Urban Meyer Returns to Coaching, But Don’t Expect Ohio State to Be Final Stop

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Urban Meyer Returns to Coaching, But Don't Expect Ohio State to Be Final StopIt will seem odd, for a while, to see Urban Meyer wearing scarlet and gray on the sideline at Ohio Stadium, just like it seemed odd at first seeing him wear Gator blue or Ute crimson at his previous stops.

Within about a season and a half, he'll start to look like he's belonged in Ohio State colors all his life. After a few years, his name will briefly become synonymous with the Buckeyes — just long enough for him to beg out for another job or another retirement or with some other excuse.

Meyer accepted the head football coaching job at Ohio State on Monday after weeks of denying reports he was even in the running. The move makes perfect sense for both parties; the Buckeyes need a clean, respected coach to return legitimacy to its scandal-ridden program, and Meyer needed a legitimate rebuilding challenge to motivate him for the next few years.

Meyer and Ohio State are destined to do great things together. Just don't expect this to last very long.

Although casual fans were introduced to Meyer when he became the head coach at Florida in 2005 (or possibly when he led Utah to an undefeated season and a Fiesta Bowl bid in 2004), more serious college football followers remember him as the wunderkind wide receivers coach at Notre Dame in the 1990s. From there, he went on to Bowling Green, where he installed the beginnings of the spread-option offense and put up 40-point games in the Mid-American Conference with quarterbacks Andy Sahm and Josh Harris.

Climbing up the ladder, as all young, talented coaches do, Meyer next landed at Utah. In his third game, he replaced quarterback Brett Elliott with Alex Smith, whose style was a precursor of what was to come with Tim Tebow in Gainesville. He was the hottest coach in college sports then; with his return, he is arguably the most accomplished active coach in the game.

Meyer is calling Ohio State his "dream job," but it's worth remembering it's not the first time he's used those words. Back in 2005, when he was about to leave Utah, he called Notre Dame his "dream job," only to decline the Fighting Irish's advances and head to Florida. Five years later, the job that inspired him to turn down his dream job became too stressful and Meyer retired with two BCS national championships to spend more time with his family.

This will be misconstrued as criticism of Meyer. It isn't. Meyer's an Ohio boy, a University of Cincinnati graduate and not the only coach to bounce around from place to place — Nick Saban, Rich Rodriguez and Jim Calipari have had more area codes than Ludacris — but anyone who has followed Meyer's career closely knows he possesses one of those rare obsessive personalities that enable greatness but also lead to burnout or a complete crash.

Michael Jordan, for example, needed a mid-career sabbatical to recharge. Bill Russell got so stressed before games, he'd vomit. Jim Brown ran angry but exhausted his ability after nine seasons. Jerry West revealed in a recent book that he ruined nearly every personal relationship in his life due to his hyper-competitive nature.

Coaching big-time college football requires an unusual amount of dedication. It's a year-round job that has left stronger people than Meyer tired and depressed. Rare are cases like Kirk Ferentz at Iowa or Bob Stoops at Oklahoma where at least one side — either the coach or the school — doesn't tire of the other's presence.

And while hard-driving coaches like Saban and LSU's Les Miles appear to have learned to temper their anxiety, Meyer doesn't seem to have gotten there yet. His tenure at Florida nearly ended a year earlier than it actually did when he was hospitalized with esophageal spasms after the 2009 SEC title game. He stayed for one more year but was gone at the end of the 2010 season.

It's possible that Meyer, now 47, has figured out how to handle the pressure while still remaining sane and healthy. Maybe he has gotten his fix of his daughter's college volleyball games, his son's after-school activities and quiet evenings at home with his wife. Maybe Columbus is the stop where he is able to develop the balance necessary to coach the Buckeyes for the next decade or more.

That hasn't been the story with Meyer so far, though, and expecting a year off to change his personality is more than a little naive. Ohio State fans had better not blink when Meyer is leading the Buckeyes back into BCS title contention within two or three years — the great times might not last very long.

© 2015 New England Sports Network

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