Urban Meyer, Kerry Coombs on Denzel Ward’s Decision to Sit

Denzel Ward Ohio State Football Buckeyes


The rumors started on December 8. That was the day that junior cornerback Denzel Ward was one of eight Buckeyes expected to be made available to speak with the media.

Ward never made it.

His absence provided a hint of an answer to the questions that he was going to face.

With more and more NFL prospects skipping their respective bowl games — and Ward a projected first-round draft pick — everyone wanted to know if he was going to play in the bowl game. To hear his coaches tell it, even if he would have answered the question, it would have only been done with uncertainty. But an uncertain answer in that situation is one that is only going to bring more questions and create more distractions.

So, instead, the media session never happened, but the rumors persisted, and Urban Meyer and the rest of the Buckeyes were adamant that everyone would be available to play in the Cotton Bowl.

Ultimately, the decision was made by Ward to sit out, but it wasn’t a decision that he came to easily or quickly.

“Well, it began after the championship game,” Urban Meyer said. “And I was out on the road recruiting and I come back and a lot of people are pulling — you know, this is an interesting – I don’t necessarily agree with everything. But a lot of people pulling and telling stories, and everybody has opinions and all of that.

“And you’re talking about not a good young man but a great young man. And his mom is not a good mom, a fantastic mom. They were asking our opinion. And it went everywhere from a play to maybe third downs to maybe special teams to he was practicing. And the decision wasn’t made until, I don’t know, probably yesterday. It went all the way to ‘I’m going to play the whole time’ to ‘What do you think?’ So that’s it.”

Ward practiced the entire time, which still didn’t silence the speculation. Cornerbacks coach Kerry Coombs prepared the entire time not to have Ward, which was the only way to be sure they’d be prepared for USC’s passing attack.

“I didn’t know officially until probably the last 24-48 hours,” Coombs said after the game. “We’ve had ongoing conversations. He practiced every day. We prepared for him not to play. I mean that would be foolish not to. So we practiced a lot of guys in those roles, which is why I think they played so well.

“I think because they had 15 bowl practices, which is equivalent to a spring, to get out there and get a lot of work done. We talked about individual improvement at the beginning of the bowl and I think that Kendall [Sheffield] and Damon [Arnette] and Jeff [Okudah] all demonstrated that, as well as Amir [Riep] and Marcus [Williamson] who didn’t get to play corner, but played on special teams and got better.”

Some of Ward’s teammates said after the game that he had been dealing with some health issues, but Coombs clarified that Ward’s decision had nothing to do with injuries. He was healthy enough to play.

“That’s an individual choice,” he said. “I love Denzel. I would have loved to have coached him one more game, but that’s selfish on my part. We won the game. So, the good news is that we’ve got enough at Ohio State to win the game when that occurs, and we’re a little excited about that.

“So, I think to me, I couldn’t be more fired up. I’m ready for next year. If we start spring ball tomorrow I’m not going to be disappointed because I’ve got some really good guys coming, and we’re gonna play.”


33 Responses

  1. During the regular season, injured players generally (if not always) stay home. Their injuries are not a choice, yet they do not travel. So, why does a scholarship player who chooses not to participate get to go with the team to a bowl? I would have sent him back on the next flight to Columbus.

    If this trend keeps up, where will it end? What I’d tOSU is already eliminated from contention to win the conference before we play TTUN? Will we see players sit out that game for fear of getting injured? Or, perhaps even before that if we are out of contention earlier?

    Career ending injury insurance is not particularly expensive and can provide good players with plenty of money should the unlikely happen. Perhaps the NCAA should allow teams to purchase such insurance for their players to protect their interests in such catastrophic events which would protect players and allow them to play until the end of the season. That will never happen because the NCAA simply wants to use college athletes to enrich the
    organization, despite their protestations to the contrary.

  2. Screw him. When did a Buckeye ever sit out a bowl game? If he wants to leave early that’s his business but skipping the bowl game is bullsh. Thanks, Ward, for setting a bad precedent for this team. Prima donna abandoned his team.

