Monday, November 28, 2011
Is Ohio State ready for a rock-star coach?
By Adam Rittenberg
Ohio State football is headquartered at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center. The Buckeyes play their home games at 411 Woody Hayes Drive.
Ohio State has never hired a coach with a resume as impressive as Urban Meyer's.
No name is more synonymous with Ohio State football than Wayne Woodrow "Woody" Hayes, the Buckeyes' coach from 1951-78. He's a college football icon and Ohio State royalty. Hayes was bigger than the program.
But he didn't arrive that way, coming to Ohio State from Miami (Ohio). Ohio State's subsequent coaches -- Earle Bruce, John Cooper and Jim Tressel -- made similar, somewhat understated entrances, from Iowa State, Arizona State and Youngstown State, respectively. Tressel, like Hayes, achieved icon status at Ohio State, but only after he had been on the job for a while. And the buttoned-down, sweater-vested Tressel never truly became bigger than the program, at least not like Hayes.
Enter Urban Meyer, rock-star coach. Roll out the scarlet carpet. Ohio State has never seen anything quite like this.
Meyer, expected to be introduced as Ohio State's coach today at a news conference scheduled for 5:15 p.m. ET, comes to Columbus as one of the biggest names in college football. He has won two national championships and enjoyed tremendous success at his three previous coaching stops (Florida, Utah and Bowling Green). He doesn't come to Ohio State from another program, but from ESPN, where he has been on your TV screen throughout the college football season.
When Ohio State introduces Meyer as its next coach, no one is going to look at the podium and ask, "Who's this guy?"
Meyer likely will talk about coming home to Ohio, and to a program where he got his start in college coaching as a graduate assistant in 1986. He'll discuss the program's tradition and mention its status, until recently, as a powerhouse both in the Big Ten and nationally. He'll try to make it about Ohio State.
Not happening. Urban Mania is sweeping through Columbus, and Meyer will be the top story in college football during the first part of championship week. The spotlight will be on Meyer's decision to return to coaching, his health status and whether he was hypocritical for leaving Florida. Coaches rarely make the jump from one national powerhouse to another -- with a network TV gig in between -- but Meyer always has been on a faster track.
This is a big-time, big-money, big-splash hire for the Scarlet and Gray.
How will Ohio State react to a coach who's bigger than the program? Most fans will be and should be thrilled, especially after a subpar season and a nightmarish 11 months. But there could be some skeptics as well, unsure of the new coach with the championship rings and the good looks and the glitzy offense.
Buckeye Nation will agree on one thing: expectations for Meyer. They'll be sky-high.
Tressel had consistent success at Ohio State, but his program lacked flashiness of other elite ones around the country. I remember covering USC-Ohio State in 2009, and attending USC's walk-through at Ohio Stadium the day before the game. Hollywood had definitely come to flyover country.
Meyer might not be Hollywood, but he's in the neighborhood.
And it's not just Meyer who will increase Ohio State's Q score. Tressel assembled quite possibly the most anonymous staff of any national program. He had some good assistants, but you rarely heard much about them outside Columbus.
Just a hunch, but Meyer's staff will have a little more national appeal.
Meyer ultimately will be judged by what he does after he gets the Ohio State job. And he should be. The same held true for Hayes, Tressel and the others.
But unlike previous Buckeyes bosses, Meyer won't have to introduce himself to Ohio State. Everyone already knows who he is.
The spotlight is ready and the big show is coming. Brace yourself, Columbus.