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  • Joseph Meade

What is Urban Meyer up to?

A few weeks ago, yours truly posted a piece that showcased an argument that Rick Pitino and Urban Meyer are needed in college sports. To save you time if you did not read it, here are the relevant points. The first point is that both men were not focal points during the off-seasons when they were not on a college sideline. At best, they were side stories that fans would click on every few weeks, usually in the form of flashbacks or clickbait conspiracy articles. The latter of what I just mentioned may ring a bell later on. The tactics of both Pitino and Meyer, on and off their playing fields, are often considered the best among any college coaches since the turn of the millennium. Another point that I cannot emphasize enough is the fact that both men can flat out coach, and their knowledge of the game is undeniable.

What did Urban Say?

Meyer's expertise is why recent headlines of Urban Meyer saying Texas had the best roster in college football have made their rounds throughout the entire college football world. In reality, this was a two-minute segment on his regular podcast called "Urban's Take". Ohio State Football Journalist Tim May is often a guide for Urban, who gives his opinions on developing stories in College Football. Meyer was quick to praise Texas' roster, citing one of the most respected roster builders in College football, Mark Pantoni, when doing so. "I was talking to Mark Dantoni and I was talking to the recruiting director at Ohio State. Man for man, roster against roster, it's hard to say Texas doesn't have the best roster in college football right now."

I know what most are thinking. It is the offseason, and statements like this from a notable figure are bound to make headlines, especially when done so about Texas. Is Meyer trying to get clicks on his podcast? It is definitely a possibility. However, it can be argued that in most people's minds, Urban does not live for headlines about his opinions. His segments on FOX, BTN, and ON3 are highly viewed and entertaining regardless of the outcome of said prediction. Is Urban being sincere in his praise? Really, no one knows, but plenty of Texas and the greater media believe there is more to this story.

Some Backstory Between Urban and Texas

The "more to the story" narrative is more than fair, actually. Most Texas fans know what is about to be explained. This part is purely for those unfamiliar with the situation. In 2019, Meyer started as an analyst for FOX and BTN. However, his work on FOX is what is relevant here. Following Texas' victory in the 2018 Sugar Bowl against Georgia, Sam Ehlinger famously or infamously claimed that Texas was back. This, along with the 10-win season they just had, which included a win over Oklahoma and a rare BIG12 Title Game appearance, gave analysts plenty of ammunition to pick Texas as a BIG12 Title Favorite and a contender for the College Football Playoff. Cue in the fact that Texas' last two recruiting classes had been Top 3, and the starting QB was returning; the Texas-mania was overwhelming.

Unfortunately for Texas fans, they knew how the rest went. After a phenomenal Week 2 College Gameday environment and game, LSU beat Texas in a thriller which began Joe Burrow's introduction to the world. Of course, a loss here did not seem like a huge deal both in hindsight and in the moment. Even after their loss to Oklahoma a few weeks later, Joel Klatt stated that Herman and Riley would likely see each other soon. This was a direct implication by Klatt that Texas would make its way back to the BIG12 Title Game. However, Texas would go on to lose 3 of their next 5 and fall short of all their goals. During this stretch networks took their shots at Texas.

The Big Noon Kickoff crew, led by Meyer, was one of the biggest mouthpieces. While Reggie Bush, Matt Leinart, and Brady Quinn voiced their thoughts, Urban's was the most brutal. He showed that the NFL Draft, also known as the number one measurement for player development, consistently lacked Texas players. Furthermore, he was not shy in pointing out the great college quarterbacks Texas had missed out on or failed to recruit in their own backyard. These include Andrew Luck, RG3, Johnny Manziel, JT Barrett, Baker Mayfield, Kyler Murray, Patrick Mahomes, Jalen Hurts, and even Quinn Ewers until he transferred in. It is ridiculous to assume that they would get most of this list, especially since some were not the highest rated recruits. However, the list does showcase the embarrassment of riches their recruiting base has. This gave Meyer even more ammo for further criticism of Texas the following year in 2020. However, the shots were directly at the coaching staff and Tom Herman.

Urban Vs Former Texas Coach

In fact, it is the author's opinion that Meyer's criticism of Herman was much harsher than towards Meyer's former adversary Jim Harbaugh, who went 2-4 that year and was the subject of firing squads of insults. While a separate article can be written on why Meyer may or may not like Herman, it is worth paraphrasing. A large theory is that information regarding the 2018 domestic violence scandal was leaked to certain parties by Herman. It is hard to say if this was a reason for animosity between the two or if it had begun in the years following Herman's exit from Ohio State, but it is worth mentioning to the audience. Regardless of this, it is a common idea in inner-Buckeye circles that the former colleagues do not get along, to say the least.

Hard feelings that Meyer and Herman have toward each other could have been one of the reasons Meyer was so critical. Another theory to consider is that Meyer believes Texas is a place one can win at, not easily but regularly. In fact, Meyer's theory borders on a logical fact based on where Texas is, the resources available, and the storied success of not just their football team but their entire athletic department. The biggest storyline from this was not the alleged rivalry Herman and Meyer did or did not have. It is the speculation that Meyer and Texas were in talks for the job in 2020. This was a rather popular rumor in the final weeks of the 2020 season, one that made Herman seem like a lame-duck coach. Whether or not this happened is only known by Coach Meyer and the Texas administration. To take it to another level, only Meyer knows whether these alleged negotiations were out of legitimate interest or to weaken his former colleague's position. Even if Herman and Meyer had truly fallen out, it may seem nonsensical to assume Meyer would go this far as to negotiate and then allow these conversations to become public. Then again, one could consider Urban's intense competitiveness and come to a different conclusion. Regardless of these theories, Meyer and Texas being linked is nothing that is brand new, especially to the intense followers of the Longhorns.

Where We Are Today

We all know what happened next. Urban jumped to the NFL while Steve Sarkisian took over Texas. After a disappointing first season, Sarkisian started to light the recruiting trail on fire. After an 8-5 second season, along with the undeniable talent on the roster, 2023 is the now or never for his administration. Texas is being looked at favorably again, and this time Coach Sark cannot have a mediocre season. He likely needs to win 10 games, be at the forefront of the conference, and make a major bowl game.

Will I be declarative and say he gets fired if this does not happen? I will not at this time, but I may be down the line. This is because Texas will soon enter the SEC in 2024, and they are Texas—they will go after the best available coach in every sport.

Hypothetically, if Texas does not meet their expectations, their AD, Chris Del Conte, will likely have a conversation. Del Conte has shown a history of aggressive hiring tactics in his searches for former basketball coach Chris Beard and Steve Sarkisian. He is a proactive AD who has kept Texas Athletics at the forefront of college athletics, especially in the Directors Cup. Texas is starving for their biggest sport to win, and Del Conte knows this more than anyone. With that being said, his job depends on Texas Football winning, and he will get it right one way or another.

I will leave you with this: Urban Meyer is a winner and has the highest win percentage among college football coaches. The flip side of that was his failure in Jacksonville, a blatant sauce stain on a very white t-shirt. Meyer is still only 58 and only 6 months younger than Jim Harbaugh, who is always tied to new jobs (albeit in the NFL). Everyone in college football circles knows about Meyer's ambition and his urge to be on the sideline. Sure, Meyer is enjoying life now, going between his Florida estate and wherever else he chooses. However, will Meyer's ambition lead him back to the sideline? And what better fit would it be for an all-time great to bring back one of the all-time great programs?

Photo from: Business Insider

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