Ohio State coach Urban Meyer to retire after Rose Bowl

  • Ohio State NCAA college football head coach Urban Meyer, left, answers questions during a news conference announcing his retirement Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2018, in Columbus, Ohio. At right is assistant coach Ryan Day. (AP Photo/Jay LaPrete) Jay LaPrete

  • FILE - In this Nov. 17, 2018, file photo, Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer holds his hands to his head before an NCAA football game against Maryland in College Park, Md. Urban Meyer, the highly successful football coach who won three national championships and sparked controversy and criticism this season for his handling of domestic violence allegations against a now-fired assistant, will retire after the Rose Bowl, the Ohio State University announced Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2018. Ohio State didn't immediately say why Meyer was stepping down after seven years at Ohio State and an 82-9 record, but the 54-year-old coach has previously cited health concerns. He has an arachnoid cyst in his brain that causes severe headaches. (AP Photo/Nick Wass, File) Nick Wass

  • FILE - This Jan. 12, 2015, file photo shows Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer and Ezekiel Elliott celebrating after the NCAA college football playoff championship game against Oregon, in Arlington, Texas. Meyer, the highly successful coach who won three national championships and sparked controversy and criticism this season for his handling of domestic violence allegations against a now-fired assistant, will retire after the Rose Bowl, the university announced Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2018. (AP Photo/Eric Gay, File) Eric Gay

  • FILE - In this Dec. 2, 2018, file photo, Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer and wide receiver Terry McLaurin, left, celebrate early after defeating Northwestern 45-24 in the Big Ten championship NCAA college football game in Indianapolis. Meyer, the highly successful coach who won three national championships and sparked controversy and criticism this season for his handling of domestic violence allegations against a now-fired assistant, will retire after the Rose Bowl, the university announced Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2018.(AP Photo/Michael Conroy, File) Michael Conroy

  • Ohio State NCAA college football head coach Urban Meyer answers questions during a news conference announcing his retirement Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2018, in Columbus, Ohio. (AP Photo/Jay LaPrete) Jay LaPrete

  • FILE - In this Aug. 18, 2018, file photo, acting Ohio State University football coach Ryan Day is seen during NCAA college football practice in Columbus, Ohio. Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer, the highly successful coach who won three national championships and sparked controversy and criticism this season for his handling of domestic violence allegations against a now-fired assistant, will retire after the Rose Bowl, the university announced Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2018. (AP Photo/Paul Vernon, File) Paul Vernon

  • FILE - In this Dec. 4, 2000, file photo, Bowling Green State University's new head football coach Urban Meyer speaks during an introductory press conference in Bowling Green, Ohio. Meyer, the highly successful football coach who won three national championships and sparked controversy and criticism this season for his handling of domestic violence allegations against a now-fired assistant, will retire after the Rose Bowl, Ohio State University announced Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2018. He started his head-coaching career at Bowling Green. (J.D. Pooley/Sentinel-Tribune via AP, File) M

  • FILE - In this Dec. 6, 2014 file photo, Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer runs onto the field with his team at the start of the Big Ten Conference championship NCAA college football game against Wisconsin, in Indianapolis. Ohio State says Urban Meyer will retire after the Rose Bowl and assistant Ryan Day will be the next head coach. After seven years and a national championship at Ohio State, the 54-year-old Meyer will formally announce his departure Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2018, at a news conference. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings, File) Darron Cummings

  • FILE - In this Sept. 22, 2018, file photo, Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer, right, and offensive coordinator Ryan Day watch from the sidelines against Tulane during the second half of an NCAA college football game, in Columbus, Ohio. Ohio State says Urban Meyer will retire after the Rose Bowl and assistant Ryan Day will be the next head coach. After seven years and a national championship at Ohio State, the 54-year-old Meyer will formally announce his departure Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2018, at a news conference. (AP Photo/Jay LaPrete, File) Jay LaPrete

  • FILE - In this Dec. 2, 2018, file photo, Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer takes part in a news conference following the Big Ten championship NCAA college football game against Northwestern, in Indianapolis. Ohio State says Urban Meyer will retire after the Rose Bowl and assistant Ryan Day will be the next head coach. After seven years and a national championship at Ohio State, the 54-year-old Meyer will formally announce his departure Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2018, at a news conference. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy, File) Michael Conroy

  • FILE - In this Dec. 1, 2018, file photo, Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer watches from the sidelines during the first half of the Big Ten championship NCAA college football game against Northwestern, in Indianapolis. Ohio State says Urban Meyer will retire after the Rose Bowl and assistant Ryan Day will be the next head coach. After seven years and a national championship at Ohio State, the 54-year-old Meyer will formally announce his departure Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2018, at a news conference. The university didn't say why he was retiring, but Meyer has said he suffers from debilitating headaches caused by an arachnoid cyst in his brain. (AP Photo/AJ Mast, File) AJ Mast

  • FILE - In this Dec. 2, 2018, file photo, Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer walks off the field with his wife, Shelley Meyer, early Sunday after defeating Northwestern in the Big Ten championship NCAA college football game in Indianapolis. Ohio State says Urban Meyer will retire after the Rose Bowl and assistant Ryan Day will be the next head coach. After seven years and a national championship at Ohio State, the 54-year-old Meyer will formally announce his departure Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2018, at a news conference. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy, File) Michael Conroy

Associated Press
Published: 12/4/2018 11:18:07 PM

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio State coach Urban Meyer abruptly announced his retirement Tuesday, citing health concerns and a difficult year that included a three-game suspension over his handling of domestic violence allegations against a now-fired assistant coach. He will step down after the Rose Bowl on Jan. 1.

