Meyer Can Be Successful at Ohio State, Championship or No Championship

By Michael Citro on June 1, 2014 at 7:35a

A little over a week ago, Eleven Warriors posted a poll on the site asking whether Urban Meyer has to win a title for his tenure to be considered a successful one. Although it wasn’t expressly stated, the “title” refers to a national championship and not merely, say…a Pinstripe Bowl title.

In perhaps the most lopsided poll in 11W history, nearly 1,200 voters overwhelmingly said “yes.” More than 90% of you (92%, to be precise, as of this writing) determined that a national championship is a requirement for considering Meyer’s tenure at Ohio State a successful one.

Obviously a national championship (or multiple championships) is the desired outcome. I think we’d all be happy if Ohio State never lost again. That’s not an entirely realistic expectation, as much as we’d like it to be. But is it realistic to expect a national title under Meyer?

The quick and easy answer is yes, it is. After all, Meyer did it twice at Florida. Ohio State lands elite talent each year on the recruiting trail. And the Buckeyes have all the facilities and resources to produce a championship-caliber team seemingly every single year.

Still, championships are incredibly hard to attain. Even James Patrick Tressel, a man who left with one of the highest winning percentages in college football history, won only one out of three national championship games. And getting to that game was easier than it will be to reach the playoffs and then advance past a minimum of two elite opponents—more when playoffs are eventually expanded—to win a title.

It’s realistic to desire a championship, but given these new circumstances, is it realistic to “expect” one? Or to consider Urban Meyer a “failure” as an Ohio State coach if he doesn’t win one?

That’s a tough standard to hold someone to.

Let’s consider two coaches. Coach “A” won 76% of his games and 79% of his Big Ten games. Coach “B” won 75% of his total games and 77% of his B1G contests. Both coached for nine or more seasons in Columbus. Going simply by those numbers, Coach A was only slightly more successful than Coach B. Both won AFCA and Eddie Robinson Coach of the Year awards.

But one of those coaches is much more highly considered than the other. Coach A won five national championships. Coach B didn’t win a single one. Both men won five postseason games. But Coach A won 13 Big Ten titles and Coach B won four. Yet Coach B never had a losing season at Ohio State, while Coach A had two.

Coach A (Woody Hayes) and Coach B (Earle Bruce) are both generally fondly recalled by Buckeye Nation as successful coaches, despite Bruce not winning a championship.

Tressel had a higher overall (81%) and conference (81%) winning percentage than either Hayes or Bruce (or anyone else prior—except mighty John Eckstorm, who equaled the 81% overall winning percentage in 29 games from 1899-1901). By anyone’s account, Tressel was a very successful coach at Ohio State.

All Meyer has done in two seasons is post an overall winning percentage of 92% and a perfect regular-season conference record of 16-0. Sure, he’s 0-2 in the postseason (so far), but if there is anyone who thinks he has been “unsuccessful” at Ohio State, that is a very difficult person to please.

Not the lasting image we want for Meyer.
Will 92% of Buckeye Nation remember Urbz like this? [Source: @PWBrennanWrites]

How long will Meyer coach the Buckeyes? Given his past medical history, there’s really no way to tell. It could all end after the 2014 season or 10 years from now. It all depends on how he copes with the pressure, adheres to his doctors’ advice, and follows his family contract.

Let’s say he coaches Ohio State for 10 years, of which two have already passed. How many title games do people realistically think he can reach? Even reaching the four-team playoff in the next eight years would be considered by most rational folks to be a smashing success. Putting your team in the top four isn’t easy.

It would most likely mean a Big Ten title game win those years, which in itself has become a more difficult accomplishment since the B1G Championship Game was installed.

Meyer would then have a 1-in-4 chance in both of those playoff seasons in order to claim a national championship. The other three top teams in the nation would have a lot of say in whether or not Ohio State reached the pinnacle. That’s back-to-back games against top-four teams.

While I wouldn’t bet against Meyer reaching more than two playoffs, or even winning multiple titles, this is absolutely no sure thing. Yet 92% of the voters in our poll would consider Meyer a failure if it doesn’t happen?


Rather than focus on championships, I’ll choose to enjoy the ride. If history has taught us anything, it is that we will see some spectacular victories and some crushing defeats. We’ll be delightfully surprised by some favorable results and shocked and dismayed when expected victories fall short.

