Health-related concerns, driven largely by an existential fear of failure, pushed Urban Meyer out of football, for the third time, at age 54. It wasn’t as if the man forgot how to coach the game — his last team went 13-1, won the Big Ten and the Rose Bowl, and finished No. 3 in both polls.
And it wasn’t as if he fell out of love with football or coaching. Since leaving the sideline in January, Meyer has worked as something of a mentor for other Ohio State coaches, co-taught a class on leadership and this fall he’ll work on FOX’s beefed up pre-game show. The man is simply addicted to leadership, to young people and to the game of football — his body just wouldn’t allow him to combine all those loves into one roll as Ohio State’s head coach any longer.
Another thing that pushed him out of the game in his prime? The new recruiting calendar.
Starting last year, the NCAA allowed schools to host recruits on official visits beginning in the spring of their junior year. Paired with the December singing period, it was part of the NCAA’s move to update its recruiting calendar to the times, and it immediately became part of the chicken-and-egg debate inherent to all of recruiting: Should schools push the calendar forward because players are making decisions earlier and earlier, or are players making decisions earlier because schools are pushing them to do so?
You’d be hard pressed to find a coach who publicly celebrated their newfound ability to host spring official visits, and Meyer wasn’t one of them.
He didn’t come out and say the new recruiting calendar helped push him to an early retirement in a recent interview with the Columbus Dispatch, but it wasn’t hard to put two and two together.
“I loved recruiting,” he said. ”(But) it was 24/7. I never really went on vacation. I never really left recruiting. The whole new rules … last year was awful. You were having official visits every weekend. We went to Hyde Park steakhouse like four weekends in a row (hosting recruits). We love Hyde Park, but after a while Shelley and I looked at each other like, ‘What are we doing?’ We were missing our son’s baseball games.”
Nate Meyer is a freshman on the University of Cincinnati baseball team.
“I’m not a fan of the new recruiting calendar,” he said. “I was in on the meetings for 3-4 years. (I asked), ‘Are we sure we want to do this?’ Now everybody’s making their decision before their senior year. High school coaches, that’s not good for them because players kind of start to maybe shut it down at times (once they’ve committed).”
Meyer hasn’t completely closed the door on returning to college football. After all, he is only 54, he clearly loves to coach, and he’s really, really good at it. The entire college football world views his retirement with the skepticism of friends reacting to the breakup of a long-term relationship: These two may drive each other crazy, but they clearly can’t live without each other. Let’s see if this sticks.
And who can blame us? Urban quit once before — twice before, actually — and came back both times. What’s different about his third so-called retirement?
Well, the recruiting calendar is different. If Urban popped up again at USC, or Notre Dame, or Toledo, he’d have to deal with the same recruiting calendar that helped drive him out of the game in the first place…. or the third place.