clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

What if Ohio State's Urban Meyer had been Penn State's coach instead?

According to reports that circulated during the 2011 season, Urban Meyer was talked to about the Penn State head coaching position.

Jonathan Daniel

Both Ohio State and Penn State found themselves with new coaches to begin the 2012 season, and interestingly enough, Urban Meyer was reportedly a top candidate for both jobs.

Early in the 2011 college football season, Urban Meyer was, by all appearances, happily retired from coaching football, although nobody really believed his retirement would be permanent. Meyer was also employed as an analyst with ESPN, and seemed to be enjoying that phase of his life, particularly having additional time to spend with his family.

But when asked about a possible return to coaching at that point in time, although Meyer indicated that he wasn't trying to get ahead of himself at that point, he did say, "I do miss coaching terribly, very badly."

Meanwhile, in State College, Joe Paterno had made no public statement about any plan to retire at that point, but the Penn State administration wanted to be prepared in the event that Paterno, considering his age and his failing health, decided to step down at the end of the 2011 season. According to reports, former Penn State president Graham Spanier and former athletic director Tim Curley met with Meyer on campus in late September 2011 to discuss the possibility of taking over for Joe Paterno upon his retirement.

According to Jeff Rapp on his blog Sports Rapp Up, a source close to Meyer revealed to Rapp that Meyer would have loved to succeed Paterno at Penn State, although it would have been imperative that the succession be handled in the proper way, so Meyer would not be seen as the guy who forced out Joe Paterno.

Shortly after the news of the Jerry Sandusky scandal broke, Meyer issued a statement establishing that he "had no plans to return to coaching at that time." Just a couple of weeks later, Meyer accepted the head coaching position at Ohio State vacated by Jim Tressel, and the Buckeyes are thriving -- a scenario that seemed unlikely in 2011, when the prevailing perspective was that Meyer would decline any offer from Ohio State due to pending NCAA sanctions for the infamous memorabilia-for-tattoos scandal.

And, while the Nittany Lions surely would have welcomed Urban Meyer, and his culture of winning, to Penn State, they should be very pleased with their head coach, Bill O'Brien. O'Brien, formerly the offensive coordinator for the New England Patriots, stepped into a challenging situation, facing sweeping NCAA sanctions, including severely limited scholarships over a four-year period and a four-year bowl ban. Fifteen key players transferred out of the program after the 2011 season. Despite those hardships, O'Brien has coached his team to a 12-6 record in his tenure. This season, the Nittany Lions sit at 4-2. Like Urban Meyer, O'Brien is a smart recruiter, and has managed to field a competitive team despite NCAA sanctions.

While Penn State didn't get Urban Meyer as their head coach -- and Buckeyes fans are pleased it worked out the way it did -- the Nittany Lions did get a coach in Bill O'Brien who seems to be very capable of keeping the Penn State/Ohio State rivalry competitive and relevant for years to come.