Meyer joins Buckeyes
Six-year deal will put him among top-paid coaches
If Ohio State had not come calling, Urban Meyer said he was planning to stay away from coaching for at least another year.
Meyer, the former Florida coach and native Buckeye, was officially hired yesterday by Ohio State, a program with a glittering past that has suffered through a difficult year of NCAA violations.
“If not for the coaching position at Ohio State, I would not have coached this year,’’ he said.
Meyer resigned as Gators coach after last season, citing health concerns and a desire to spend more time with his family.
“A year ago in my mind I was convinced I was done coaching,’’ he said.
He added that he is feeling great.
“I’ve been checked out and I’m ready to go,’’ he said.
Meyer will become one of the highest-paid coaches in college football. The school said he will receive a six-year contract that pays $4 million annually, plus another $2.4 million total in “retention payments.’’ He also can qualify for supplemental bonuses.
Ohio State interim coach Luke Fickell, who took over when Jim Tressel was forced out for breaking NCAA rules, will coach the Buckeyes (6-6) in their bowl game and be retained by Meyer as an assistant, although Meyer declined to say in what capacity.
Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith said his first conversation with Meyer about becoming coach was on Nov. 20, by phone. Smith said the two met Nov. 23.
Smith said he was won over by Meyer.
“There’s a right time for certain leaders,’’ he said. “This is the right time for Urban Meyer to lead this football team . . . He gets it.’’
Meyer, 47, won two national championships in six years as the coach at Florida. Now, after spending a year as an analyst for ESPN, he will return to the place where his college coaching career began in 1986.
In 10 seasons as a head coach - two at Bowling Green, two at Utah, and six at Florida - Meyer has a 104-23 record. His teams are 7-1 in bowl games, including the Gators’ 41-14 victory over unbeaten and top-ranked Ohio State in the 2007 Bowl Championship Series title game.
Tressel was forced out for knowing but not telling his superiors that Buckeyes players had most likely broken NCAA rules by taking cash and free or discounted tattoos from the subject of a federal drug-trafficking investigation.
Ohio State is awaiting final word from the NCAA’s committee on infractions. The school could still be hit with a bowl ban, a loss of more scholarships, or other penalties.
Neuheisel, Erickson fired
UCLA fired coach Rick Neuheisel after four disappointing seasons in charge of his alma mater. Neuheisel will be allowed to coach the Bruins (6-6) in Friday’s Pac-12 title game at Oregon, but offensive coordinator Mike Johnson will be UCLA’s interim coach if it receives a bowl berth. Neuheisel is 21-28 since taking over in December 2007, the latest loss a 50-0 drubbing by rival Southern Cal Saturday night. “I hope I’m not a distraction,’’ Neuheisel said. “I hope I’m some sort of help, in respect to the planning and how we go about it.’’ If UCLA loses to Oregon, the Pac-12 would have to petition the NCAA for bowl eligibility for a 6-7 Bruins team . . . Arizona State fired coach Dennis Erickson after a fourth straight season of failing to live up to expectations. Erickson will be allowed to coach the Sun Devils (6-6) in their bowl game. He will receive half of his $1.5 million salary for the remaining year on his contract . . . Washington State athletic director Bill Moos said he will make a decision on coach Paul Wulff’s future by today. The Cougars went 4-8 this season and are 9-40 under Wulff.
BC’s Kuechly named All-ACC
Boston College junior linebacker Luke Kuechly was the lone unanimous first-team selection on defense in the Atlantic Coast Conference, receiving votes from all 45 members of the Atlantic Coast Sports Media Association. Kuechly led the nation with 191 total tackles and became the all-time leading tackler in BC and ACC history. Virginia Tech running back David Wilson was the only unanimous choice on the first-team offense.
Charity diverts donations
The Second Mile, a charity for at-risk children founded by former Penn State assistant coach Jerry Sandusky, asked its donors to instead give their money to an organization for sexual-assault victims. The charity’s recommendation to donate to the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape is the latest sign its days may be numbered, although it said its December programs will continue as scheduled. Last week, the nonprofit said it was considering restructuring, transferring programs to other organizations, or ceasing operations . . . Penn State appointed a six-person university committee to lead the search for fired football coach Joe Paterno’s replacement. The committee headed by acting athletic director Dave Joyner will meet this week.