of nature (Nick Saban) with another (Alabama football), and since then the Crimson Tide have won one national title and are likely to play for another in January.
Meyer probably won't have that kind of impact on Ohio State -- a national title in his third season, a shot at two titles in his first five years -- but not for lack of coaching ability. Ohio State's ascent to No. 1 will be delayed by NCAA sanctions, probably severe ones, stemming from the scandal that cost Jim Tressel his job after several ineligible players led the Buckeyes to the 2010 Big Ten title. Tressel is gone, but Ohio State can, should and will pay for his sins. Which means Urban Meyer will pay for those sins as well.
But he'll still win right away, because he's that good and because the Ohio State football brand is that powerful. And as an added bonus, the Big Ten is that vulnerable. For now. But once Meyer gets his hands on Ohio State's recruiting, watch the rest of the Big Ten get stronger as well. It'll have no choice, unless Big Ten teams are OK with 49-14 losses to the Buckeyes. Ohio State will be that good. Rest of the Big Ten? You better keep up.
Meyer already has the perfect quarterback for his spread offense in Braxton Miller. As a true freshman, Miller has thrown for 997 yards and run for 695. He has run or thrown for 18 touchdowns, with just four interceptions. He's not a great passer, but neither was Alex Smith at Utah. Neither was Tim Tebow at Florida. Meyer doesn't need a great passer to do great damage. He needs a guy with athletic ability and brains, and Miller has both of those. At the Smith or Tebow level? Probably not. How often does a No. 1 overall draft pick or a Heisman Trophy winner come along? Not often. But Miller is good enough to get the Meyer Era off to a solid start.
Just wait for Ohio State to surround Miller with Meyer-type recruits.
Here is where you make your police jokes. Hey, go ahead. Meyer deserves it. Just as he most assuredly is a coaching savant, he also has been a disciplinarian joke. He brought in talent at the expense of character -- there's no other way to spin 30-plus arrests in his six years at Florida -- and for that, he deserves ridicule. Just as the Florida alumnus in me was horrified at the way Meyer ran his program at my alma mater, the Ohio resident in me (and father of two, both of whom I'd happily send to Ohio State) will be horrified if it continues here.
But if Meyer can fix that problem -- and kicking the first or second arrested player off the team would do the trick -- Ohio State will be something special to watch. This is a perfect marriage, I'm telling you. Meyer is an Ohio guy and a football guy, so if there's a single job in the world that could keep him for a decade or more, this is it.
Plus, the biggest negative that chased him out of Florida -- the intense media scrutiny that wore him out, just as it wore out Steve Spurrier -- won't be at Ohio State. Hey, that's a fact. As someone who attended Florida and spent my first decade in newspapers in that state, and am now in my eighth year in Ohio, I'm qualified to tell you the media scrutiny on the Buckeyes isn't close to the scrutiny on the Gators.
It's not merely "not equal." It's not close.
Case in point: Cincinnati is the second-biggest metropolitan area in Ohio, with more than two million people. It's 90 miles from Columbus. There are tens of thousands of OSU graduates in Cincinnati. And the Cincinnati Enquirer doesn't have a sportswriter assigned to the Buckeyes. It's just not that important in Cincinnati. Nor is it that important in Dayton, less than an hour from Ohio State, where the Dayton Daily News doesn't have a dedicated OSU beat writer.
Can you imagine?
I'm telling you, this job is everything Meyer wants in a job (tradition, facilities, resources, fans) without the scrutiny that broke him in Gainesville. A comfortable Meyer is a brilliant Meyer -- and Ohio State is the most comfortable job in the country for him.
The college football landscape just changed. The balance of power remains within the SEC, but do you remember the days of Ohio State being the butt of BCS title game jokes? Good. Hang onto that memory. Because those days are over.