Meyer lets emotion slip out on his way out

Staff Writer
Buckeye Xtra
Urban Meyer and wife Shelley leave the field after the Ohio State coach's final game, a 28-23 Rose Bowl win over Washington. [Adam Cairns/Dispatch]

PASADENA, Calif. — Even now, it seems hard to believe the Urban Meyer era has ended, if only because most Ohio State coaches go out in a blaze of gory, not glory.

Woody. Fired. Earle. Axed. Coop. Canned. Tress. Forced out. Luke Fickell. No mas. You have to go back to the 1946 season and Paul Bixler to find an Ohio State coach who left on his own terms.

And even Bixler did not make the cleanest of escapes, citing “job pressure” in his Feb. 5, 1947, resignation letter. He accepted the Colgate job the same day.

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Of course, one could argue that Meyer is not exactly leaving of his own accord. His aching head, with a singed heart serving as accomplice, conspired against him to cut short a seven-year run that saw him win 90.2 percent of his games, a better showing than any of the 23 coaches before him. Meyer also went 7-0 against Michigan. Sick.

It has been an impressive run, capped by Tuesday’s 28-23 win over Washington in the Rose Bowl, a football palace and place that Meyer had never entered until this week.

He came. He saw. And what he saw was good and not so good. Ohio State looked like a playoff team early before nearly botching it late. In a narrative similar to what played out over much of this season, the Buckeyes cruised to the lead and then went into cruise control during the second half, nearly squandering a 28-3 lead. In the “granddaddy of them all,” Ohio State took that nickname to heart and played like an old man near the end.

But teams never need apologize for a win. And Meyer didn’t. He praised the Buckeyes’ fast start and credited the Huskies with having the best defense OSU has faced in several years.

Then he got emotional, or as emotional as he ever does publicly. The Hallmark Channel he is not.

“My love affair with Buckeye Nation has never been this strong,” he said, thanking fans and players for sticking with him through a rough six months that included a three-game suspension.

It was not the rosiest of seasons for the 54-year-old retiree, but as he exited the field arm-in-arm with his wife, Shelley, they took in the emotional scene from one of the most beautiful settings in team sports.

New coach Ryan Day would rather end the 2019 season with the Buckeyes playing on plastic grass in a domed stadium on the bayou. Such a finale would mean that Ohio State is playing in the College Football Playoff championship game in New Orleans. But that is the next chapter; Meyer deserves the last few paragraphs to himself. Or, if he’s going to share it, it is going to be with his wife.

“I was dreading this moment all day. We knew it was coming,” Shelley said, dabbing at tears. “But this is the way we wanted to go out.”

A reporter asked if this was the end.

“The end. I don’t like that word,” she said. “But I would be ecstatic if he didn’t coach again. He gets too intense. He has a lot of gifts he can give in a different way.”

Ohio State fans would say that Meyer gifted them with seven seasons of top-shelf success. They let him know it as he entered the tunnel to the locker room, “We love you, Urban,” they screamed. And he acknowledged their cheers.

Has it been a fun ride?

“There has been a lot of joy along the way, and I have to learn to have more joy,” he said, smiling. “There is a lot of joy when you see one more point (on your side of the scoreboard) at the end of the game.”

That happened a lot over the past seven seasons. When it came to winning, no one did it better.


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