Urban Meyer has looked pained at times on the sideline of Ohio State football games this season, and on Tuesday he decided it was time to make it clear that the pain he is feeling is real.
The Buckeyes’ seventh-year coach said he has been affected by occasional severe headaches brought on by an enlarged arachnoid cyst in his brain, which he has dealt with for 20 years.
He added, “I am fully committed to Ohio State, the football program, as long as I can.”
Meyer on Tuesday summoned reporters from The Dispatch, Cleveland.com and the website Lettermen Row to clear the air about his situation after getting “peppered," as he put it, with recent questions about his well-being.
He said the anguish he has exhibited during games and news conferences has nothing to do with the angst he has dealt with off the field this season. That includes the three-game suspension invoked by OSU President Michael V. Drake after the investigation into the Zach Smith-Courtney Smith domestic situation or, most recently, a 49-20 loss at Purdue on Oct. 20 that knocked the then-No. 2 ranked Buckeyes from the unbeaten ranks.
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“It is a medical issue,” said Meyer, who said he takes daily medication to relieve some of the symptoms. “We’re just managing through it. We’re working hard.”
He authorized his personal physician, Dr. Andrew Thomas, to release a brief statement on the matter.
“The past four years we’ve been working closely with coach Meyer to monitor and manage the symptoms that have risen from his enlarged congenital arachnoid cyst,” Thomas said. “This includes aggressive headaches, which have particularly flared up the past two years.”
>>Video: Ohio State captains Jordan Fuller and Tuf Borland on Urban Meyer
Meyer said so far the pain has been manageable, and he has kept OSU athletic director Gene Smith apprised of his condition.
“He and I have talked about his health,” Smith told The Dispatch on Tuesday from Grapevine, Texas, where he was meeting with the other members of the College Football Playoff selection committee. “He’s shared with me that he wants to continue coaching.
“He has a management plan for what he’s dealing with. I think he’s done exceptionally well with it. I go by his lead 100 percent. We have unbelievable medical support at the university. So I don’t have the concerns everyone else seems to be raising.”
The occasional severe nature of the pain was obvious during OSU’s win over Indiana on Oct. 6. Late in the game, Meyer suddenly slumped to his knees on the sideline. After being administered to by team medical and training personnel, he rose and was able to stay on the sideline the rest of the game.
He has had no such episode since then during games, but team insiders said it has happened a couple of times during practices.
OSU safety Jordan Fuller, one of the team’s captains, said after practice Wednesday that Meyer’s demeanor with the team has not changed, though they are aware of his challenge.
“Coach is coach,” Fuller said. “I know he’s been dealing with headaches and stuff, but to be honest, I haven’t really noticed a change. He loves Ohio State, loves us.”
The cyst was first diagnosed in 1998 when Meyer was an assistant coach at Notre Dame. It eventually became a serious issue in late winter 2014, before his third year at Ohio State, and he underwent surgery to gain some relief.
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He refused to go into detail about the surgery, but according to the usual procedures, it involves making two holes in the skull to use an endoscope to get to the cyst and drain it of as much fluid as possible.
Meyer’s cyst is said to be “enlarged,” though, and is located in the left side of his brain, not on the periphery where most arachnoid cysts are located.
He said he does not plan to undergo another surgery, at least not now. “We’ll cross that bridge” if need be later for quality of life, he said.
Beyond football, the 54-year-old Meyer is a grandfather with another grandchild on the way. That is among the reasons there inevitably will be questions about his future as a coach.
“As far as our conversations, he’s planning to coach and he’s shared with me about the things we’ve got ahead of us — recruiting and all those types of things,” Smith said. “Right now, I don’t see a change coming. I’m comfortable where he is.
“If something changes down the road, it changes. But right now, he seems very comfortable with the management plan he’s put in place.”
Meyer indicated he wants to continue to coach.
“I’ve put my life into this job," Meyer said. "I love Ohio State. I grew up a Buckeye. I am 100 percent committed to putting our players in the best possible position to win games and doing right by Ohio State.”