Urban Meyer's wife Shelley was extremely friendly in the five minutes she spoke to the media Monday evening before heading to the airport to return to Gainesville, Fla. But she also showed she knows how to handle an interview, alerting the group with a "One more and I've got to go," as she prepared to depart.
Other thoughts on Urban Meyer's first press conference as Ohio State football coach:
- Meyer said he didn't like the state of college football when he stepped aside after the 2010 season. But how can he look at the Penn State scandal and think it's in better shape now? Perhaps he's merely accepted the game's seedy side and will leave it to NCAA officials to improve it.
- Meyer's explanation of 31 arrests involving 25 players at Florida was weak. "Sometimes you're in a college town where things get -- anything -- all of a sudden it's on the front page of the paper," he said. "I see the number of arrests and the numbers I see are exaggerated. I know what we've had to deal with. If we've had one, that's too many. Our job as a coaching staff is to mentor, to discipline and to educate young people. And we've had a pretty good track record. We ran into some bumps in the road at the University of Florida. Does that mean we had bad kids? I'll fight that forever. No, absolutely not. Did they make stupid mistakes? Yeah. I've made a few stupid mistakes. We're going to try to recruit really good people to represent Ohio State. That doesn't mean we're going to give up on kids." His statement seemed to downplay the fact that 12 of the arrests were for felonies or violent misdeameanors. He said his core values were honesty and respect, along with "no drugs, no stealing, no weapons. You're either dismissed or you miss a good bunch of playing time."
- Director of athletics Gene Smith seems confident that Ohio State will not receive a bowl ban, citing extensive study of comparable cases. The NCAA's "failure to monitor" charge involving booster Bobby DeGeronimo, announced on Nov. 10, evidently sounds worse to me than it does to Smith.
- Freshman quarterback Braxton Miller has to be feeling on top of the world today. Meyer called Miller a "ridiculous athlete" and said meeting him was the highlight of his day. "To tell you I'm excited to coach him, I'm not using the correct adjectives because there's mixed company around," Meyer said. "I like the way he throws. I like his delivery. I think he could be special," Meyer said. Having that kind of talent with the experience Miller gained this season sounded like a big plus in Meyer taking the job.
- Meyer fawned over his memories of Ohio State, including his day as a youngster when he was shopping at Thanksgiving with his mother in Ashtabula and the Ohio State-Michigan game between coaches Woody Hayes and Bo Schembechler was playing over the loudspeakers. "The whole city shut down," Meyer said. He has a portrait of Hayes at his house and still regrets not introducing Shelley to a wheelchair-bound Hayes at a recruiting dinner at the OSU golf course. He said when he was a graduate assistant in the 1980s under Earle Bruce, he'd sneak out of the home locker room at 12:15 to watch the OSU band come out. Meyer doesn't seem like the sentimental type, but it sounds like he is when it comes to OSU history and tradition.
- I'm somewhat surprised at Meyer's retention of interim coach Luke Fickell, especially when Meyer wants to build the strongest staff in the nation. Fickell and his wife Amy, both Columbus natives, don't seem to want to leave the city, even though he'd seem to have a good shot at becoming Akron's next coach. It's a good public relations move for OSU in keeping him and should help in the transition. Meyer said Fickell would be given a "significant title," but that doesn't necessary mean defensive coordinator.
- Shelley Meyer said her husband thinks he found an assistant he can delegate important matters to in Fickell. "He got dropped right into it, without warning he got dropped into this position and had to do that to pull this staff together and this team together and did a great job," she said. "He’s a very mature coach. He just did a
great job. We watched Ohio State, we watched him. We’re very, very excited he’s going to stay with us. I feel very, very good about him helping Urban with all this."
- The sign on the wall in the Fawcett Center ballroom said "Maximum capacity 175 persons" and it was still so crowded that a woman working a camera for the Big Ten Network fainted midway through the press conference. The irony of someone having a health issue when a coach with health issues was being introduced will not be forgotten.
- Getting back to the BCS championship game won't be as easy for Meyer at Ohio State as it was for coach Jim Tressel. I still believe the Big Ten championship game will be a roadblock on what used to be a relatively easy road for OSU. Especially with Michigan State, Wisconsin and Michigan having coaches who appear entrenched for the long haul.