NEW YORK – Urban Meyer’s decision to announce his retirement Tuesday left many people shocked that his time as Ohio State’s head coach was coming to an end after just seven seasons.
Ohio State quarterback Dwayne Haskins, however, said he saw it coming.
“It wasn’t surprising,” Haskins said Friday after arriving in New York for this weekend’s Heisman Trophy ceremony. “Coach has had a lot of health history the last couple years … so I knew that he would eventually stop coaching. When, I didn’t know, but I knew that with the headaches he’s been having … I would tell him personally if it was affecting his life, he should stop coaching.”
Meyer told his players in a meeting at 6:45 a.m. on Tuesday – less than an hour before the news was made public – that he had made the decision to retire as head coach. In a press conference that afternoon, Meyer said “the decision was a result of cumulative events,” but that the No. 1 reason was his health, for he has been battling headaches for years that had continually worsened.
Following a tumultuous summer in which Meyer fired assistant coach Zach Smith after a domestic violence protection order was filed against him, then was suspended three games after an investigation determined he failed to take sufficient management action regarding previous allegations against Smith, some people have speculated that was actually the driving force behind Meyer’s retirement.
Haskins said Friday, however, that he believes Meyer would have retired even if there was no off-field drama this summer.
“Regardless of what happened with Coach Smith and that situation, even the year before – my freshman year – Coach Meyer’s had some health concerns, health issues, and like I said, the game isn’t the most important thing in life,” Haskins said. “Health is important. For him to be able to step away while he still has it is important for me, because I know at the end of the day he has a grandson that he loves very much, and I want him to be there for his grandson.”
Even though Haskins supports his coach’s decision and wasn’t stunned by it, Tuesday was still an emotional day for he and his teammates.
“There were some tears,” Haskins said, recalling when Meyer told the team on Tuesday morning. “People cried, I cried. But I knew it was going to happen eventually. He’s a great coach – one of the greatest of all-time, I feel like – and I’m glad he was able to go out while he still had his health.”
Haskins, who reiterated Friday that he is committed to playing in next month’s Rose Bowl, said Meyer’s decision gives him and his teammates extra motivation to send Meyer – along with the Buckeyes’ seniors – out with a win when they play Washington on Jan. 1 in Pasadena, California.
“Coach Meyer’s touched us all in a special way, and for him to be able to recruit us, being in our house, talk to our family, it means the world for us to be able to go out there and go play for him for our last game of the season,” Haskins said.
“He’s a great coach – one of the greatest of all-time, I feel like – and I’m glad he was able to go out while he still had his health.”– Dwayne Haskins on Urban Meyer's retirement
Haskins said he hasn’t made a decision yet on whether he will return to Ohio State for the 2019 season or declare for the NFL draft, instead choosing to hold off on that decision until after the Rose Bowl, but he said the coaching change has no effect on his decision because he is confident that new head coach Ryan Day – his quarterbacks coach for the last two years – will be successful as Meyer’s successor.
“I feel like he does a great job of being personable, but at the same time being stern and having that head coach personality,” Haskins said. “He makes you feel comfortable, but knows you have to respect him. So he does a great job with that. And I feel like once he has the whole team and gets the program where he wants it to be at, he can be a really great head coach.”
Much like Oklahoma head coach Lincoln Riley, who was also promoted from within to replace a coaching legend in Bob Stoops and still coaches the Sooners’ quarterbacks himself, Haskins said he expects Day to continue to work closely with the quarterbacks despite taking on additional responsibility.
“He won’t be able to be as hands-on as he was with me during the season, but with (current assistant quarterbacks coach) Corey (Dennis) and the rest of the offensive coaching staff, I’m sure that he’ll still have his hands on the offense,” Haskins said of Day.