"He enjoyed what he was doing, but I think he also had the bug to start coaching again," said Spielman, who added he would not be an assistant coach under Meyer as some have speculated. "We just kind of talked about the pros and cons of both throughout the year. He weighed all the options and there were jobs out there that definitely captured his interest and certainly Ohio State was one of them. He decided that it was the best move. This was just an opportunity that he couldn't pass up."
Meyer inherits a program still facing NCAA sanctions. But he also inherits a young team led by a freshman quarterback, Braxton Miller, who would seem to be a perfect fit for his spread offense.
A native of Ashtabula, Ohio, Meyer becomes the 24th head coach at Ohio State. He succeeds Fickell, who took over last spring when Tressel's 10-year reign came crashing down. Tressel was forced out for knowing but not telling his superiors that Buckeyes players had most likely broken NCAA rules by taking cash and free or discounted tattoos from the subject of a federal drug-trafficking investigation.
Missing several top players because of NCAA suspensions stemming from the tattoo mess, the Buckeyes were hit with more suspensions when three players accepted $200 in cash for attending a charity event and others were forced to sit out or had their existing suspensions extended for being overpaid for summer jobs.
Ohio State's .500 record marked the most losses at Ohio State since John Cooper's 1999 team also went 6-6 overall and 3-5 in the Big Ten.
The Buckeyes had already lost their string of six Big Ten titles when the school was forced to vacate the 2010 season for the NCAA violations. The school has also self-imposed two years of NCAA probation, offered to return $339,000 in bowl revenue from 2010 and to give up five scholarships over the next three seasons.
Ohio State is awaiting final word from the NCAA's committee on infractions. The committee tagged Ohio State with a "failure to monitor" label — second only to a lack of institutional control on the list of most egregious charges against a university. The school could still be hit with a bowl ban, a loss of more scholarships, or other penalties.
Meyer, who spent two years playing minor-league baseball as a shortstop in the Atlanta Braves system, also served as an assistant at Illinois State, Colorado State and Notre Dame.
At the urging of Bruce, he took his first head coaching job at Bowling Green (2001-2002) where he led the Falcons to records of 8-3 and 9-3 before jumping to Utah. Using a spread offense featuring quarterback Alex Smith, the Utes went 10-2 in his first year. In 2004, he led Utah to an 11-0 season and a Bowl Championship Series berth — making the Utes the first team to ever qualify for a BCS bowl from a conference (the Mountain West) that was not an automatic qualifier. After a bowl win over Pittsburgh to cap the 12-0 season, he was the top candidate for the jobs at both Notre Dame and Florida. He surprised many by becoming a Gator.
In his second season with the Gators, No. 2-ranked Florida beat unbeaten Ohio State, coached by Tressel, 41-14 to win his first national title.
Two years later, the Gators won another national title, beating Oklahoma 24-14 behind Tim Tebow.
The next year Florida contended for a repeat, but after losing the SEC title game to Alabama, Meyer said he was retiring from coaching, citing health problems. He changed his mind and was back the next day, saying he would only take a leave of absence.
After the 2010 season, he stepped down again.
"I fully grasp the sacrifices my 24/7 profession has demanded of me, and I know it is time to put my focus on my family and life away from the field," he said at the time. "The decision to step down was a difficult one."
The year respite must have done him good.
"It will be exciting to see what happens," Tebow said last week. "I know, more than anything, he wants to be right by his family and have their support in anything he does. Most of when we've talked it's been about that. When he comes back, he's going to be a great coach, and I'm excited to see what happens."
Meyer is expected to retain Fickell, who was paid $775,000 to be interim coach for a year — about $3 million a year less than Tressel made a year ago, on his staff.
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