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Take a deep breath, everyone. We’ll get through this shocking revelation, this can’t-be-true moment, together.
Meyer proclaimed Tuesday that he’s leaving Ohio State because of health issues, and that he’s done coaching. It’s the same thing he said eight years ago after walking away from Florida.
Back then, in 2010, he walked away from a program cratered with entitlement run amok, roster manipulation, a drug problem in the locker room and more than 30 player arrests in six seasons.
On Tuesday, he walked away from a program that has had a brutal season off the field, including revelations of the reckless enabling of former assistant coach Zach Smith, whose alleged domestic violence (among other nefarious issues) while working for Meyer at both Florida and Ohio State left an indelible shame stain for all to see on one of the greatest coaches in the history of the sport.
The next big question: Who takes a chance on Meyer when he wants back in?
If you think Meyer, the most competitive, win-at-all-costs football coach of our generation, will just walk away at 54 years young, you’re the same person who believes he’s as pure and true as the Pope he’s named after.
Any number of jobs could be available for the 2020 season, and a year away from the grind will allow Meyer to get well (he has been dealing with an arachnoid cyst in his brain since the early 1990s), recharge and reorganize his life.
Forget about the NFL. Meyer’s rah-rah, psychological motivation won’t work on grown men. It will, however, work at the highest level of college football.
But if you’re USC, Auburn, Florida State or any other major program, are you willing to sell your souls for championships, knowing full well the future collateral damage?
Do you hire a coach who allegedly hid drug-test failures on the Florida sideline by having players wear walking boots so it looked like they were injured?
Do you hire a coach who proclaims respecting women is his No. 1 priority but allows star tailback Carlos Hyde to return to the team after just a three-game suspension when video evidence showed Hyde slapping a woman at a bar?
Do you hire a coach who did nothing after a star player (Percy Harvin) allegedly attacked one of his assistant coaches at Florida?
Do you hire a coach who had to visit a player’s family in the middle of the season to make it right with them because he created an environment where an assistant, Smith, allegedly got into an altercation with the player, Trevon Grimes, and used a racial slur?
Because what would make anyone doubt the honesty of a coach who was caught lying by an Ohio State committee investigating the enabling of Smith? Who deleted texts on his phone prior to investigators searching it for clues? Who told investigators he met with Smith’s wife in 2009 and she recanted domestic abuse claims, even though Smith himself told the committee that Meyer didn’t meet with her? Who would cook up a story about flying down to Florida five days before a Big Ten road game to see Grimes’ sick mother out of the goodness of his heart—not because he was concerned a damaging story would get out?
At what point do college presidents see Meyer for what he is: a helluva football coach with a win-at-all-costs mentality who dangerously blurs the line between righteous and renegade?
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Meyer doesn’t lie. He misrepresents facts.
He doesn’t know about damaging details. He forgets them.
He doesn’t delete text messages. He just asks his director of football operations how one would, you know, clear old texts messages, if one wanted to?
He doesn’t fly down to Florida in the middle of the season to make a deal with a backup freshman wide receiver who has three career catches. He travels to Florida to comfort a sick mother.
Ohio State knew all of this in August and still chose to slap Meyer on the wrist with a three-game suspension instead of ripping off the bandage and firing him.
The old coaching adage is that a team is a reflection of its coach. Well, a university is, too. A three-game suspension, and back on the horse.
If we don’t learn from history, we’re doomed to watch Meyer build a program of preferential treatment at Florida with what he called his “Circle of Trust,” then move to Ohio State and do the same damn thing with his—ready for it?—”Brotherhood of Trust,” all over again somewhere else.
Wash, rinse, repeat. Who’s next?
The clock started ticking on Meyer’s latest exit once he sat through the uncomfortable suspension press conference in August, dripping with defiance and using forced, uncomfortable apologies. Then last month, Meyer told reporters that headaches he gets from the cyst have become an issue, but that he loves Ohio State and he wanted to coach the Buckeyes “as long as I can.”
Let me be the first to translate that for you: He has worn out his welcome in Columbus, and he knows it.
It took six years at Florida. It took seven at Ohio State. He seems to have a bad locker room now (why else would star defensive end Nick Bosa not even hang around to support his teammates while recovering from a core injury and work out at the finest facilities in college football?), like he had a bad locker room when he left Gainesville after the 2010 season.
So now Meyer is retiring and wants to get healthy and spend more time with his family (sound familiar?). He’ll sit out a season and do some television work, and a big job will open up.
Then what? We’ll breathe deep and get through that shocking, can’t-be-true revelation together.
Matt Hayes covers college football for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter: @matthayescfb.