Urban Meyer’s health took him off Ohio State’s sideline, but he hopes it doesn’t force him out of his beloved university.
Once Meyer’s retirement, which he announced on Tuesday, becomes official on Jan. 2 following the Rose Bowl, he will cease to be a coach for the first time in his adult life. If things go according to his and Gene Smith’s plans, though, Meyer will remain a fixture in Ohio State’s athletic department in the upcoming years.
Smith said he wants Meyer to take a few days or weeks after the bowl game to make a decision of whether he wants to pursue a non-coaching job at the university, but both the athletic director and outgoing head coach seem intrigued by the possibility. During Tuesday’s press conference to announce his retirement, Meyer said, “I hope to stay involved.”’
“Right now, he wants to do something here,” Smith said. “I always try and be humanistic with people when they're going through transition, and I think he really needs to take his space with his family, particularly Shelley, and really think through things. My hope is he comes back because I'd love to have him. But he may choose to do something else.”
Smith said Ohio State is contractually obligated to offer Meyer a position, but would do so either way. Meyer’s contract extension signed in April contained an addendum that offered Meyer an opportunity to take an administrative role, but the university is only contractually obligated to extend an offer if he remains a coach until Jan. 31, 2023.
“Urban understands that the football program, Jan. 3, is Ryan Day's. Period ... Now, if Ryan decides, 'You know what, I need some advice. I've got an iconic, successful football coach. I'm going to go get some advice on this particular piece.' He has access to him.”– Gene Smith on WOSU
Meyer’s possible job title and completed list of responsibilities have not yet been determined, though they have been discussed.
Smith has an idea of what Meyer’s duties might look like if he took the job, calling them a “smorgasbord of different things.”
“He'll be kind of an external relations guy working with donors, doing public speaking, doing golf outings that I don't do,” Smith said. “He'll work with our coaches, particularly our assistant coaches. We have a professional development program for our assistant coaches because many of them aspire to be head coaches. So, we'll embed him in that program. He'll become a presenter in that. He'll work with some of those coaches one-on-one to help them understand what it means to be a head coach.
“He'll work with some of our current head coaches, which he already does, helping them recruit, helping them evaluate their program. He'll work with us in our student-athlete development program. He has Real Life Wednesday's. All of our sports have something like that. So, he'll help with those programs. We are big on making sure our student-athletes are either going to get their Master's or they're going pro or they're getting a job when they leave here. So, he'll help add to that effort.”
Ohio State has 68 assistant coaches in 36 different sports. Smith sees them as major beneficiaries of Meyer’s teachings. He wants Meyer to essentially coach the coaches, calling it “a big piece” of his job.
Though Smith said Meyer would work with both head coaches and assistant coaches from various sports in the athletic department, he mentioned he would not be mentoring football coaches.
Smith, speaking on WOSU’s “All Sides With Ann Fisher,” emphasized a clear separation between Meyer and his former program that will be led by the soon soon-to-be-promoted Ryan Day.
“Urban understands that the football program, Jan. 3, is Ryan Day's. Period. He makes all the personnel decisions, all the strategy decisions,” Smith said on WOSU. “Now, if Ryan decides, 'You know what, I need some advice. I've got an iconic, successful football coach. I'm going to go get some advice on this particular piece.' He has access to him. Urban understands that very clearly that he doesn't jump in that space unless asked. So, I'm a pretty strong leader in that regard, and I've been very firm about that from the beginning and will continue to be that.”
It remains unclear where Meyer’s office will be, and the football support staff that he established will remain in place when Day takes over, but Smith feels confident Meyer’s presence in the athletic department will not be a problem.
“Me, Urban, Ryan Day, we're joined at the hip,” Smith said on WOSU. “We have personalities where we check our egos and do what's right for our student-athletes and Buckeye Nation.”