Retirement didn’t take the first time Urban Meyer tried it out when he stepped down as Florida’s coach after the 2010 season. After two seasons away from the field, a seemingly happy time in which he reconnected with his family, worked on his well-being and spent some time in the ESPN studio, Meyer was back on the sideline at Ohio State, where he won another national title in 2014.
Meyer is retired again now, saying at the news conference announcing his decision in December that his “very intense, very demanding” coaching style was proving to be a detriment. Nevertheless, the 54-year-old didn’t seem ready to completely close the door on his coaching career, offering no firm guarantee that he would be staying away for good.
“I believe I will not coach again,” was all he could muster in terms of a prediction.
Since that announcement, Meyer has taken a job with Fox Sports, where he’ll appear as an analyst on the network’s Los Angeles-based Saturday pregame show alongside former USC standouts Reggie Bush and Matt Leinart. The Trojans are coming off their first losing season since 2000, and Coach Clay Helton might have the hottest seat in the country entering the season. Should USC again struggle, Bush says he and Leinart might have an easily accessible candidate in mind: The guy sitting next to them in the studio.
“We’ll definitely be recruiting him,” Bush told Arash Markazi of the Los Angeles Times in a story published last week. “What makes you think we won’t be recruiters? Nothing is off the table.
“They have to win the division,” Bush continued, talking about the Trojans. “This is a put-up-or-shut-up season for them, especially for Clay Helton. I’m looking to see drastic improvements. People have to be held accountable and players have to be held accountable. They have to create an environment there where players really understand the tradition of winning that came before them.”
And once again, Meyer didn’t seem to be offering any guarantees about staying retired.
“I believe I’m done but I’ve also learned to just live in the moment,” Meyer told Markazi. “I love what I’m doing and I hope I do this for a long time.”
Since then, Bush tried to walk things back, telling Dennis Dodd of CBS Sports on Wednesday that his comments were meant in a “joking manner” and that “I’m still trying to learn college football.” Leinart, meanwhile, trotted out an old chestnut used mainly whenever someone would rather just change the subject.
“We’re all good. … [Bush’s comments were] taken out of context,” he told Dodd. “I like Clay. I really like him. There’s a lot of pressure on him. I think he’s doing the best he can. We’ll see what happens. I support him.”
Meyer has one other job in retirement, as an assistant athletic director at Ohio State (he hobnobs with donors and teaches a leadership class at the school). His boss, Athletic Director Gene Smith, doesn’t necessarily agree that Meyer will return to coaching, citing the stress-induced headaches that so visibly plagued his last season in Columbus.
“Right now he has no headaches. None. Zip,” Smith told USA Today’s George Schroeder. “I quite don’t know what that means [because] I don’t have it. None of us are dealing with that. So my assumption is he’s reaching a comfort level.
“He’s figured out there’s something besides football” at Ohio State, Smith continued.
But Wright Thompson, who spent a whole lot of time with Meyer before writing the 2012 ESPN story linked in the first paragraph of this story, doesn’t agree, telling a Cleveland sports-talk station earlier this month that he thinks Meyer will be adding another entry to his coaching resume at some point.
“Oh yeah, for sure,” Thompson said. “Oh, yeah. And by the way, I don’t think he’s lying. I think right now he absolutely believes he will not coach again. And I think that he loves to be a coach. To be great as a modern coach, he has to be really a different — he has to be somebody he doesn’t like. And so I think you’re just seeing something incredibly private play out in public.”