In this way, college football reflects life. Better to enjoy the good times as they come than to place lofty expectations that are difficult to attain.

If Meyer maintains his winning percentage, or anything above Tressel’s, he’ll be a success in my book, championship or not.

*Addendum: Commenter BroJim brought up a good point about The Game. We generally consider Ohio State coaches successful if they have high winning percentages and beat Michigan. Woody was 16-11-1 vs. TTUN and Earle was 5-4 for Earle. They are fondly remembered. We're harsh on John Cooper largely because he was 2-10-1 in the game. And of course Tressel posted a ridiculous 9-1 mark. So far, so good for Meyer (2-0).



Comments Show All Comments

CentralFloridaBuckeye's picture

Makes sense Michael.  I just think most fans are looking at the long term and saying if Meyer stays for 10 years or so should he win at least 1 NC title.  I think most of us would say he needs to do that to be considered an elite OSU coach and joining Woody and Tressel.

Go Bucks!!

+5 HS
lamplighter's picture

Coach A won five national titles -'nuff said.  Different times, but a standard of excellence that will haunt any tOSU HC until he gets at least one.  I have to assume that Urban gets that. 

+2 HS's picture

When I voted, I considered title to mean B1G or national since he has claimed neither so far. Despite his stellar record, the team needs at least a B1G trophy to be a success. 

+1 HS
JohnnyKozmo's picture

Let's suppose Urban himself voted-what would he say?  I mean, he wasn't happy with a #3 recruiting class ranking. Does anyone really think he is coaching with anything but a NC as the goal?  If the goal isn't reached, can it be considered a success?  tOSU is one of a group of 10-15 schools at most, who expect to win every year and realistically have a chance.   

Pain don't hurt-Dalton

+2 HS
741's picture

Exceeds Expectations: win more than one national championship

Meets Expectations: win a national championship

Did Not Meet Expectations: win an absurd number of games and/or play for at least one national championship and lose

Failure: not winning B1G championship and advancing to playoffs most years

+6 HS
Nutinpa's picture

Agree with this. 

Yes, the standard of "expecting" a NC is are the expectations; the talent and coaching already recruited and in place; as are the facilities and the OSU "brand".

Michael:  you've gone soft.  Urban Meyer wasn't brought to Ohio State to repeat what was accomplished during Jim Tressel's tenure.  He was brought in and paid accordingly, to exceed it.  I don't believe for one minute that Meyer will be here for 10 seasons.  But if he wins a National Championship in the two or three seasons, I expect his countdown to exit to begin.  His personality and "MO" are not built for longevity; he is a turn-around artist.  Nothing more; nothing less. 

If you are satisfied with a lot of victories, a few B1G titles and some BCS bowl could have hired any number of good coaches to fill the void after the 2011 debacle.  Meyer was brought in to get this team over the hump and stop being the SEC punching bag.  To expect less, is really naive.  Les Miles has a natty at LSU.  You really think that less will be expected of Meyer....seriously?

+2 HS
Michael Citro's picture

Michael:  you've gone soft. 

Sure, I guess you could look at it this way. A few years ago I made an effort to stop being miserable at the end of every season and just enjoy each for what it is -- one more year added to the rich tapestry of Ohio State football history. There will be ups and downs, but my measure of success basically comes down to "win the ones you should and some of the ones you shouldn't."

I think Meyer has won all of the ones he should but he has only been in two games he "shouldn't" and could have won both of them if the OC had remembered he had a goddam Sherman tank in the backfield. I can't bash a HC for trusting his hand-picked OC, even though he's a Mensa member who should have learned from the MSU loss.

ibuck's picture

could have won both of them if the OC had remembered he had a goddam Sherman tank in the backfield.

How do you know it was the OC and not Meyer who called for Braxton to have the ball all those times that OSU didn't convert 3 or 4th downs in those big games?  Remember, UFM relied on Tebow to win the big games for him, and he thinks Miler is on par with Tebow (or better).

Our honor defend, so we'll fight to the end !

If you can't win your conference, just quietly accept your non-playoff bowl game.

