Passion for Recruiting Fueled Urban Meyer’s Push for More Night Games
By Brandon Castel
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Urban Meyer knew all about night games before he got to Ohio State.
Photo by Jim Davidson
Six years of coaching in The Swamp, traveling around to SEC outposts like Death Valley, Tuscaloosa and South Carolina’s Williams Brice Stadium gave him a pretty good idea of what a college football atmosphere can be at its very finest.
Meyer also got a chance to see what Ohio Stadium could look like when the earth is reverberating with a mighty cheer during his first game under the lights in Columbus.
“Our Nebraska atmosphere was as good as I've ever been around,” he said of last year’s primetime matchup with the Cornhuskers.
“There were other atmospheres that were just OK, but we don’t have time to be OK. Every time you have an OK, you’re not being great, so we’re fighting for some things.”
One of the things Meyer pushed hard for this offseason was more night time atmospheres in the Horseshoe like the one that fueled the Buckeyes to a 63-38 win over Bo Pelini and No. 21-ranked Cornhuskers last season.
It wasn’t just a huge victory for the 2012 team, although it did help to propel Meyer’s first team at Ohio State to a perfect 12-0 season. It was also a momentous weekend for the Buckeyes from a recruiting standpoint.
Meyer and his staff didn’t land any immediate commitments following the Nebraska game in early October, but the lopsided victory opened some eyes to what was going on in Columbus. There were some big names on the sideline that evening, including some of Ohio State’s top targets for the 2014 recruiting class.
“As much respect as I have for the traditionalist, I want that 18-year-old to walk out of the stadium saying, ‘Wow, I have to be there,’” Meyer said this offseason during the Buckeye Cruise for Cancer.
“I don’t want them to have to get up at four in the morning to drive to our games so I think we’re going to push a little bit for that.”
Meyer wanted fewer sleepy noon games in Columbus and more primetime, nationally televised matchups this season. The second-year coach of the Buckeyes seems to get what he wants, more often than not, these days.
Ohio State was awarded a pair of primetime home games on the ESPN/ABC family of networks for this fall, and they could possibly pick up another night game when the Big Ten Network announces its slate of games next month.
The Buckeyes, who were recently bumped to the No. 1 spot on ESPN’s early Top 25 for 2013, will host Wisconsin and Penn State at night this coming season. The Badgers will visit Columbus for an 8 p.m. ET kickoff on Sept. 28, and the Nittany Lions come to town in week eight for a showdown under the lights.
Ohio State will also play a primetime game on the road in week six, when Meyer and his team travel to Evanston for a tough night game with Northwestern at Ryan Field on Oct. 5.
The 47,000-seat stadium isn’t exactly Bryant–Denny or Jordan-Hare, but the Big Ten does have some impressive structures with a vibrant atmosphere than can rival just about any place Meyer has coached during his quarter century on the job.
“The electric atmosphere we experienced at Penn State, I don’t want to use the term SEC-ish but that was as good as there is,” Meyer said this offseason.
“My wife is into those atmospheres and I always ask her what she thinks because she listens to it more than I do.”
As a former graduate assistant under Earle Bruce, Meyer realized Ohio State isn’t exactly Florida or anywhere else he has coached since he left Columbus in the late 1980s. With 123 years of tradition, the OSU football program is certainly rich in history and culture.
Even Meyer’s mentor may not be the biggest supporter of the switch to more night games at Ohio Stadium – which still does not have its own fully-operating lighting system – but Meyer isn’t afraid to make a few changes if it’s going to help the Buckeyes win football games.
“The night games, people are going to get tired of me saying that because there’s some tradition about not having night games in the Big Ten… I love tradition, but I love recruiting better,” Meyer said.
“Recruiting is really important in the game of college football. Like really important. Like more important than anything else.”
What's the most important thing after recruiting?
“Recruiting,” Meyer added.
No wonder he is willing to risk a little tradition for the sake of creating a better game day atmosphere in Columbus.
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