Not surprisingly, former University of Florida Gators football head coach and ESPN analyst Urban Meyer just denied a report from SPORTSbyBROOKS that he had accepted the head coaching job at Ohio State.
Rumors had been rampant that Meyer was in line to take the job, but Brooks reported that Meyer had indeed accepted even though it had not been formalized in a contract. Brooks reported that Meyer was in the process of putting together a staff and the Luke Fickell would stay on with the Buckeyes. He also reported that Meyer also aims to add Chris Spielman and Kirk Herbstreit to the staff among others. Spielman makes some sense as he once lobbied to coach at Ohio State, but the Herbstreit part seems to be far-fetched as Herbie has one of the best gigs in broadcasting.
On the air during the ESPN broadcast of the Michigan-Nebraska game, Meyer just said that he had not been offered the position and that he had not agreed to coach at Ohio State. He did not, however, issue a blanket statement that he was not going to coach at Ohio State next season, so he can easily hide behind the fact that he hasn’t signed a contract. But Brooks made that clear in his story, so this looks more like the standard denial that doesn’t mean a thing.
Luke Fickell is the interim coach at Ohio State, and it is generally understood that Ohio State was going to look for a big name at the end of the season. Fickell understood that, so any discussions between Ohio State and Meyer are more understandable and are not a slap in the face to Fickell given his interim status. Fickell has made some progress through the season, but it has been clear many times that he is in over his head. Staying at Ohio State under Meyer would make a ton of sense for him. He can continue to learn at his alma mater and someday be considered either for the Ohio State job or another big job.
This makes even more sense given Urban Meyer’s health issues. He left the Florida job twice, and you have to wonder if he’ll give up on Ohio State as well if problems resurface.
As for Spielman, he did not make any comment during the broadcast when Meyer issued his “denial.” This could be an intriguing opportunity if he decides to join Meyer’s staff, though it also sets him up as a rival to Luke Fickell. Can these guys work together if both of them are angling for the top job at Ohio State in the future?
That said, the main story is Meyer’s status. His statement today tells me that these rumors are real, and that the Buckeyes will soon have a new head coach.