Meyer joins exclusive club with another title
ARLINGTON, Texas — If he wasn't a member of the club before, he definitely is now.
Take a bow, Urban Meyer.
You're one of the greatest coaches in college football history.
Meyer joined a very elite group — right up there with guys named Bryant and Leahy and Saban — by leading Ohio State to the national championship with a 42-20 victory over Oregon on Monday night.
It was Meyer's third national title. The first two came with Florida, this one with the Buckeyes — a program in disarray when he arrived in 2012 after taking a one-year sabbatical from coaching.
He said he needed the time away to take care of his health and re-connect with his family. But if anyone thought it would be a softer, kinder — and more beatable — Meyer who returned to the sideline, they were sadly mistaken.
This was the 41st game he's coached since taking over in Columbus.
He's won 38 of them, an astonishing turnaround for a team that went 6-7 during the 2011 season, reeling from the forced ouster of longtime coach Jim Tressel and an NCAA investigation into tattoos and other illegal benefits doled out to the players.
"The chase is complete," he said. "It's done. It's over. They accepted their final mission, their final assignment and their final directive, and they did it. That was our whole mantra this last couple of weeks. A job well done, and we're very grateful."
Meyer might be a little more willing to appreciate this title than the first two, but he won't rest on his laurels by any means.
It's just not his style.
He's still the same fierce competitor he always was — mercilessly poking players and coaches alike, all in a desire to get the best out of them. Before a Sugar Bowl victory over top-seeded Alabama, he talked about the need to make life uncomfortable for those around him, saying that's often how you get the best out of people.
His methods aren't for everyone, he acknowledged.
But, he added, it's the surest way to a championship.
He'll get no complaints from the Buckeyes, whose victory signaled a northward shift in the game's power structure after years of dominance by the Southeastern Conference (with Meyer playing a key role in that, as well).
Meyer became only the eighth coach to win as many as three national championships, a club led by Bear Bryant with five. Frank Leahy and Nick Saban have four apiece, followed by Meyer, Bernie Bierman, John McKay, Bud Wilkinson and Barry Switzer, all with a trio.
Saban and Meyer are the only coaches to win championships at different schools.
By the time Meyer is done — remember, he's still only 50 — he might go down as the greatest of them all.
This was certainly his best coaching job yet. The Buckeyes lost star quarterback Braxton Miller to a season-ending shoulder injury during fall practice. They had to shake off an early home loss to Virginia Tech, when Miller's replacement, J.T. Barrett, was still adjusting to his starting role behind an inexperienced offensive line. After earning a spot in the Big Ten championship game, they grieved the death of scout team player Kosta Karageorge, who is believed to have taken his own life. Then, when Barrett went down with a season-ending injury of his own, Meyer had to go with a guy who started the year as a third-stringer, Cardale Jones.
All he did in his first three career starts was guide the Buckeyes to a 59-0 blowout of Wisconsin for the Big Ten title, then a stunning 42-35 upset of Saban's Alabama powerhouse in the Sugar Bowl, and finally a triumph over Oregon and Heisman winner Marcus Mariota, which would've been even bigger if not for Ohio State's four turnovers.
Make no mistake, there are not many coaches who could overcome that sort of adversity.
Maybe not any.
Not even Saban, dare we say.
"One of the great stories in college football history of closeness, of team, of selflessness and strain." Meyer said. "This will go down as one of the great stories in college football history."
When he was growing up in Ashtabula, a small town on Lake Erie, his family had a picture of the great Ohio State coach Woody Hayes hanging in the home. That must have served as some sort of inspiration, because Meyer found his calling on the sideline after a short-lived professional baseball career in the Atlanta Braves organization.
To this day, he still keeps a picture of Hayes in his home.
Maybe it's time to put up something different.
If Meyer wants a coach to look up to, all he needs is himself.