With the hiring of John L. Smith, as the interim head coach at the University of Arkansas yesterday, there will now be 28 FBS schools with new head coaches walking their sidelines during the 2012 college football season.
None, however, bring a resume comparable to that of new Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer.
Although I mainly cover SEC sports and high school recruiting, I still field questions about other conferences on a regular basis. This, in part, is because I currently live in Clarksville, TN which is a military town. As a result, the question I have been hearing most often this offseason is what is Ohio State getting with Urban Meyer.
First, and most importantly, they are getting a winner. Meyer has dominated every place he has gone, including the SEC. Meyer was named the college football coach of the decade by both Sports Illustrated and the Sporting News for good reason. He has won 82 percent (104-23) of the games he has coached and two BCS national championships. Moreover, he has an astonishing 7-1 bowl record in which he is 4-0 in BCS bowls.
The SEC has been revered as college football’s toughest division for several years. However, Meyer was dominant in his tenure at Florida. In three of his six seasons in the SEC the Florida Gators finished with final record of 13-1.
The Buckeyes are also getting a relentless recruiter. Of his last six recruiting classes, only one was not ranked in the top three final rankings on Rivals.com. While Florida is one of the top talent rich states in the nation, he will have better facilities and resources to work with in Columbus. It is unlikely that he will have many recruiting classes outside the top five during his tenure at Ohio State.
It should also be stated he is an ethical recruiter. While there are coaches in the Big Ten who currently upset at his recruiting tactics, he was one of the few coaches in the SEC who did not oversign. He refused to participate in this unethical recruiting strategy. In fact, of the four schools that has won national championships over the last six consecutive seasons, Meyer is the only coach that did not. This is important because the Big Ten has a true policy in place to deter oversigning.
While those are the positives, there are some negatives. Meyer’s style of coaching is dependent upon strong team leadership. In the past, he has failed miserably in the area of team discipline. While the constant flows of arrest are a noted asterisk on his resume at Florida, he is only partly to blame. No coach is able to monitor players 24/7 and the Gainesville police love arresting football players.
My biggest indictment of Meyers lack of disciple has been when he faced situations like the Brandon Spikes eye gauging incident. After being caught on video trying to shove his fingers through a Georgia running backs eye, Meyer suspended him for the first half—against Vanderbilt.
Spikes would later bench himself the full game. When a player has to bench himself there is a serious disciplinarian issue.
The question remaining for the Meyer-Buckeyes tenure is not if he will be successful, that is a given. The question is how long he will be able to maintain that success. If he has learned from his mistakes at Florida, the Buckeyes will have their greatest decade of football in their storied history.
If not, he will win a national championship but will be gone within six seasons.
Meyer is a better all-around coach than anyone remaining in the SEC. It was the other issues that ended his dominance too early.