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OSU set to introduce Meyer as next football coach

By Rusty Miller

Associated Press

Published: Monday, Nov. 28 2011 2:57 p.m. MST

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Urban Meyer is returning to coaching — and to his roots.

The former Florida coach and native Buckeye will take over at Ohio State, a program with a glittering past that has suffered through a difficult year of NCAA violations, suspensions and a 6-6 record.

The university scheduled a 5:15 p.m. EST news conference to introduce its new coach. In the news release, it did not mention Meyer, even though there are numerous reports that Meyer has already agreed on a multiyear contract that could pay him almost $6 million a year.

Ohio State spokesman Jerry Emig did say that the only two people who will be speaking at the news conference are Meyer — he quickly corrected himself to say, "the coach," while grinning — and athletic director Gene Smith, who will address some NCAA matters.

Meyer won two national championships in six years as the coach at Florida. He left the Gators a year ago, citing health concerns and a desire to spend more time with his family. Now, the 47-year-old will return to the place where his college coaching career began in 1986 after spending a year as an ESPN game analyst.

Earle Bruce, the head coach at Ohio State when Meyer was a graduate assistant, has remained a close friend and confidant of Meyer through the years. He said he had no concerns about Meyer's health issues.

"Well, if he'd had a heart attack and his heart was bad, I'd be worried about that," the 80-year-old Bruce said on Monday. "I'm not worried that he was stressed out over the game of football because he was thinking too much and not doing some things (exercising) that would have kept him straight. I think he got everything back under control by sitting out a year. I think he missed football. And he's good at it."

Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith and other university officials did not respond to requests for comment.

A team meeting set for Sunday night was moved to Monday afternoon before the news conference to allow Meyer to meet his players.

Alabama coach Nick Saban, who played at Kent State and coached at Toledo in the Buckeye state, said he was happy for Meyer.

"I'm sure he's excited about it, and I'm excited for him that he has an opportunity to go back to his home state and be the head coach here," Saban said. "I think it's a wonderful opportunity and I think he'll do a great job."

Meyer takes over a program that is likely facing NCAA sanctions and was crippled by the forced resignation of coach Jim Tressel. The Buckeyes completed their only season under interim Luke Fickell with a 40-34 loss to Michigan on Saturday that snapped a seven-game winning streak to their rivals.

Wolverines coach Brady Hoke underplayed the role of the head coaches in the rivalry.

"I've known Urban, he's a good football coach, a good guy and I welcome him in," Hoke said on Monday. "But it's still Michigan and Ohio and neither one of us is going to play the game."

In 10 seasons as a head coach — two at Bowling Green, two at Utah and six at Florida — Meyer has a 104-23 record. His teams are 7-1 in bowl games, including the Gators' 41-14 victory over unbeaten and top-ranked Ohio State in the 2007 Bowl Championship Series title game.

Meyer had persistently denied all the talk surrounding him and Ohio State. Soon after Tressel stepped down, Meyer said he wasn't interested in leaving ESPN, where he was a college football analyst.

"I am committed to ESPN and will not pursue any coaching opportunities this fall," he said in a statement released the day after Tressel lost his job. Just last week he said no job had been offered to him nor was he pursuing one.

One of Meyer's broadcast partners and close friends is former Ohio State linebacker Chris Spielman.

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