Irrespective of your thoughts on Urban Meyer’s conduct during his tenure at Ohio State, it was hard to ignore Meyer’s demeanour on the sidelines at Maryland this past weekend.
Hands on knees, head bowed, often not even watching the game this is clearly a man under pressure. A tell tell sign in the fourth quarter with his team in a huddle at a crucial point in the game, Meyer was away from his team crouched over, head bowed. Whether in pain or anguish, Meyer is a man under duress.
Surprisingly, on the opposing touchline, Matt Canada appeared to be having the time of his life. So was his team. Despite losing in overtime, following Canada’s decision to go for two to finish off the Buckeyes, and not converting – his team left the field heads held high. In a very short space of time, some sort of normality has returned to Maryland football. Is it too easy to oversimplify and say this is what happens when a new broom sweeps clean?
Now lets get one thing straight. There is no kudos to be handed out to Maryland University. If the board of regents had had their way, DJ Durkin would still be the head coach. It took a public outcry, a revolt by the football team and the leadership of the University President to speak out before action was taken to oust Durkin and end his heinous and poisonous time at College Park.
So, lets not laud Maryland University over Ohio State.
However, there are strong comparisons. Ohio State chose to stick with Urban Meyer. Only those extremely close to the situation, can truly say if Meyer was aware of the goings on between Zach Smith and his wife. It seems highly unlikely that domestic abuse on the scale talked about could be going on in the Buckeyes inner circle, but the University board chose to accept Meyer’s version of events. Zach Smith’s recent ramblings about Tom Herman’s alleged infidelity and then subsequent stories about Smith, tell us one thing. There is an unstable mental side to Zach Smith. Irrespective of whether Meyer knew or not, he must be morally embarrassed at how this is all unravelling.
So, in this respect while Ohio State football has had a season to forget, it strikes me that this episode is still not over. That allegations and counter claims still have some mileage and dare I say it more revelations to come. There will be a time when the University board admits enough is enough.
And then picture back to Saturday, with Urban Meyer hands on knees and head bowed. He looks neither healthy nor happy.
Health concerns surrounded Meyer at both Florida and at Ohio State. He has had fluid drained from his brain, following the finding of a cyst which remains and causes him chronic pain. The pressure he has experienced this season is not what the doctor ordered.
Flip back to College Park. Matt Canada, who left LSU a scapegoat and for some, a misunderstood offensive genius, has found a place where his offensive wizardry is being welcomed. Maryland if not a heavyweight, is a player in the Big 10 and under the right stewardship can be a force to be reckoned with. They can recruit well, albeit they have to compete with the heavyweights of Michigan and Ohio State.
So for a program which was on its knees only a few weeks ago, Matt Canada has worked some sort of magic. Bear in mind, this is a team that before every game individually takes a knee in honour of their late team mate Jordan McNair. A young student who died during practice under the “care” of previous Head Coach, Durkin. This is a team which lost one of its own.
Fast forward and this is a team which is playing with a smile on its face again. In the same way that James Franklin rescued the Penn State football program, Matt Canada is trying to do the same thing at Maryland. Canada is the interim Head Coach. At some point the Athletic Director should finally do the right thing and appoint Canada full time.
It might be too easy to make the comparison over at Columbus. Does Ohio State stick with Meyer, widely regarded as one of the top two Head Coaches in college football? Or do they decide to sweep clean and start afresh.
At a program the size of Ohio State, a decision of that magnitude takes a lot of cahunas. And as we have seen time and time again, Trustees of University boards have been sadly lacking in that department. But shouldn’t they be invested in the long term future of the University and its students? Oh wait….
The pressure doesn’t ease up for Meyer. Here come Michigan.
A Michigan team on its 2018 Revenge Tour.
A Michigan team that knows victory over one of their greatest rivals, will secure that much cherished play off spot.
A Michigan team which has all the momentum, drive and cause to roll over the top of the Buckeyes to get that 4th spot.
I know who my money is on.
But will Urban Meyer be the Head Coach in 2019. I wouldn’t bet against it. Meyer is a survivor and determined. But it may be his health that determines what he is doing next year. Rumours of his retirement are now surfacing. Given the likelihood of Ohio State’s season ending in 2018 rather than 2019 I would expect news of Meyer’s intentions to be confirmed soon after bowl season.
Photo credit : the spun.com