  3. Turned off by him not playing. He’s part of the team and a big part of why OSU was in that game to begin with. We can blame who ever we want. He let his team and his fans down. He’s a scholarship player, the next time any player wants to pull a stunt like that, don’t put on a uniform and jeans and stand on the sidelines, stay home.

  4. I understand Ward’s decision, but there is nothing to respect in it. No commitment to his “brothers”, no loyalty, the ultimate “I” without a team. Then to sit on the sidelines like, “I’m gettin’ mine and get to get summa yours too!” You’re either in or you’re out. You don’t wanna risk getting injured play Euchre. He’s an Ohio State football player, he and his family will be WELL taken-care-of the rest of his life given how he played. Disappointing.

  5. The funny thing to me, is the NCAA is adding these playoff games, and what do the players get out of it? Another game or two to prove what?? The NCAA doesn’t care about these kids, they are a business and about the money. So if more games are added players are going to be put in this position. I understand his reason for doing it, he has millions of dollars on the line

  6. How about some positive attention for Mr ” thick around the edges” #67. He plays his heart out and the second time he has picked up a fumble and high stepped toward the end zone. Nobody was going to get that ball and we might have another “Fridge” on our hands. Sure was nice to see him bust through the SC line and plant the back in the backfield!! Hats off to this young man!!

  7. I dont like the decision but if he grew up really poor, maybe he was so afraid of losing the money that he just couldnt play. But after he made that decision I think iy was gutless of meyer to let him on the same sidelines as the players who are also going to the NFL but didnt quit on their teammates.

    1. We have no idea if Ward grew up poor. We also had no idea if he had some sort of insurance taken out in the very unlikely event of a career ending injury…
      What we do know, is that Ward has used the platform of his membership on a TEAM to elevate himself to such a position in the first place. We also know that coaches and players tirelessly repeat a mantra of “team first”, that fans are supposed to believe (in addition to the players and coaches obviously). We also know that Ward deliberately ignored that mantra for entirely selfish purposes. Neither the fans nor the players should get the luxury of judging whether a specific game is “worthy” of their participation- period. Some of you who are playing both sides of this debate should ask yourselves, ‘What’s next?” Do ‘good” players start opting out of early season creampuff games because they are “above” the competition? What if we get to the point where players start opting out of the 4 team playoff games because, after all, its “just a playoff” ?
      Bottom line- the Cotton Bowl MATTERED. There is an understood agreement that the player serves the team, not vice versa. Someone mentioned it was gutless of Meyer to allow Ward to travel. That’s absolutely right, and I’m sure Meyer will have some ready made excuse to justify his decision (the real reason would be that he doesn’t want to frighten away potential recruits who may well pull the same garbage 3 years from now).
      Very sad….

  8. We better get used to it, the horse is out of the barn!!

  9. In some cases, not joining your brothers in “battle” because you are afraid of getting hurt is considered cowardice.I guess that kind of thinking is really, really ancient and outdated in the modern world. Would whats his name be a potential millionaire without the other 21 guys in the two deep to support him. Does he intend to make a donation to all of those guys for allowing him to prosper? Don’t pass on the BS that it was a hard decision and try to make whats his name seem like a victim.


  11. It begs this question about Power 5 schools who aspire to be in the College Football Playoffs. Do the teams exist to serve student athletics or are they the minor leagues for the NFL. While I was disappointed in Ward’s decision, I support his right to make it.

  12. Anything he received for going to the bowl game he should return. No ring for him and name should not be listed on the game roster. He flat out quit the team. Twist any way you want, he quit on his teammates. Of you are not 100% committed to the team don’t even get on the plane. Nothing to respect there.

  13. I attended The Ohio State University from 1961 through 1965 during the Woody Hayes era. No Buckeye player who was healthy could have decided to sit out any game then. It seems our Buckeye football program has regressed. The fact that “other players do it” is not a good reason. I thought I read articles where players from this year’s team were quoted as saying that they are a brotherhood and no one in the brotherhood would sit out. I guess I did not read those articles correctly.

