Meyer speaks at Holtz Banquet

WINTERSVILLE – Ohio State football coach Urban Meyer said his employment with Lou Holtz began in 1996.

He also said it hasn’t stopped.

“When coach Holtz asks me to do something, I don’t say no,” Meyer said Monday night as he was the featured speaker at the 16th-annual Lou Holtz/Upper Ohio Valley Hall of Fame induction banquet at St. Florian Hall.

Meyer began his coaching career in 1986 as a graduate assistant for the Buckeyes.

He spent two years at Illinois State and six at Colorado State before Holtz hired him as a wide receivers coach at Notre Dame.

Meyer was the head coach at Bowling Green (16-6, 2001-02), Utah (22-2, 2003-04) and Florida (64-15, 2005-10, two national championships) before taking over the Buckeyes a year ago.

“My experience in Ashtabula, Ohio, on my high school team, if you watch the way we practice, the way we handle our players, the way we love our players, the way we push our players, it’s the same thing I learned in 1981-82 at Ashtabula St. John High School with the great coaching I had,” Meyer said.

“It was also the Woody Hayes era, the way he treated his players, the way a premium was placed on education, how he loved his players, how he pushed them very hard to be excellent, not only in football, but off the field as well.”

Only two coaches have had more victories in their first 10 years as a head coach than Meyer’s 104: George Woodruff (124 between 1892-1901 at Pennsylvania) and Bob Stoops (109 between 1999-2008). Note: records include at least five years as a Division I coach.

Meyer has won 13 games three times during his career, including back-to-back in 2008 and 2009 to become the first BCS coach to ever accomplish that feat.

His teams are 21-3 in rivalry games – Bowling Green was 1-1 vs. Toledo; Utah was 4-0 vs. Utah State and BYU; Florida was 16-2 vs. Florida State, Tennessee and Georgia; and Ohio State is 1-0 vs. Michigan.

His teams are also 68-18 in conference play with four championships (two apiece at Utah and Florida). They are 2-1 in SEC title games and 7-1 in bowl games, including a 4-0 record in BCS bowl games.

The Buckeyes became the sixth team in school history to go undefeated a year ago, 12-0, while on probation.

“It was arguably the most refreshing year in college football that I’ve had,” he said. “I got into coaching to be around great leaders and great people.”

While the possibility of playing a bowl game was there, the NCAA hit the Buckeyes with no bowl game due to the NCAA infractions, which had nothing to do with the any players on Meyer’s team.

“I called my seniors in and didn’t know one of them,” he said. “I had high expectations for Ohio State kids because that’s the type of player that we regularly get.

“I started to sell them on our program and it was pure faith because they had no idea. We were a new staff coming in. There were some great things done prior to us coming here.

“The NCAA says this about the rule that if you are on probation or if you lose a bowl game, you can stand up, walk out that door and, without penalty, go play for any school in America.

“Obviously, I was in panic because we had some pretty good players in that senior class, from what I was told.

“Not one of them left and I didn’t quite understand why.

“Here are guys who basically just had their collegiate careers ripped apart for something they didn’t do. They (the NCAA) came in and told our players they couldn’t go and, they added this, ‘oh, by the way, you did nothing wrong.’

“Think about that for a minute. A group of players sat right in front of me, did nothing wrong, but they had their dreams taken away from them.

“You come to Ohio State to play in bowl games. You get a great degree as well. You come to play in championships. You come to get rings.”

No seniors left and it was time to work.

“I undervalued the leadership and chemistry of our team,” Meyer admitted.

“Here are the top two reasons why those guys didn’t leave.

“No. 1, their genuine, not fake, great love for Ohio State University. They really love Ohio State.

“No. 2, and I get chills even thinking about it to this day, their genuine love and respect for each other. That doesn’t happen every day in college football. I got to coach that team.

“Was it a great coaching job? No, it was very average.

“But, to give credit where credit is due, it’s some of the most incredible leadership I’ve ever been around.

“The players ripped their chests open and really played for each other.”

So, what’s next?

“I am looking forward to the season,” he said. “We have a great group of guys. Are we a great team? We’re not a great team yet, but we don’t have to be. We have some time to get them ready.

“We’ll probably be a little more talented at some of the skill positions on offense.

“On defense, we lost some very good players, but we recruited well and have some really good players there.

“If we can somehow develop a similar-type leadership, I don’t know that we can match the leadership we had, but if we can develop some leadership, you’ll see Ohio State doing some damage in November and compete for championships, which is why you come to Ohio State.”