TAMPA, Fla. – On Oct. 12 back when Urban Meyer was still retired from coaching and just a television analyst, he was in Tampa to speak at an Outback Bowl function.
Chris Sullivan, founder and director of Outback Steakhouse, walked up to Meyer inside the Belvedere Ballroom in the A La Carte Event Pavilion and embraced his friend.
“What are you doing next?” Sullivan said. “We could sure use you.”
Sullivan is a Kentucky graduate. Of course, Meyer will not be coaching at Kentucky, he is headed to Ohio State.
Less than a year after "retiring," Meyer is back
Seven weeks ago I asked Meyer what it would take for him to return to coaching.
“If I ever went back, I'd have to get back a little bit of balance I used to have,” Meyer said. “I don't know if I'm there yet. I went off the deep end. When I first went to Florida, my first Tennessee game, first SEC game, my son (Nathan) was playing that (Friday) night and was going to pitch.
“I'm in a hotel. I looked at the police officers: ‘I can't take this. Will you get in a car and drive me to go watch my son pitch?’ Everybody thought I was nuts.
“I'm not going to let a job consume me. I think it did. I would have never done that at the end. I was so consumed about perfection. We created a monster. If I ever did get back, I would not let that control my life”
Meyer is now officially back under the brightest of spotlights, replacing Jim Tressel and interim coach Luke Fickell at Ohio State.
After the 2009 season, Meyer took a three-month leave of absence. The following a 7-5 regular season in 2010, Meyer announced his retirement from coaching on Dec. 8 because of health concerns and he wanted to spend more time with his family.
Meyer said then he had suffered chest pains and severe headaches, related to stress.
So how will he be able – as he says – not let the job control his life?
“It's discipline, personal discipline,” Meyer said on Oct. 12. “You've got to hire great people, but I can blame everybody else I want. At the end of the day, you have to have discipline: go work out, eat right, still have balance in your life.
“What I've experienced, because I do a lot of public speaking now, I don't think I'm a lone wolf that has that issue. Guys right here have that issue, balancing that. You can blame your job, you can blame your boss or you can blame the media. At the end of the day, it's you that has to take a hold of that thing. I didn't do that.”
In six seasons at Florida, Meyer was 65-15. He won national championships in 2006 and 2008. His final game was a 37-24 victory against Penn State in last season’s Outback Bowl, which turned out to be the final bowl game for Joe Paterno.
Now Paterno is out of coaching and Meyer is back in.