Meyer's family will hold him to a different contract

Nov 30 2011 - 3:09pm

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Urban Meyer pulled a pink slip out of the inside breast pocket of his suit coat, a small square of paper his wife Shelley called a contract that "takes precedent over any other one he signs."

Even though he might not have scribbled his signature in agreement yet.

It was the brainchild of the new Ohio State football coach's 21-year-old daughter Nicki, a volleyball player at Georgia Tech. Nicki Meyer mailed it to their home in Gainesville, Fla., before Shelley Meyer and their children sat down for a family discussion, firing questions at Urban about whether he could avoid the stress and his insistence on doing everything himself that prompted him to twice step down because of health issues at the University of Florida. He spent the past 11 months away from the game, working as an analyst for ESPN.

It's a contract about balance, about family priorities, about taking care of himself.

"It's tougher than any other contract I've signed in my life," Meyer said.

Shelley Meyer revealed some of the details Monday evening after her husband was introduced at a news conference at Ohio State's Fawcett Center. She said Nicki asked that her 47-year-old father work out at least every other day and eat three meals a day. She wants him to see her and her sister Gigi play volleyball, Gigi at Florida Gulf Coast University.

It also includes a limit on daily hours spent at the office, which Shelley Meyer knows isn't possible. She sounds like she doesn't expect him to be coming home to her and son Nate much before the 11 o'clock news.

"When I looked at it, I'm like, 'That's not enough,' " Shelley said of the hour requirement.

Meyer and his wife still have reservations about his stepping into Ohio State's pressure cooker with the contract he did sign -- a six-year, $24 million deal with bonuses. He's from Ashtabula, Ohio, she's from Frankfort, Ohio. She said their families struggled when Florida and Ohio State squared off in the 2006 BCS championship game, the first of Meyer's two national titles won with the Gators. They know plenty about OSU's rabid fans.

"I don't know how people got my phone number," Meyer said.

Asked whether he had second thoughts, Meyer said, "Yes, second, third, fourth, fifth, a lot of thoughts. I feel very blessed to be able to stand here, to know where I was and where I don't want to go again. This is an age-old problem about the executive or the doctor or the lawyer or the teacher who gets so consumed by their profession that they forget really what the purpose of the whole deal is, and that's to raise a wonderful family."

Shelley Meyer worries, too, but thinks her husband has realized what he can and can't do to avoid the stress that had him rushed to the hospital with chest pains and dehydration after losing the 2009 Southeastern Conference Championship game to Alabama.

"He made it clear to me for several months now that he knew he couldn't not coach again," Shelley Meyer said. "I just wanted to make sure he had the energy because this is going to take a lot of energy. Mainly I just had to look in his eyes and make sure it was real. It's Ohio State. If it were any other job, we wouldn't have taken it.

"Every coaching family has concerns because you know the energy it takes, you know the demands of the fans and the media. We know it all. But we've done it, too. We know what Ohio State is, we know it's big. We love this place."

Meyer loved it before he began his collegiate coaching career at Ohio State in 1986-87 as a graduate assistant under Earle Bruce. Meyer said his relationship with Bruce was second only to his father.

After Meyer's introduction, Bruce recalled the night Meyer "broke down at dinner." It was Dec. 4, 2009, the night before No. 1 Florida met No. 2 Alabama in the Georgia Dome for the SEC title. The Gators were the defending national champions and quarterback Tim Tebow was a senior. The winner went to the BCS championship game.

"I said, 'What's wrong with you? You're not thinking right. You're playing for the championship game and you're not even here,'b " Bruce said.

"We normally talk football. We weren't talking football; he was talking garbage. He was talking about coaching and a lot of things that didn't matter. He couldn't straighten those things out, anyhow, that's another man's job. He was talking about all the wrong things, all the bad things wrong."

The next day, Florida lost 32-13. Three weeks later, Meyer abruptly stepped down for the first time. He said he fell victim to the "pursuit of perfection."

"I tried to cure NCAA issues, agent issues, drug issues," Meyer said. "People that get paid a lot of money, that's their responsibility to fix those things."

Meyer said he understands that now. OSU Director of Athletics Gene Smith vowed he would try to make sure Meyer doesn't lose sight of his family priorities.

"He will definitely go see his daughters play volleyball," Smith said. "There will be no excuse. I've heard them all in my tenure, relative to why someone can't take a vacation. That's unacceptable."

It might not have been unacceptable in the past, but it will be in the Meyer regime.

On Monday, all insisted Meyer has learned to delegate and back away on occasion.

EMS was summoned, not for Meyer, but for a woman working a television camera with the Big Ten Network, who fainted in the back of the room.

Bruce believes Meyer has his life "straightened out."

Shelley Meyer feels confident that her husband knows what he's doing.

"He told me, 'I think you're going to be really proud of me,'b " she said.

Meyer's family and friends, Ohio State administrators and rabid Buckeye fans are holding their collective breath that Meyer's health issues are behind him and that he'll fulfill his six-year contract. They know Meyer is the man to get OSU back in the hunt for a national title. But they want to be proud of him off the field as well.


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