  14. I think Ward deciding not to play was very selfish on his part. What if every player going to the pros decides not to play in a bowl game? If you have a scholarship to play at a college, then it’s like a contract – you play! What about his teammates? Doesn’t he owe them some loyalty? I think this says a lot about his character as a man. You owe your school, your fans, your coaches and your teammates. I don’t agree with some of you that call this a meaningless bowl game. The Cotton Bowl is NOT a meaningless bowl game. It was between the Big Ten and Pac-12 Champs! Sorry, I can’t wish him well on the next level. I only wish that he realizes that he made a mistake and let a lot of people down.

  15. It’s a situation that is only going to grow as more and more guys weigh the risk/reward of playing in a useless Bowl game.

    1. James: While I don’t like it, I can understand his decision not to play but how can you day this was a useless game? We had not beaten USC since 1974. This was a HUGE win for the Buckeyes on the national stage.

      1. It was a useless game because that was the money decision of the powers that be (school admins and heads of athletic departments) within the NCAA. Bowl games used to be fun and provided interest. If they DIDN’T know the ramifications they were purely ignorant of the standard they allowed. They bought the money man with the gerrymandering manipulation of the greatest pastime in the history of sports. NONE of the powers that be had the slightest interest how it would impact the student athlete and ultimately the game itself. THEY first approved the 3 years removed rule. Nor did they give a damned about the fans that follow any given team. Dollar signs is what they saw dangling and is the ONLY reason they fashioned in the stupidity of the new years 6 bowl games. Most of the Bowl games have been virtual mausoleums, and that trend is only going to get worse. Just 3 games matter. The 2 semi’s and the National Title game. It’s a system more fraught with irrational thinking than even the BCS. Events like Denzel skipping the bowl game happens to be just 1 of the unintended consequences if people in a secret room making completely biased decisions. Not on any cold hard facts or consistency IN those decisions. Add to that the fact that those associated with any given institution must recuse themselves from any decision making process altogether. Stir well and THIS variation of a playoff is extremely more flawed than the worst the BCS ever offered.

        Kids aren’t stupid. Other than 1 last ride what exactly is the benefit to play in a game that simply has no significance? The Bowl games have step by step been reduced to complete insignificance. No amount of network hype is going to change that. Why risk potentially millions of dollars? It makes no sense. Any games other than the playoffs are going to suffer a long and absolute collapse. As long as there was the carrot on a string for the chance of NC recognition, even if mythical, is worth getting on the field for. If there are more than a handful of players who didn’t aspire to play at the next level it would be stunning. Why risk a payday for an overhyped game that gets you nowhere?

  16. I respect his decision, and him. He’s a Buckeye but the NFL and its money is a big reason many of these guys came to OSU. Don’t blame the kid, blame the system.

    1. LawClub- actually, its only a few guys and not “many” even at OSU. Players a lot more accomplished than him have “risked”- and that word itself is a misnomer- doing what they AGREED to do. Its a callow approach to blame a “system” that is faceless. Finally, he’s not a ‘kid”. Standards just kep slipping and people just keep justifying it…

  17. Respect his right to not play, however should NOT have been allowed to strut the sideline in game jersey. Think NCAA should make that a violation.

    1. You respect it? Don’t you mean you acknowledge it? There is NOTHING to respect in that choice.

      1. Think you’re arguing semantics. Yes i respect that right. Do you only respect things with which you agree?

        1. Duane- Nope, not semantics at all. The word “respect” connotes that the person showing the respect either a) has confidence in or b) in some form or fashion agrees or supports that position. Its possible to acknowledge that a person is capable of taking some action or making some choice WITHOUT respecting it (I could decide to wear a fig leaf in to work and you’d have to acknowledge I am able to do so, but if you “respect” my choice you’d be as goofy as me in deciding to do so). Also, the word “right” is inaccurate in this context, its more of a privilege at best. Not gonna bite on your last sentence, we’re not in Philosophy class Duane. Sounds like you need to check Webster for definitions on “semantics” before popping off. Ward’s choice was callow and selfish. If you respect that, its a ‘you” problem.

  18. He plays corner. Its like the long snapper saying he is sitting out. In my opinion it was a pure selfish b%^ch move for him to sit out. He is forever ensconced as a punk b&^ch fake ass buckeye for me. Right up there with Bradley Roby.