+2 HS
Michael Citro's picture

Tom Herman calls the plays. Urban has veto power that he rarely uses. I'm not talking about one play, but rather an overall fourth quarter disconnect with running Hyde.

cw823's picture

It was the right decision.  Like it or not, if they run Hyde, they probably win that game, and get humiliated in the NC game.

741's picture

By the way, in my mind, Tressel significantly "exceeded expectations" with one championship (playing for three in 10 seasons). Few expected such greatness from the guy from Youngstown State.

Meyer is a different story of course. The goal sheet has to be adjusted, and the expectations are higher with good reason.

That said, I disagree with the notion that it is a binary problem: i.e., either be successful or be a failure. There is a range of potential outcomes that is more broad than that of course.

+2 HS
blueblazer22's picture

Well put about The Vest. He was considered a fine coach, but not so sure that he was expected to win a NC so quickly or go a ridiculous 9-1 vs TTUN. He was successful by any measure. 

Urban Meyer can certainly be a success without winning a NC. There has to be some gray area here-and what he has done thus far is pretty damn good. Keep beating meeechigan, win the conference and make it to the final four a few times and it is all good

"They say, "these geeks come a dime a dozen.  I'm lookin' for the guy who's supplyin' the dimes." -Classy Freddie Blassie

buckeyedude's picture

If UFM can maintain an 81% winning percentage or better, as Tressel did, and never wins a national championship, I for one would be very disappointed, but I definitely would not consider that a failure. John Cooper and Earle Bruce never won a NC and I don't consider either one of them failures. "Failure" is such a strong word.

But the thing that I base my own expectations on for the OSU football team is Urban Meyer's own expectations. He holds high expectations for himself and his staff and his players. I believe he even said that he "expects" to win national championships when he was re-hired at Ohio State. If OSU would have hired BJ McGillicutty(fictitious) from The University of Podunk, I probably wouldn't be expecting too may NCs, if any.

If Urban can bring even one national championship, I will be a very happy camper.



+1 HS
ibuck's picture

John Cooper and Earle Bruce never won a NC 

Not a NC, but one of Cooper's teams won the Rose Bowl in dramatic fashion and finished ranked #2.

Our honor defend, so we'll fight to the end !

If you can't win your conference, just quietly accept your non-playoff bowl game.

+1 HS
bucks_symphony's picture

This is The Ohio State University! To expect fans of this fantastic institution to have anything less than BIG titles and National titles is rediculous. While I think its important to keep expectations realistic year to year because of the competition out there. There is no reason to think that we could not be competing for titles every single year if not win one on an occasion. The tools and resources are there to accomplish such a goal and having these expectations are exactly what helps put us in the hunt year in and year out. I don't think there is reason to sell ourselves short of what should be ours. And damn to that SEC conference. With that rant said. Go Bucks!

unknownmusketeer's picture

Success is difficult to define. For each person, success has a different definition. If you ask Coach Meyer whether or not he needed a national championship to be successful, I would imagine the response would be, "No." Internally, I have to think that if Coach Meyer would only coach for 10 years, his definition of success would be eight national championships. Here's hoping that Coach Meyer coaches for more than 10 years and is successful beyond his wildest dreams.

Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you will land amongst the stars.

kmp10's picture

"Success" is defined differently at Ohio State than it is at 90% of the FBS schools across the country. John Cooper, I believe, was the winningest B1G coach of the 90's, a recruiting machine, had Rose Bowl and Sugar Bowl wins and three B1G (co) titles… but is considered far from a success at Ohio State. Basically, there are three things that define success at OSU: 1) Beating TTUN. 2) Winning the B1G. 3) National Titles. Accomplish all of this, i.e. Woody Hayes/Jim Tressel/Paul Brown, and you're a legend. Accomplish SOME of this, i.e. Earl Bruce, and you're well thought of. Accomplish little of this, i.e. John Cooper, and you're thought less than a success… regardless of how many games you won. 

