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College Sports

Jim Ingraham: An Urban legend, flaws and all

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    Ohio State coach Urban Meyer watches the action against Michigan on Nov. 24, in Columbus. Meyer said Tuesday that he will retire after the Buckeyes play in the Rose Bowl on Jan. 1, 2019.

    AP

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THE Urban Meyer has retired from THE Ohio State University, but THE Urban Legend isn’t going anywhere.

It was what it was, it is what it is and it will be what it will be. Nothing that happened Tuesday in Columbus will change any of that. The book has been written. Make of it what you wish.

There may not be a greater coach, a more conflicted coach, with a more controversial past than the one who, two days after winning The Big Ten football championship, and 10 days after demolishing his, and his university’s most-hated rival, waved bye-bye to the Buckeyes.

There is no bigger job in college sports than coaching the football team at Ohio State. There is no bigger name in college sports than Urban Meyer. For seven years it and he — a marriage made in monolith heaven — commanded the college football stage with a magnetic magnificence so compelling that you couldn’t take your eyes off it, even when you were averting them.

(Cough-cough, Zach Smith).

Well, yeah, there’s that. There’s also Meyer’s two national championships won at Florida, fueled by rosters littered with players whose behavior stamped them as mad, bad, and dangerous to know.

All of it, including the sunshine sectors, the three national championships overall, the .853 career winning percentage, the .901 winning percentage at Ohio State, his 7-0 record against Mashedagain, is part of THE Urban Legend.

We should have seen this coming when he was born 54 years ago, in the same hospital in Toledo in which, six months earlier, Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh was born. Harbaugh has been trying to catch up to Meyer ever since. We should have seen this coming the moment his birth certificate was completed.

You don’t get a name like Urban Meyer unless you’re destined to become famous.

He did — and he did.

Today, with the great coach, the conflicted coach, the controversial coach, having retired from one of the few universities as famous as him, as big as him, a professional reckoning is in order. In this highly unique case, the reckoning is in the eye of the beholder.

Your opinion of THE Urban Legend will be colored by how much weight you put into his won-loss record as opposed to his oops!-yikes! record. There’s plenty of both.

Tuesday he officially announced that he is walking away from the job that he loves, and from the sport he has dominated.

But he’s certainly not walking away on his own terms. Not unless you consider a cyst on the brain the kind of terms for which you’d like to sign up.

At the news conference in Columbus, Meyer said that the cyst in his brain, the pain from which literally brought him to his knees on the sideline during the Indiana game, was the deciding factor in his decision to toss the keys to the Buckeye Bulldozer to 39-year-old offensive coordinator Ryan Day, the resounding winner of this decade’s Right Time, Right Place Award.

“There was an accumulation of reasons why we’re at this point, but my health is No.1,” said Meyer, whose farewell-to-headsets will come after he coaches Ohio State in the Rose Bowl.

There was, of course, a point in time earlier this year when many thought Meyer should have been fired — rather than being allowed to step down from it now — after he botched the handling of the domestic assault case against former assistant coach Zach Smith, a scandal that resulted in Meyer being suspended for the first three games of the season.

Ohio State, with Day as interim coach, won all three of those games, and looked good doing it, outscoring their opponents 169-62.

Meyer then returned to the sideline, but the optics were not good. He was clearly physically uncomfortable during games, as he appeared to wrestle with the pain from the cyst, a condition that apparently is exacerbated by stress, which makes coaching a major college football team perhaps the worst possible profession for anyone with such a condition.

Indeed, there were games in which it was hard to tell which was more painful to watch: Meyer’s team or Meyer.

But the preposterous blowout of Michigan was a happy ending. So, too, would be a Rose Bowl victory. But THE Urban Legend has already been written, and he knows it.

Asked if he felt the Zach Smith scandal will impact his legacy, Meyer said, “I’m sure it will. It was a disappointing time, obviously. I could lie and say that it won’t. But it will. People will have opinions.”

Strong ones.

When Meyer leaves, Meyer is gone. “I will not coach again,” he said.

Ironically, following this most tumultuous of seasons, everyone now is getting what they want most.

For the Meyer haters: he’s gone.

For Meyer’s health: a major reduction in stress.

For Harbaugh: a fighting chance.

Contact jim Ingraham at 329-7135 or jingraham4@gmail.com and follow him @Jim_Ingraham on Twitter.


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