    I’ve seen heroin addicts rationalize how its ok to steal from your family to supply your habit. People rationalize bad decisions every day. His decision basically said all those years of playing for your brothers was all bullshit. He plays corner. Its not like he was a RB taking a shot every time he touched the football. Even then…..Barkley is playing.

    What do you think Baker and Hubbard thought watching his punk ass sit on the sideline handing out water? They are going to get drafted too.

    I don’t have the first clue on what kind of person Denzel Ward is. His decision is what I’m commenting on. It was spineless selfish coward b@#ch move.

    Denzel Ward Fake Buckeye

    1. This IS the monster the system has created. It IS an aspect for the stupidity of an FBS playoff system. Whether people recognize it or not, the Bowl games no longer matter for anyone outside the team. The crowds even for NY Bowl games are going to start showing dramatic drop offs like every other useless Bowl game. What’s going to drive fans interest beyond local interest? Nada…………

      If the NCAA, which is the body of participating Universities didn’t see this coming? Shame on them for being absolute MORONS.

      I don’t blame the players a single bit because other than team or bragging rights these Bowl games mean exactly NOTHING.

    2. Man some of you should take a valium. It’s a football game, not war with people dying. Personally I think Ward should have made a decision to play and then figure out about draft later, but I have no problem with the young man.

      Urban Meyer: “…you’re talking about not a good young man but a great young man.”

      Good enough for me.

      1. Lets add in….some of these kids have “potentially” been given some inside knowledge that a pro team is positioning themselves to sign you on, BUT, you have to remain healthy to secure that opportunity. I loved every guy I played with but at the end of the day, I have a life to lead and a shot at a lucrative payday. Love my brothers, but………..see ya.

      2. I’ve seen good people and great people make bad decisions. Leave your little valium comments to yourself, asshole. Disagreeing with me doesn’t make it ok to start with the insults. Maybe your parents never taught you that?

  19. Ward is on scholarship. His first duty is to his education and to his team. He has received a privilege to receive a free education and play football under great football system at The Ohio State University. He may not be where he is today without it. This is just another thing wrong with college finally rofay.

    1. Do you know every year they can take that scholarship away, if the player doesn’t perform.

      Alot of these guys are not going to these major universities for the academics.

  20. Meyer almost had the guts to say what he thinks…almost. Coombs played the company man, which translates to, umm, nothing. I could’ve written these replies before they were even made. Here’s the real take- its selfish, treacherous, and cowardly to do what Ward did (and I don’t care that other guys do it, I care about OSU’s guy doing it).

    1. The thing is. Ohio State is part of the NCAA and agreed to the knuckleheaded playoff system. Their foresight was at best pathetic, and damning at worse. Division 1A College Football WAS one of the most unique institutions ever, and had thrown baseball to the side becoming the true Great American Pastime.

      Part of the beauty and attraction of the Bowl season WAS the mythical nature of the elusive National Title. Whether we like it or not, it WAS the intense arguments among fans and programs alike that helped the post season success, and sparked the feuding between fan bases that locked people into interest and a hunger to do it all again the next season.

      There are idiots like me around who would spend the money to go watch other Bowl games not associated with Ohio State just for the above REASONS. I did that because some of those games had direct impact on where the Buckeyes stacked up. Now just 3 games matter. The playoff. I did drive by observations of social media and game attendances this year. The conversation that was once lively, energetic and even argumentative, barely raises the interest needle.

      ONLY programs with a og in the fightstay excited……UNTIL the Goof Troop clown show known as the CFBPC makes its announcement. Then the programs bumped out are already starting to see a decline. It will only get worse. More and more players will opt of the ATT stupid to play Bowl. It won’t be limited to the stars with millions riding on their health, but on the not so bright stars who will want to stay healthy just to work out for pro teams.

      In the powers that be rush to crown a king they didn’t look very hard at the potential fallout for their lame idea’s.

      I don’t blame ANY player for sitting out with just a long shot chance of earning a paycheck playing a game. Schools, who ARE the NCAA opted in……….it’s their fault. Their lust for power and money is going to be the death of the greatest of all American pastimes.

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