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SEPTEMBER 2012 PAGE 15

Ohio State's Urban Meyer is home and home is counting on him to win

By Greg Bartram Reprinted from usatoday.com COLUMBUS, Ohio —- Showtime for Urban Meyer. What a perfect marriage, he and the Ohio State Buckeyes make. Urban Meyer, a native of Ohio, had his first college coach job at Ohio State. He was a graduate assistant in 1986 and '87. But then, don't they all seem that way just after the wedding? We'll have to see. A few curves, a few bumps, a few Michigan games. Then we'll know if this match is as made in heaven as it looks. So far, they seem to go together like chocolate and peanut butter in buckeyes. "Am I ready for this?'' he was saying Monday, five days before his debut. "We'll judge that probably in the next week, or next two weeks, next two years. "That's the kind of neat thing about where I'm at in my career. I don't care. I want to work on getting this team ready for Miami of Ohio (and a few bigger fish to fry after that). Everything I've got. I'm not worried about what's the legacy, what's this, what's that." There are no happy endings among his recent coaching predecessors in Columbus. Jim Tressel was forced out. John Cooper, Earle Bruce, Woody Hayes. All under different circumstances, but the trend is stark enough. Plus, there's the shadow of NCAA sanctions and the bowl ban this season, and the bad aftertaste of a 6-7 record, the most losses for Ohio State since 1897. It is assumed Meyer will change all the above, even though this is not Florida. No stable of Southeastern Conference speed. No Swamp. No Tim Tebow. But it's home. He grew up in northern Ohio, went to college in southern Ohio and now is in charge of the state's crown jewel in the middle, having taken his one-year sabbatical in the broadcast booth to rebalance himself. At this moment, many images of Ohio State's new coach come through. Urban Meyer, the little boy in upstate Ashtabula … "Since I was 4 years old, or maybe I was 3½," he said of his first time he watched the Buckeyes. "It's going to be an emotional time (Saturday). Very much so.'' He said he'd be needing notes "to keep my face in the game … I have to do that because I'll be coming out of my shoes a little bit." Urban Meyer, the struggling young assistant coach at Ohio State in the 1980s … "I didn't eat if I didn't know where the happy hours were, or if Wendy's didn't have their $2 special on salads."

He said he's been fired twice, when staffs were let go here and Colorado State. He was 27 years old on the last one, with his wife seven months' pregnant. "Makes you want to work that much harder,'' he said. Now he has a six-year contract, reported to be worth at least $24 million. Urban Meyer, the once-absentee father … In the middle of his office, and the middle of his universe, are two items no visitor can miss. One is a family photo. Above that the framed contract on pink notebook paper he signed with his children, as a condition for returning to coaching this season. Among the 10 clauses are healthy eating, regular workouts and more time with the family, which too often did not happen at Florida. He would make every effort to see his kids' games, not just his own. So how's that going? "I've been doing great,'' he said. "Got to see (daughter Nicki) play volleyball Saturday night … keep checking things off the contract."She did well, by the way. She got elected captain. I have a daughter that got elected captain as a senior at Georgia Tech." He said that in the same delighted tone he would describe his offense going eight quarters without a turnover. He said that with the pride a father should. Urban Meyer, the son of Ohio who understands this place … Yes, there'll be Buckeyes on the helmets. "Could you imagine that?" he said of the idea of changing. "Security, everywhere I went." Urban Meyer, the instigator … "My job is to motivate 100 18-year-olds. You guys try to figure it out," he said to reporters. "I wanted to have an angry team, a team with a chip on its shoulder, and at this point, I'd say we have that. They're not very well thought of. They've lost a lot of games. That's their legacy. They're going to be known as that group. I don't want them to be that group. "I'll utilize any form of motivation I can to get guys angry because I love coaching angry teams. There's nothing like it … That's every coach's dream." So his team is irate, and he has seen his daughter play volleyball. Time for Urban Meyer to start coaching again."The good thing, it's not the first time that I've had to take a new team out on the field." Bowling Green, Utah, Florida. But never like this. He's home, and home is counting on him.

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SEPTEMBER 2012 24 PAGE_Layout 1 (Page 15)  
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