Colleague cautions Meyer to take stock

Tim May
Ohio State coach Urban Meyer hoists the the Cotton Bowl trophy after defeating USC last season. Former coach Gerry DiNardo, now a Big Ten Network commentator, urged Meyer to assess his health and life circumstances before deciding whether to continue coaching. [Joshua A. Bickel/Dispatch]

If Ohio State coach Urban Meyer decides at season’s end that it should be his last, because of constant discomfort he is dealing with from an arachnoid cyst on his brain, he would have the blessing of former coach-turned-Big Ten Network analyst Gerry DiNardo.

As Meyer spoke Tuesday to reporters from The Dispatch, and Lettermen Row about the cyst, which sometimes brings a severe headache, he said he had spoken to DiNardo about the challenge. DiNardo said his advice was not “tough it out” — rather, he wanted Meyer to step back and take stock.

“We’re discussing someone who has a cyst on the brain, and we’re talking about someone who has had an unbelievable amount of success — he has won three national championships at two different schools,” DiNardo told The Dispatch. “We’re talking about someone who has made millions and millions of dollars, an abundant amount of money which he never anticipated making when he was a first-time head coach at Bowling Green.

“And now he has a physical ailment inside his head, on his brain? When is enough enough?”

DiNardo saw firsthand what stepping away from the high-pressure job at a major college can do for a man. He had been a senior All-American in 1974 at Notre Dame when, after that season, Ara Parseghian — who led the Fighting Irish to two national titles in 11 years — abruptly retired.

“This is an example that runs deep with me — I adored Ara Parseghian, and he was 52 years old, and he retires because he’s taking six pills a day: two to sleep, two for his nerves and two for blood pressure,” DiNardo said. “And he goes on to live to be 92 years old.”

At independent Notre Dame, Parseghian “used to say to us ‘It’s national championship or bust,’ ” and DiNardo said that is what coaches of the modern major powers such as Meyer with Ohio State, Alabama’s Nick Saban and Clemson’s Dabo Swinney, are dealing with in this College Football Playoff era.

“So the pressure that Urban is under at Ohio State under normal, healthy circumstances is overwhelming,” DiNardo said. “Now you add this (cyst-related discomfort) to it? Who can function under those conditions? Who wants to function under those conditions?”

DiNardo noted that Meyer is a grandfather with another grandchild on the way, and that his son, Nate, is a freshman baseball player at the University of Cincinnati.

“How many of Nate’s baseball games do you have to miss before you say ‘What am I doing?’ ” DiNardo said. “How many opportunities are you going to miss being with your grandchildren, and before you know it they’re 12? How many of those life moments with your family do you have to miss, before you say ‘I have something inside my head, I’ve had a great deal of success, I’ve made a tremendous amount of money. What am I doing?’ ”

Back on the active list

Ohio State cornerback Damon Arnette missed the Purdue game because of being in concussion protocol, and receiver C.J. Saunders and cornerback Jeffrey Okudah left that game two weeks ago because of the same thing, it appeared. But the three have been cleared for Saturday’s game with Nebraska and “They’re all going to play,” Meyer said Tuesday.

Defensive tackle Robert Landers dealt with an unspecified injury through the past several games, but Meyer said the off week was good for Landers and he likes what he has seen from him this week.

“He’s full speed now,” Meyer said. “He’s bringing that same energy that he does when he’s healthy.”