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Urban Meyer Is Retiring As Ohio State’s Head Football Coach

The Buckeyes coach is stepping away from the sideline after January’s Rose Bowl. What should we make of a development that feels at once sudden and somewhat predictable?

Urban Meyer AP Images/Ringer illustration

Urban Meyer is retiring as the head football coach at Ohio State. The news broke early Tuesday morning, and a press conference is scheduled at 2 p.m. ET in Columbus. Meyer will stay on through the Rose Bowl, completing his seventh season in this role with the Buckeyes, before assistant Ryan Day officially takes the reins as the 25th head coach in program history.

In one sense, this development comes as a shock: Meyer, who owns a career record of 186-32 (at Bowling Green, Utah, Florida, and Ohio State), is one of the most accomplished head coaches in the history of college football, and few of the most accomplished head coaches in the history of college football have stepped away from the sideline at just 54 years old. In another sense, though, the signs were all there: Meyer has abruptly resigned once before, on the heels of a six-year stint with the Gators from 2005 to 2010. Reports surfaced in September that Ohio State officials had engaged in discussions about whether to name Day the school’s coach-in-waiting. And Meyer was suspended for the first three games of the 2018 season after it became clear that he didn’t do nearly enough to address multiple accounts of domestic violence involving his former receivers coach Zach Smith, whom Meyer fired in July. While speaking to reporters the day after letting Smith go, Meyer said that he had no prior knowledge of a 2015 incident in which Courtney Smith, Zach Smith’s ex-wife, said that her former husband shoved her against a wall and wrapped his hands around her neck. An investigation commissioned by Ohio State found that Meyer was aware of that account.

Meyer also has a history of health problems, and in October it was reported that he underwent brain surgery in the spring of 2014. Meyer told Yahoo Sports’ Pete Thamel that he suffers from a “congenital arachnoid cyst in his brain, which has led to severe headaches at times in his career.”

If this is indeed the end of Meyer’s coaching career, he exits as one of the most decorated coaches the sport has ever seen. His Alex Smith–led Utah team went 12-0 in the 2004 season before beating Pittsburgh in the Fiesta Bowl; his Florida teams produced Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow and won BCS national titles after both the 2006 and 2008 campaigns; and he brought Ohio State the first national championship of the College Football Playoff, with the 2014 Buckeyes riding third-string quarterback Cardale Jones to their triumph. Meyer never lost to Michigan, and his career .853 winning percentage ranks behind only Knute Rockne and Frank Leahy among coaches with at least 10 years of experience.

Meyer will also remain inextricably linked to a Florida program that had a laundry list of player arrests (and also featured Aaron Hernandez), and an Ohio State program that employed Zach Smith long after Meyer knew about the accounts of Smith’s history of domestic violence.

Much of the conversation surrounding Meyer will now turn to his legacy, and the word that’s being thrown around most is complicated. That doesn’t seem right. His legacy is straightforward. Meyer was a historically dominant coach on the field who had some very public shortcomings off of it. You can succeed in one aspect of life and fail in another. Urban Meyer did both.