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The Urban Meyer cycle continues

The three-time national champion has retired again.

Big Ten Championship - Northwestern v Ohio State Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

1. The minute Ohio State suspended Urban Meyer on August 22nd, this was over. It was over because Meyer and the university could no longer fully trust each other, and because Meyer was dragged through the humiliation of being subservient to a school, rather than to football itself. Once the coach’s football interests became secondary to the institution’s, Meyer’s departure was set in motion.

2. That much should have been clear on Oct. 30, when Meyer began to talk publicly about his headaches caused by the arachnoid cyst on his brain. It should have been clear when the trial balloon of offensive coordinator Ryan Day becoming head coach was floated during the season or when the cameras caught Meyer bent over on the sidelines during tense moments.

This wasn’t exactly managed and scripted — but it wasn’t exactly unmanaged and unscripted, was it? We all got enough deliberate peeks behind the backdrop to see what was coming and how it would happen.

3. So now, rather than take a scandalous firing in August, Meyer gets to retire. (Again.)

The summary: Meyer took over a big program and did brilliantly on the field. (Again.) He recruited gifted players at an astonishing rate, won a championship within his first three years, and turned his coaching staff into a launching pad for assistants looking for head coaching jobs. (Again.) His teams dominated their conference, consistently competed for top five finishes, and — litmus test of litmus tests — straight up beat the standard bearer for the sport, Alabama. (Again, but don’t look at what happened the second time Meyer and Saban met at Florida.)

4. With one game left, Meyer’s seven years in Columbus produced an 82-9 record. His win percentage is better than Woody Hayes’, his resume deeper and better than Jim Tressel’s, and his ability to recruit talent is unsurpassed by anyone who’s ever held the OSU job.

Football-wise, he is the best coach Ohio State has ever had, and equaling his run there would mean hiring Nick Saban or the next Meyer to succeed him. (Again.)

5. Poor Ryan Day won’t equal him. He just won’t, and expecting him to would do a massive disservice to the elevated offensive coordinator’s prospects.

Nearly all coaching greats are followed by merely goods, because there are so few greats, period. Getting two in a row is lottery winner territory, and having any other expectations is to misunderstand basic probability. Consider how lucky Ohio State’s already been in getting Tressel and Meyer back to back.

6. No one will listen to this, and Day will be under insane pressure three hours into his tenure on Jan. 2. Get the contracts double-signed and make sure that buyout can’t budge with the weight of 10 law firms pushing on it, Ryan.

7. Meyer is a rare, rare talent — one reason he’s been allowed to do things other coaches might not be allowed to even consider.

8. For instance, Meyer was allowed to continue coaching after apparently lying about the Zach Smith case at Big Ten Media Days. Meyer would later say he misspoke and did not knowingly lie, but beating Michigan every year had to help his case with his superiors.

Meyer got a three-game suspension early in the season and was allowed to hold deeply unhelpful press conferences regarding his suspension, free rein other coaches wouldn’t have gotten. He was effectively allowed to choose his own exit, another rarity in coaching, especially at Ohio State.

9. Meyer had seemingly left Florida better than he’d found it — but then the roof caved in, and it became apparent just how much dry rot was in the walls of the place. At Florida, Meyer struggled to fill positions after staffers left for their own head coaching gigs.

At Ohio State, that attrition has been less obviously harmful to the team’s win percentage, but Meyer still struggled to replace coaching talent well. This year’s scapegoat: Greg Schiano, the coordinator whose defense allowed 55 points to Iowa in a baffling 2017 loss, repeated that with 49 to Purdue in 2018, and finished 113th in the nation in long plays allowed.

10. There was also this management issue: the time Meyer kept a documentedly ineffective staffer on because he was the grandson of a mentor, AKA Zach Smith. That staffer, repeatedly accused of domestic violence, later helped unravel Meyer’s tenure.

11. The question of whether Ohio State is in better shape going forward, rather than when he got there, has a tricky answer: give it two years, and we’ll see. The facilities, talent, and skill base at Ohio State are all undeniably better, but that was seemingly the case at Florida, too. Holding off on grand gestures about how much Meyer changed Ohio State makes sense because a.) Ohio State has been successful historically without him, and b.) making any lasting claims about a culture in college football is hard anyway, much less with a team about to shed a workaholic manager known for delegating too little.

12. There’s also the health issues (again), the bizarre inability to message anything not having to do with football (again), and the feeling that Meyer, for all his gifts, could not be a lifer at any program, and that all his success came with that price.

13. Overclocking is the word for it, when a computer is made to run faster than it was designed to run. It’s how Meyer makes a program work. Things happen fast, sometimes too fast for their own good. Coaches come and go quickly, titles fly in the window, and after five or six years, the parts start to wear down, make unforced errors, to write checks against that success, checks that will begin to bounce.

14. A difference this time: Meyer leaves after a hugely embarrassing scandal for the university, which sent a horrendous and confused message about domestic violence to the school and community beyond it. The timing of Meyer’s departure distances him from that as a story, but it shouldn’t diminish his role in the least.

15. The timing does allow for certain things. Meyer will likely return to commentary, which he’s very good at, and give him some time to sort out whatever health issues he has. It gives Ohio State a fresh start, and reminds everyone that the school is — for the moment, at least — one of the few places bigger than any one coach.

16. It also gives time for this completely hypothetical but very believable situation to unfold: Notre Dame bombs out of the postseason again, and pressure mounts on Brian Kelly as fans and analysts say he’s “taken the program as far as he can.” That might take a few years, but when it reaches a boiling point, Meyer will be right there for one of the few jobs he used to have written into this contract as buyout-free destinations: the Notre Dame head coach.

17. And when he gets there, Notre Dame will run a little too fast for its own good. It will glow and burn out like it did under the last master of overclocking a football program and immediately moving on to the next program, one of Meyer’s mentors: Lou Holtz. It’s a cycle, and like any cycle, its end is apparent from the first minute.