Johnson: Meyer made right decision

Published 10:29 pm Thursday, December 1, 2011

Hidden, in a way, by the ongoing child sex sagas in State College and Syracuse, was the announcement of Urban Meyer as the new head football coach at Ohio State.

Many sports columnists have criticized his decision to return to coaching after leaving the University of Florida not once but twice for the reasons of personal health and desire to spend more time with his kids. After a year in the studio at ESPN, Meyer has felt the urge to return to the sidelines and do what he does best and I don’t see how anyone can criticize that.

He is a great coach and that shows with his track record. The man has never … NEVER had a losing record as a head coach — 17-6 at Bowling Green, 22-2 at Utah, 65-15 at Florida — not to mention two national championships with the Gators in 2006 and 2008. That speaks for itself. Now the national media wants to hammer him because he left Florida for reasons they see as a cover up to the true fact that he didn’t want to rebuild a program destined to be as weak as he’s ever had. Florida had just graduated the one of the most prolific quarterbacks ever to wear the blue and orange, Tim Tebow. The following season Meyer’s Gators were 8-5, his worst season as a head coach.

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Sure, he may have seen the writing on the wall and not felt he had the desire to rebuild a team. It is the SEC we’re talking about and 8-5 in that league gets you fired, especially at a program accustomed to winning not only under Meyer but Steve Spurrier in the 1990s.

Meyer had just signed a contract extension to lock him down through the 2014 season before deciding to walk away.

Whatever the true reason for his leaving, I feel he made the right move. If Meyer had stayed and struggled through the rebuilding process the Gators are in now (the team is currently 6-6) his window to find another premiere coaching position might have closed. Not to mention, there is no guarantee he would have ever returned the team to the level they were prior to the 2010 season. All the evidence he needs was sitting down the hall in the Florida athletic department.

Gators basketball coach Billy Donovan took over a losing program in 1996 and turned them into a national power winning the national championship in 2006 and 2007. The team reached the title game in 2000 and the NCAA Sweet Sixteen in 1999. After the two championships, Donovan was the hottest name on the coaching block. Rumors swirled over a possible move to the NBA that he turned down to remain in Gainsville.

Fortunately for Donovan his program suffered only two years of mediocrity before returning to prominence. Currently, the Gators hoops team is ranked ninth in the country.

That scenario is not always true, however, and Meyer got out before the collapse happened.

So what if Meyer didn’t want to start over again. He did what Florida brought him there to do. Win a BCS National Championship. And he did it twice.

So, after a year off to do whatever it was he felt like he needed to do personally, he’s back and when the football powerhouse in your home state comes calling, you answer.

Ohio State is one of the very, very select football coaching positions in the state and for a guy hailing from the Buckeye State it’s the pinnacle of a coaching career.

Meyer played just down the road in Cincinnati and said that if it hadn’t been Ohio State he would probably not have coached this season either. But it is Ohio State and it’s a chance for one of the greatest coaches in this era to take one of the greatest programs of all time and return to the national championship game. If he accomplishes that his legacy would not be that of one of the greatest coaches of this era but of college football history.

This is his chance to put his name in the same conversation with the greatest who have ever walked a college football sideline and I for one don’t blame him a bit.