They say “where there’s smoke, there’s fire,” and if that’s the case, there’s a pretty good chance that Columbus, Ohio might be burning to the ground right now. No, it has nothing to do with the possibility of the Ohio State Buckeyes losing to arch-rival Michigan this weekend for the first time since 2003, but instead the noise centers around what could happen after the Michigan game instead.
That’s because rumors continue to swirl from all corners that Urban Meyer will be named the next head coach at Ohio State at some point next week. What first started as a report by the website ElevenWarriors.com and was later added to by Sports By Brooks has taken on additional sourcing this morning, with more reports out of both Florida and Columbus confirming the move.
First, from an ESPN.com via Orlando area TV station WKMG-TV:
Sources have told WKMG-TV in Orlando that ESPN college football analyst Urban Meyer has agreed in principle to become coach at Ohio State and will be introduced in the coming days. According to WKMG's sources, Meyer has agreed to a seven-year, $40 million deal.
And just hours ago from the Columbus-Dispatch:
Two well-placed sources at Ohio State University confirmed for The Dispatch this morning that Urban Meyer will be announced next week as the next head football coach of the Buckeyes.
Still, nothing is official yet, as Meyer continues to deny the rumor, telling ESPN.com:
"I have not been offered any job nor is there a deal in place," Meyer said in a statement. "I plan on spending Thanksgiving with my family and will not comment on this any further."
Of course it hasn’t stopped the rumors from picking up speed at a rapid pace. Even if Meyer is eventually named the next head coach, not many more details are really known at this time, including when the announcement will be made. The Columbus Dispatch reports that something could come out as early as Monday, depending on how the Michigan game turns out.
As for everything else, well, it’s a wait and see approach.
For now, what we think we know is as follows: Regardless of the outcome of Saturday’s game, it appears as though interim head coach Luke Fickell’s time as the head man in Columbus is done for now. Fickell took over for Jim Tressel when he resigned last May, but it was presumed that unless he did something spectacular (like 10 wins kind of spectacular), Ohio State would look to move in a different direction for the future. It appears as though that direction does not include Fickell as the head man, however, by all reports, it appears as though he will be asked to stay on the staff going forward.
In regards to the rest of the staff, it raised an interesting list of names by the Sports By Brooks report last week. Although none have been confirmed by outside sources (much like Meyer’s hiring itself), Sports By Brooks reported that Meyer would try and tab several prominent former Buckeyes as assistant coaches. One would be Meyer’s current broadcast partner and former Buckeyes linebacker Chris Spielman, and another would be current ESPN analyst Kirk Herbstreit. Obviously it goes without saying that there just doesn’t seem to be much to the Herbstreit rumor (Herbie was basically run out of Columbus after all), but at least in this writer’s eyes, Spielman does make sense (although maybe that’s just me hoping to get him out of the booth).
Of course there are still plenty of hurdles to clear.
Meyer retired from Florida last year to spend more time with his family, reasoning which looks more thinly veiled by the day. The truth is that Meyer was coming off an 8-5 season, with little hope on the horizon (as evidence by Florida's not-so-staunch 6-5 record right now), leading many to wonder how much "losing" had to do with his retirement, at least relative to his health and family concerns. To his credit though, it appears as though Meyer is waiting through the weekend to talk things over with his family.
Beyond just “the family” though, the bigger picture may be what’s in Ohio State’s future. They’re still waiting to hear back from the NCAA on what could be serious violations. At the center of them is Jim Tressel’s covering up of extra benefits to former players, most notably Terrelle Pryor. In addition, there was more bad news when a booster named Bobby DiGeronimo overpaid a handful of players for a summer job, leading to further suspensions and the questioning about the oversight of the football program. Because of it, the NCAA could come down hard on Ohio State, with scholarship restrictions almost a certainty, and the possibility of a bowl ban looming as well.
Of course if the Buckeyes were actually to get Meyer, that would only make his hire that much more of a coup.
By now you know his resume as well as I do, so I’ll make it quick: Meyer won 104 games spanning 10 years as a head coach, including stops at Bowling Green, Utah and Florida. He led the Gators to the 2006 and 2008 BCS National Championships, and at Utah led the Utes to the Fiesta Bowl as an undefeated Mountain West Champion. In eight of his 10 seasons his teams won at least nine games, and won 10 or more games in five of those seasons.
Beyond the football stuff, Meyer seems like a cultural fit at Ohio State as well. He was born and raised in Ohio, attended the University of Cincinnati (where he met his eventual wife), and his first job in college coaching was as a graduate assistant at Ohio State. Along with Notre Dame, Meyer had long labeled the Ohio State gig as a “dream job.”
(Just to prove our point, here's a picture of what we believe to be a mustached Meyer, in what we believe to be an Ohio State sweater)
Regardless, it seems all but certain that Urban Meyer will be named the next head coach at Ohio State.
The only question is when.