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What Urban Meyer's New Contract Means for His Future at Ohio State

Ben AxelrodBig Ten Lead WriterApril 13, 2015

Greg Bartram/USA Today

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Three months and one day from the date the Buckeyes won the national championship and Urban Meyer made his case for being college football's best head coach, Ohio State opted to pay him like it.

The school announced on Monday an extension for the head coach of the reigning national champion Buckeyes. The new contract will essentially make Meyer college football's second-highest-paid head coach. Fox Sports' Bruce Feldman has further financial details:

Bruce Feldman @BruceFeldmanCFB

Urban Meyer deal w #OhioState has been extended thru the 2020 season; will average $6.5 MILLION over the next 6 years.

USA Today indicates that with an average annual salary of $6.5 million over the course of the next six seasons, Meyer will trail only Alabama's Nick Saban ($6.95 million) in base salary.

It would be hard to make a convincing argument that Meyer isn't worth the money—a $1.6 million raise from his former base salary, per the school's announcement—after amassing a combined 38-3 record in his first three seasons at Ohio State, including last season's run to the first ever College Football Playoff National Championship.

But while the three-time national champion head coach's raise appeared to be a mere formality, the details are telling as they relate to his future with the Buckeyes.

For one, it's worth noting Meyer's new contract runs through 2020, a three-year extension from his original Ohio State deal that was set to expire at the end of the 2017 campaign.

For a coach who came to Columbus with questions pertaining to his longevity after an early retirement at Florida in 2011, Meyer seems to have put any such concerns in the past with his commitment to the Buckeyes for the next six seasons.

"I've learned lessons, like we all do, along the journey," Meyer said on Monday, just hours before his extension was announced.

Meyer's contract extension is also telling in that while it does offer a bump in salary, the three extra years are somewhat short of substantial. For context, the extension Saban signed at Alabama last summer runs through the 2021 season, and Saban, at 63, is 13 years older than Meyer.

Jan 12, 2015; Arlington, TX, USA; Ohio State Buckeyes head coach Urban Meyer hoists the College Football Playoff trophy after the game against Oregon Ducks in the 2015 CFP National Championship Game at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TO
Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

There are a couple of ways you could read into that, but it makes the most sense that Meyer is mapping out the remainder of his coaching career.

After his three-year run with the Buckeyes, he could have likely named his contract length to the Ohio State administration and it would have been approved. Therefore, the decision to only extend his contract through 2020 was likely Meyer's choice—and Meyer's alone.

Should he work through the remainder of his new contract—and there's no reason to think he wouldn't—Meyer would have spent nine seasons at Ohio State and 19 total as a head coach.

For a coach who began his career as an assistant with the Buckeyes in 1986, that would make for quite the careerwithout even taking into account all that he has already accomplished.

Assuming he doesn't sign another extension, coach at another college or try his hand at the NFL, it would also mean that Meyer will be retiring at the age of just 56. For a football lifer who grew up idolizing coaches like Joe Paterno and Bobby Bowden, that would be relatively young, even though Meyer will have logged more than a 30-year career in the coaching ranks by then.

Only Meyer knows for sure what his plans are, but it's also worth pointing out that ending his career at Ohio State in 2020 would be long enough to allow his son Nate, a talented high school football and baseball player, to spend his entire prep career at the same school.

During his one-year hiatus from coaching in 2011, Meyer spent time traveling to see his daughters Nicki and Gigi each compete in volleyball at the college level.

In 2020, Meyer's son could be in the midst of his own college career.

Urban Meyer celebrates the Buckeyes' win in the Sugar Bowl with his family.
Urban Meyer celebrates the Buckeyes' win in the Sugar Bowl with his family.Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

A lot can change in the next six years, but Meyer's decision to have his contract end before Saban's points to his eye being on the bigger picture. What Buckeye fans can take solace in right now is that for the foreseeable future, Meyer will be Ohio State's head coach, which is more than anyone could have guaranteed just three years ago.

“I am honored to serve as football coach at The Ohio State University and to represent this great university,” Meyer said in a statement along with the school's announcement. “It is a privilege to coach and mentor the young men in this program."

For how long he'll continue to do so remains to be seen. However, his latest extension offers as much promise as it offers clues to his plans for the future.

Ben Axelrod is Bleacher Report's Big Ten Lead Writer. You can follow him on Twitter @BenAxelrod. Unless noted otherwise, all quotes were obtained firsthand. All statistics courtesy of cfbstats.com. Recruiting rankings courtesy of 247Sports.