Ohio State’s Meyer concedes he’s ‘awful loser’
Losing has never come easy for Urban Meyer.
Since he was a kid playing baseball, football and basketball
back in Ashtabula, Ohio, Meyer could handle the pain, the long
workouts and the criticism.
But the losses lingered and hurt.
Now that he’s the head football coach at Ohio State, things
”I’ve never, no, I’ve never handled it well. Awful loser,” he
said recently in his quiet, paneled office inside the Woody Hayes
Athletic Center. ”I guess I’d rather be known as that than as a
He knows that much of the country views him as less than a
gracious loser. Maybe that comes from having so little practice at
it – his teams have only lost 24 times in his 12 years and 152
games as a head coach at Bowling Green, Utah, Florida and with the
Fact is, he doesn’t care what others think about him, or his
program. He either ignores or isn’t even aware of the opinions of
those outside of the bubble he’s built around his team.
”Once again, perception isn’t something that drives me, it’s
obvious,” he said.
All of that is important because the Buckeyes are dealing with
defeat for the first time in two years.
The 49-year-old Meyer’s Buckeyes are coming off a 34-24 loss to
Michigan State in the Big Ten championship game on Dec. 7. The
setback not only cost Ohio State the conference crown, it dropped
it out of the running for a spot in the BCS national title game
(Auburn took the Buckeyes’ spot against Florida State) and also
ended Meyer’s and the program’s record winning streak at 24 in a
Afterward, a photo taken inside the stadium showed a dejected
Meyer eating pizza, glumly, while sitting in a golf cart. It went
viral on the internet. Indeed, the loss – and all that went with it
– was a punch in the gut for the Buckeyes, who had almost forgotten
what it felt like to lose.
”Coach Meyer, I could tell it was kind of tough for him because
we all were expecting to go to the national championship game,”
linebacker Ryan Shazier said.
Meyer said a few things to his players in the locker room after
the defeat to Michigan State. Then everybody – players, coaches,
staff members – took a few days away from each other. They
reconvened late last week to begin practice for a date with Clemson
in the Orange Bowl.
Meyer, who when younger would withdraw after a loss, appeared at
least to his players to have accepted the defeat. After their first
workout, Meyer pulled his players around him and bared his
It was clear that the loss still burned in him, but Meyer knew
the Buckeyes were watching him to see how to react to it. Meyer
called it ”a cathartic moment.”
”He’s obviously the guy we look at as a template for how to
handle things like this,” offensive lineman Jack Mewhort said.
”He came back from a recruiting trip and came to the middle of the
huddle at the end of practice. He was telling us how much he loves
us and everything. That meant a lot to us. When you hear a guy like
that come in and say things like that, it motivates you to move
forward and win another game.”
As difficult as the losses have always been for Meyer to
swallow, he’s made an effort to at least appreciate the wins
”We went on a nice run and I kept reminding myself through the
journey to enjoy this thing, man. Keep drinking that Kool-Aid
(because) someday you might have an empty glass,” Meyer said while
seated in a comfortable, leather sofa, taking a break from drawing
up a practice schedule. ”You don’t want to live your life always
knowing that some pin is going to pop the balloon. But I did enjoy
every one of those wins.”
Meyer’s resume marks him as one of the most successful coaches
ever. He won national titles at Florida in 2006 and 2008. He has a
career record of 128-24, is 7-1 in bowl games, 11-5 against Top-10
teams and is 4-0 in BCS bowl games.
When he walked away from Florida after the 2010 season and
walked into the ESPN booth as a college analyst, he could have
avoided all the pressures and stomach ulcers that seem to come with
the job of big-time college coaching. But he missed the competition
and the kids.
Keep in mind, he left the Gators twice in less than a year. The
first exit, though, lasted just a day, and was for health reasons.
The second was to be with the family more. So, wrestling with these
decisions – obviously – is not easy.
Finally, he came back to Ohio State – a program coming off a 6-7
record and covered in mud after a year of NCAA investigations and
sanctions thanks to the ugly end of Jim Tressel’s tenure – and
almost immediately turned things around.
So those who mock the Big Ten and the Buckeyes, or chide him for
abandoning Florida, don’t bother him. He likes his players, he
likes his program and he says he’s in good health. He’s heard angry
critics call him Urban Liar.
And he doesn’t care what anyone else thinks.
”I don’t listen a lot. I used to all the time,” he said. ”And
I heard some of the most incredible things and I was, like, `What
Next to the computer monitor behind his oak desk in his office
sits a framed quote. It was taken from a letter he got at Bowling
Green during his first head-coaching stint. After a defeat.
It reads: ”Don’t fear criticism. The stands are full of
critics. They play no ball. They fight no fights. They make no
mistakes because they attempt nothing. Down on the field are the
doers, they make mistakes because they attempt many things.”
Asked whose words those are, Meyer shakes his head.
”It was an anonymous letter,” he said. ”It’s been on my desk
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