Is Ohio State coach Urban Meyer on the back end of his career?
That was the suggestion apparently made by Clemson coach Dabo Swinney to Fairfield, Ohio five-star offensive tackle recruit Jackson Carman – who ended up signing with the Tigers over the Buckeyes – this past fall, igniting a firestorm over negative recruiting tactics but also speculation over whether Meyer was, in fact, getting into his final years as a coach.
Meyer and Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith want recruits to know that Meyer isn’t planning on leaving the Buckeyes anytime soon.
That’s why Meyer will soon sign a two-year contract extension, bringing his years remaining under contract to five (through 2022), as confirmed by both Meyer and Smith during Ohio State’s National Signing Day press conference on Wednesday.
"I see that stuff, too, and I've been doing this a long enough time, he’s got three years left, it probably hurts in recruiting," Smith said. "So we needed to sit down and I brought it to him and said, 'Hey, we need to talk about an extension in order to alleviate some of those concerns.'"
Meyer’s last contract extension came in 2015, also when he had only three seasons remaining on his contract. Smith said the three-year mark is typically when he looks at extending a head coach’s contract, because that’s when rumors start to come up on the recruiting trail.
"Anytime someone goes south of four years, that's when you have the challenges that we have now," Smith said. "Once we got south of that four years, it's typical – I don't care where you are – for that issue to come up about, he's not going to be there when you are a senior. It's simple. That's the way it's always been. So, yes, when that came up, I knew it was going to come up, it was just a matter of getting it done, so we're working on it."
Extending Meyer’s contract for only two years means that it won’t be long before opposing schools begin to plant questions in recruits’ minds once again about whether Meyer will be at Ohio State for the long haul, but that’s not necessarily an indicator of how long Meyer plans to stick around, but rather a reflection of Smith’s opposition to contracts like the 10-year, $75 million deal Texas A&M recently gave Jimbo Fisher.
"I'm not a big believer in 10-year contracts. I'm just not one of those guys," Smith said. "A full guaranteed 10-year contract, I've just been in this business too long to understand what that means."
Meyer also won’t be getting a contract like Nick Saban’s deal with Alabama, which paid him more than $11 million this past season, Smith indicated on Wednesday. It’s still safe to say, though, that Ohio State will give Meyer a raise that keeps him among college football’s highest-paid coaches and gives him plenty of incentive to stay on the job.
"We have to compensate people consistent with the expectations and their performance, so we’ve always done that, and we'll do the same with Urban," Smith said.
Meyer, who turned 53 last July, said he doesn’t know why there’s a perception that he’s nearing the end of his coaching career or where that perception is coming from. In reality, Meyer says he doesn’t know how many more years he might choose to coach, but he has no plans of leaving Ohio State in the near future, as he is grateful to the university for choosing to extend his contract.
"We're going to sign an extension here soon because the university has been good enough to extend something to me, so I think that that's all down the road news, but I feel great," Meyer said. "For someone to bring that up in recruiting, that's easy to fight against ‘cause it's not true. So I don't know how many more years are you going to coach and all that, I feel fantastic. The program's healthy and we're going, so I'm going to get some more years put on my contract."
Smith also isn’t sure why there’s a perception that Meyer’s coaching career could be near its end, but he says it’s on him and the university to make sure Ohio State remains a place he wants to stick around.
"I know how healthy he is and how excited he is to be here," Smith said. "Urban's always, for some reason, always had that rumor that he wasn't going to coach long. I don't understand that. And that's where our focus has been on making sure that he has a environment where he's comfortable."