Normally Columbus is a grim place when Ohio State has lost to Michigan. If you walked around Columbus right now, however, you’d see a lot of upbeat people — and it’s all because Ohio State has hired Urban Meyer as its head football coach.
It’s not just because Coach Meyer has been an extremely successful coach, although that is certainly part of it. He’s won everywhere he’s been, from Bowling Green to Utah to Florida. He knows how to build a program and how to recruit and then coach talented athletes. But for Ohio State fans, it is more than that. We want someone who understands what Ohio State means. We want someone who grew up in Ohio, who lived and died with the Buckeyes, who got their first coaching job at Ohio State. Urban Meyer has all of those qualities.
This may be hard for people outside of Ohio to understand; they probably think of Buckeye Nation as a bunch of win-at-all-cost hayseeds. But for many Ohioans, myself included, the reality could not be more different. We want to win, for sure, but we want to win the right way. We want to feel proud of our team, because we are and will forever be proud of the state it represents. We want a coach who recognizes and appreciate the almost mystical aspects of Ohio State football and its deep resonance with generations of Ohioans and Ohio State graduates.
We’ll see how Coach Meyer performs as Ohio State’s coach; you never know how things will go. But I was encouraged by what he said at his news conference this afternoon, about wanting to make the state proud of its flagship university and its football team. And, more importantly, I was encouraged because Coach Meyer’s very decision to come back to Ohio State, when he could have had any job in the country, shows he feels the importance of Ohio State football in his gut, just like everyone else in Buckeye Nation does. This won’t be a job for him, it will be a passion and a crusade. He won’t rest until Ohio State football is as good as he can possibly make it.
And that’s why — even after a miserable and discouraging season — the people of a Columbus are smiling tonight.