Heading into year three Urban Meyer has won almost all of his games, including both TTUN contests, and even though he has no B1G or national titles YET, I believe the biggest disappointment of the Meyer era is the continued decline of an awful and embarrassing defense. When that infamous photo appeared of Meyer slumped over eating pizza on a golf cart after the B1G title game, all I could think was 'you had to know this was coming after having let that defense continue on for two years now'. Until that is fixed (this year, maybe/hopefully???) the Buckeyes have no chance of winning playoff and/or title games. Meyer is paid obscene amounts of money to produce great teams, not just really good offenses. I'm hopeful that the hiring of Chris Ash and, to a lesser extent, Larry Johnson, will help pave the road to B1G and national titles. If it doesn't? Meyer will sit alongside his mentor, Earl Bruce, in Ohio State lore; a guy who won a bunch of games, beat TTUN more often than he lost, won some league titles… but ultimately a guy who couldn't win the big one. I believe Meyer will, in fact, win a national title at Ohio State, but I also believe it's gonna have to be in the next 5 years because I don't see him lasting any longer than that.

+4 HS
BroJim's picture

I agree with the article, but im not a fan of the way it was presented. There were not enough facts: A poll, coach A vs coach B, a splash Jimmy T. I would have liked something more. . . No mention of The Game when defining success at tOSU???

I season my simple food with hunger

Michael Citro's picture

Good point. I think it's understood that a successful OSU coach needs to beat Michigan, but as an addendum, both Coach A and Coach B had winning records against TTUN (16-11-1 for Woody and 5-4 for Earle), and of course Tressel's ridiculous 9-1 mark. So far, so good for Meyer (2-0).

BroJim's picture

As do I, but in my opinion it should be highlighted. Moreover, no mention of the strong leaders and young men that Meyer is helping create. Also, NFL
output. I appreciate the article but I think it leaves a lot out. However, I
agree, success is more than titles.

I season my simple food with hunger

Bamabucknut's picture

After the trauma of watching the horrendous performance of our defense last year it will take playing and solidly beating some top 15 teams to convince me things have changed.

+1 HS
theopulas's picture

Meyer knew what the job was when he took it....a NC is the expectation of any coach that comes here....and yes, we expect more from Meyer because he is the highest profile coach to come OSU...he must win at least one....


Bucksfan's picture

Urban Meyer is getting paid more than what Tressel got paid, and that largely has to do with his ability to nationally recruit and win national championships.  This isn't an upstart coach that has his first D-1 job.  This is Urban Meyer.  So, he is expected to have the Buckeyes exceeding the accomplishments of Jim Tressel, who got crushed by Meyer when they played.  What I hope for most is that Buckeye fans don't act like Florida fans, and effectively run him out of town because he faltered a few times against Alabama.

+1 HS
Maceyko's picture

Last year I lost my five year old son. Buckeye football was our shared Saturdays and something we bonded over and gave us many great moments during his short life. Creating a program that families can be proud of will determine success or failure. Winning is a by-product of doing things the right way. If our kids get good grades, stay out of trouble, work hard and we win some Big Ten titles then Urban's done his job. A national title or two would be awesome but will not determine Meyer's legacy for me. Now I watch the games alone and smile when I think of Seth's excitement whenever the Buckeyes would score. The "Woohoo" and him jumping up and down and the high fives. So for me every TD is a success. That's how I measure my Buckeye football.  

+7 HS
Nutinpa's picture

That's an impossible post to follow, maceyko.  So very sorry for your loss.....while tipping my hat to you for putting this into the deepest and most personal perspective.  Go Bucks.  And ...go you!

+1 HS
theopulas's picture

man, i really feel that i must mention that we pick our football coaches to when NC because we are OSU...but your story goes deeper then that....take care bud....GOD Bless.


cinserious's picture

Meyer has been too successful in the past (including curb stomping his alma mater) to not match that success at Ohio State.

One day I will valiantly become a political prisoner of 11W jail.

-1 HS
ScarletGray43157's picture

Meyer graduated from the University of Cincinnati.  Just sayin'...

In old Ohio there's a team that's known throughout the land...

buckeyeradar's picture

I'm glad I don't take part in many of the Eleven Warriors polls.  Urban Meyer is a great coach and to me has nothing to prove.  Do I want National Championships and B10 Championships? Of course!  Coach Meyer, thanks for coming to The Ohio State University.

I may not be the sharpest crayon in the box but I'm one of the most colorful.

+1 HS
Poison nuts's picture

Can we stop talking about UFM's future departure date already? F*ck!!!

"Do not pass me, just slow down - I can move right through you" Superchunk - Precision Auto.

zacisone's picture

"Better to enjoy the good times as they come than to place lofty expectations that are difficult to attain."