Meyer is leaving at the top of his profession after three national championships in a career spanning three decades, the last seven years at Ohio State, where he has an 82-9 record. The 54-year-old Meyer has an arachnoid cyst in his brain that causes severe headaches, and he had shown obvious effects of being in pain on the sideline this season.

At a packed news conference, Meyer explained that the headaches became severe last season during Ohio State’s game at Penn State and have become a persistent problem this season. But he didn’t blame only his health for stepping away. Meyer said he believed he could no longer coach the way he has from the early days at Bowling Green to Utah, Florida and, finally, with the Buckeyes.

“The style of coaching I’ve done for 33 years is very intense, very demanding. I tried to delegate more and CEO more and the product started to feel ...,” he said, not finishing his thought. “I didn’t feel I was doing right by our players and by Gene (Smith, the athletic director).”

Meyer said leaving would have been more difficult if the program wasn’t healthy. The Buckeyes are 12-1 after winning the Big Ten championship and Meyer said he felt good about his replacement: Assistant coach Ryan Day will take over as the 25th coach of the storied program where Meyer won a national title in 2014 after two at Florida (2006, 2008).

“You want to hand it off to someone who could make it stronger,” Meyer said.

It was Day who led the Buckeyes when Meyer was suspended before the season opener over his role in the handling of assistant coach Zach Smith, who was accused by his ex-wife of domestic abuse.

Meyer said he knew about the allegations against Smith — grandson of former Ohio State coach Earle Bruce — but wasn’t sure they were true and kept Smith on staff because no criminal charges were filed. The university cited that lapse in suspending Meyer after an investigation.

A report issued by an investigative committee left a lasting stain, detailing behavior by Meyer that could have taken down a coach of lesser stature. The investigation showed he tolerated bad behavior for years from Smith, including domestic-violence accusations, drug addiction, lies and other acts that directly clash with the values Meyer touts publicly.

Meyer acknowledged the investigation was among the reasons for stepping down — “the decision was the result of cumulative events” — and he was asked if the suspension will affect his legacy.

“I’m sure it will,” he said. “I can lie to you and say it is not important to me.”

The announcement came as the Buckeyes begin preparations for the bowl game against Washington and less than three weeks before schools can sign a fresh batch of recruits. Meyer said his decision had to come before the early signing period opens Dec. 19.

Former players were full of praise for Meyer.

“Besides my parents, you were one of the most influential people to touch my life and I’m appreciative of that,” former Buckeyes linebacker Joshua Perry wrote on Twitter.

The Buckeyes’ strong finish this season belied on-the-field problems that made for a stressful season for Meyer and his staff. He lost star defensive end Nick Bosa to an early season-ending injury, and the defense never fully recovered.

The team alternated expected blowout wins with puzzling play that included a pair of one-point wins (Penn State, Maryland) and a closer-than-expected win over a struggling Nebraska team. A startling blowout loss at unranked Purdue on Oct. 20 pushed Ohio State to the fringe of the national championship chase and prompted questions about Meyer’s future and he was forced to address speculation that he would step down at the end of the season.

“I plan on coaching,” he said on Oct. 29. Asked if he would definitely return to Ohio State next year, he answered, “Yes.”

Ohio State followed that with five straight wins, including a rout of archrival Michigan that gave the Buckeyes another division title and then pulled away for an easy win over Northwestern in the Big Ten Championship.

The success was nothing new for Meyer, who was a standout coach at Utah before he left for Florida in 2005 and rocketed to the top of the college football coaching ranks, a peer of Alabama coach Nick Saban in terms of respect and ability. Critics noted that his success with the Gators was marred by a series of legal issues for his players, with more than two dozen arrests.

Almost exactly nine years ago, Meyer shocked college football by resigning at Florida after five seasons amid what he called stress-related health concerns that came to light when he suffered chest pains following the SEC championship game. He changed his mind, returned for another season and then stepped down in December 2010, saying he wanted to spend more time with family.

He was 46 then. And he wasn’t gone long: He took the Ohio State job before the 2012 season after Jim Tressel was forced out for lying to the NCAA amid a memorabilia-for-tattoos scandal.

It appeared to be a dream job for the Toledo native. His contract was extended in April by two years through 2022, increasing Meyer’s salary to $7.6 million in 2018 with annual 6 percent raises. Meyer has about $38 million left on his contract.

Ohio State will now turn to Day, a second-year Ohio State assistant who had never before been a head coach before he stepped in during Meyers’ suspension.




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