Earle Bruce Confirms, Lauds Meyer’s Hiring
By Brandon Castel
COLUMBUS, Ohio — As if there wasn’t enough reason to believe that Urban Meyer was going to be the next head football coach at Ohio State, Earle Bruce made it all but official Monday.
With reports circling that Meyer had finalized a deal to become the 24th head coach in Ohio State history, the school’s 20th head coach confirmed he had spoken to his former assistant about accepting the job, which will officially be announced in a 5:15 p.m. press conference.
“He called me to tell me he was happy and to invite me to the press conference tonight,” Bruce said on Monday afternoon.
“He’s a pretty busy guy today.”
Throughout his career, Meyer has remained close with Bruce, who coached the Buckeyes from 1979-87 after taking over when Woody Hayes was fired for punching Charlie Bauman.
Bruce was the coach who gave Meyer his start in the profession back in 1986. Meyer had played defensive back at the University of Cincinnati and was coaching as an assistant at St. Xavier High School in Cincinnati when Bruce saw something in him.
He hired Meyer as a graduate assistant coaching the tight ends in ’86 and eventually the wide receivers in 1987. Meyer would go on to work for Jim Heacock at Illinois State, but quickly reunited with Bruce after he took the head-coaching job at Colorado State in 1990.
“He brought in some really great football players, and brought in a few that ended up in the pros even after I left,” Bruce said.
“He’s just an excellent recruiter. He’s on the job, he mixes well with people. He’s a good salesman and obviously loved the game of football, which he sells.”
Meyer again coached the wide receivers for Bruce and offense would quickly become his thing. He would go on to coach the receivers at Notre Dame under former OSU assistant Lou Holtz, and eventually Bob Davie, who replaced Holtz in South Bend.
He was hired as the head coach at Bowling Green in 2001 and began studying different spread offenses around the country. He has become synonymous with different variations of the spread offense, but Bruce sees a well-rounded head coach coming to Columbus.
“He’s a complete football coach. He’s not only offense, but he’s defense and he’s special teams,” Bruce said.
“He has a great offense and he has great defensive coaches that do the job and his special teams are really exciting. Down at Florida his teams blocked as many kicks as any team in the country.”
Mainly, the Buckeyes are getting a coach who knows how to win. He is 104-23 over all as a head coach, including a 65-15 record at Florida. He led the Gators to three SEC titles and two BCS National Championships in just six seasons in Gainesville.
He is 7-1 in bowl games and was 14-1 against Florida’s three primary rivals, Florida State, Georgia and Tennessee, during his tenure with the Gators.
“He’s knowledgeable and he’s a good game-day coach, and that’s important,” Bruce said Monday.
“He knows what the battle is and he gets into it real quick and decides what’s good and bad.”
Meyer has turned around three different programs, including the Gators, who were struggling in mediocrity under former head coach Ron Zook. He takes over an Ohio State program that was 6-6 during the 2011 regular season, but the Buckeyes had won seven-straight Big Ten titles before this season.
They were 106-22 in 10 seasons under Jim Tressel with one BCS National Title and nine wins over Michigan. It will be hard to top that level of success, but Bruce sees Meyer as one guy who might be able to take the Buckeyes to an even higher level.
“I think my challenge would be is if he can do as well as coach Tressel or better, look out. We’ll be on some great runs,” he said.
“I don’t know how you best some of the records coach Tressel had here. Not many guys can do better than that, but he’s one of the coaches who could better anyone’s record.”
Which is why Ohio State opened the checkbook for the Ashtabula native.
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