Meyer Bringing ‘Urban’s Way’ to Columbus
By Brandon Castel
COLUMBUS, Ohio — During his first meeting with Ohio State players last week, Urban Meyer encouraged them to go out and win their bowl game.
He also informed the guys in that room that everything they do—whether it be on the field, in the weight room or in the classroom—is being evaluated.
In other words: everything is a test. That’s Urban’s way.
“I’m going to give them everything I’ve got and our coaching staff is going to spill it for them. We expect that in return, and it starts right now,” Meyer said in his interview with the Big Ten Network.
“I don’t want to hear about missed classes, I don’t want to hear about issues, I want to see a group of players go out and win a bowl game. You’re being evaluated in everything you do from this point forward. I talked to them and told them I expect that, so now if you walk out tomorrow and miss class or do something (wrong) or don’t play hard, you’re not going to be in very good standing with the new staff.”
Meyer has only been on the job for a little over a week. He is still assembling that staff in Columbus, and that is only when he is not busy trying to salvage a 2012 recruiting class that was in a state of flux until the new coach was announced.
He has already announced that interim head coach Luke Fickell will stay on as an assistant in the new regime, but whoever joins Meyer in Columbus will have to fit who he is as a coach and as a person.
Josh Harris (carrying the football)
elludes A. J. Hawk
(47) and Quinn Pitcock (90) in the 2003 Bowling Green vs. Ohio State game in Ohio Stadium.
Photo by Jim Davidson
“I can only imagine what that team meeting was like for those guys,” said Josh Harris, who played quarterback for Meyer during his two seasons at Bowling Green.
“The first thing he said to us was 'I've got three rules; the first thing is to love the game of football, to love and respect your teammates, and to love and respect your university'.”
That was early 2001 and Meyer was a first-time head coach with very little credibility, at least from a national perception. He was an energetic 37-year old without a track record. He had never been a coordinator at any level, but even then, Meyer understood what it would take to win at a place like Bowling Green.
“When he came to us, he came as the wide receivers coach from Notre Dame so he didn't come in with as prestigious of a background,” Harris explained. “What he did do was he set the expectations from day one in that first team meeting.
“It really set a precedent for not only how we were going to prepare but how we were going to perform on Saturday's and how we were going to carry ourselves. The guys that stayed on board, and the guys that bought into the system, they'll never be the same.”
Meyer was faced with the challenge of turning around a 2-9 football team with very little history or tradition to fall back on. He knew it wouldn’t be easy, but Meyer wasn’t afraid to implement drastic measures, especially after a number of players missed study table right after Meyer had reminded everyone to be there.
The retribution was not only swift, it was harsh. On what has become known as “Black Wednesday” at Bowling Green, Meyer strategically positioned large plastic trash cans inside the field house.
When the players showed up, they knew they were in trouble. They had no idea how much. After more than two hours of running, the trash cans were nearly full and the players were nearly dead.
More than 20 players transferred, and Meyer would later admit that Black Wednesday was a “dangerous idea,” but those who stayed understood that he was going to turn them into winners.
“I don't know that he's tough to play for,” Harris said after recalling his own Black Wednesday experience.
“Don't get me wrong, it was the hardest thing I've ever done but it was also the most rewarding thing that I've ever done outside of being married to my lovely wife and then obviously having my two kids.”
The Falcons did win. They went 8-3 in Meyer’s first season and started the 2002 season 8-0 before dropping three of their last four. There were only 14 guys who gutted it out all the way through. Those 14 guys were forever changed and they forever changed Meyer, who still has a picture of that group in his rec room, right next to the national championship teams from Florida.
“He does an outstanding job of getting people to buy in,” said Harris, who came to support Meyer at his introductory press conference at Ohio State.
“At this point, the proof is in the pudding. His track record speaks for itself and I don't think he'll have any issue with getting guys to really buy into his system, which is going to make for a dynamic relationship between The Ohio State University and Urban Meyer.”
It certainly worked for Woody.
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