Exactly! I just want Urban to be himself and I will take that in a heartbeat. Go Bucks!


-1 HS
Crumb's picture

I half jokingly, half seriously say Urban owes us at least one for 2006. But as long as he keeps beating that team up north I'll love him. Also, I think most people expect him to because I believe he expects himself to. You're expected to win at Ohio State, by everyone including yourself. If that expectation wasn't there, we'd be about as bad as that team up north.

"The only good thing about it is winning the d*** thing" - Urban Meyer on The Game The War

Hovenaut's picture

Taking it day by day. We are blessed to root for a program rich in tradition, excellence and people - one of whom is the head coach who is very good at what he does.

I understand being a Buckeye fan. There are huge expectations and rightfully so to a point.

But I waited over 30 years for that 2002 team end a championship drought. Had heard from my elders about all those great teams Woody had, Earle's '79 squad, The '95, '96 and '98 teams who could have won the NC. Then Tress' '05 and '07 who got a shot and fell short.

It's a tall order to win the title, I'm glad we are in the hunt under the current man in charge.

+1 HS
Patriot4098's picture

Cooper and TTUN is mind-boggling. How many AP titles did that game cost us in the 90s?

"Evil shenanigans!"     - Mac

Buckeye Chuck's picture

I think you have to look back when it's all over. It's easy to say even one championship would = successful tenure, but ask the average Michigan fan if he considers Lloyd Carr to have been a successful coach in Ann Arbor -- let alone a superior coach to Bo Schembechler, who never won a national championship.

Meyer is off to a good start, bur I know I'm not the first person to note that the 2013 season was basically a John Cooper season, with the significant difference being that our next-to-last game wasn't the Michigan game as it always was in Cooper's time. Losing both those games with what I believe was the superior team doesn't concern me for the future because Meyer has proven he can win at that level. But let's not make it a habit.

The most "loud mouth, disrespect" poster on 11W.

allinosu's picture

Even though the nc would be awesome, if he keeps us relevant, I'd be happy and he would be successful.

Riggins's picture

Why is everyone typing in sarcasm font in non-sarcastic posts?


+2 HS
teddyballgame's picture

why are so many comments in italics



bigbill992001's picture

This is tOSU, The Urbmeister was brought in to win a NC.    Winning a lot of games goes hand-in-hand with that.    No NC=not successful, imo.

Knarcisi's picture

The way I see it, he owes us at least one from 2006. 

ShowThemOhiosHere's picture

Dude, what is with all the sarcasm font?  Many comments appearing in italics for me.

Success is relative to expectations.  That's the bottom line.  At most schools, his 24-2 record, even with no national or conference titles, would be considered a resounding success.  It's good by any standard, but by OSU standards, you're still left wanting more. 

To go down as a true success here, he has to get a national title.  Whether the expectations are realistic or not, he has to coach this program to at least one, and get some Big Ten titles and make some playoff appearances. 

Class of 2010.

MassiveAttack's picture

Count me in the 8% of the survey.  I think going 24 and 0 made him successful, especially coming off the 6 and 7 season.  Now we just need to keep beating _ichigan, and win in the post season.

Edit: No sarcasm, all of the last 5 or so comments have been in Italics.

The Ohio State University - "Haters love us!"

MAVBuck's picture

My guess is in 8 more years Urb posts the same record as Tress did against TTUN.

The Thrill is Gone's picture

In other words:

"Urban & company puked all over themselves at trophy time so now we have lower expecations than we used to."

I'm not with you, bro.

RedsBuckeyeBoy's picture I see. "The System" put it in italics. Yeah, let's all blame the website and the system for the sarcasm font gone wild. I'm soooooo suuuure.

(I just took a majorly sarcastic tone and didn't use italics, but it showed up as sarcasm. Now no one knows what to think!! I've broken the system!)

741's picture

With respect to the "we're just happy Urban is here" contingent, at $4.8 million per year he's the 5th highest paid coach in all of college football. 

By comparison, when Tressel went 13-0 and brought Ohio State it's first national championship since 1968, he made somewhere in the vicinity of $800,000 including performance bonuses. (

I too am glad Urban is here, but when a guy is getting "elite" compensation right out of the gate, elite expectations are warranted and justified.