By Karl Henkel
OHIO STATE MAY HAVE LOST to Michigan on Saturday for the first time in eight years, but it appears it took just two days for Buckeye fans to forget about the loss to their arch rival.
Urban Meyer, the two-time BCS winning coach at Florida, on Monday inked a six-year, $26.4 million contract to become Ohio State’s 24th coach.
The signing immediately lifted the spirits of many Mahoning Valley Buckeye fans, who not 48 hours earlier witnessed OSU’s sixth loss of the season and third consecutive defeat — something that had not happened since 2004.
“The Urban Meyer hiring brings instant credibility back to the Ohio State football team,” said Andrew Zajac, an OSU fan from Struthers. “It’s a win-win for Ohio State.”
Meyer, 47, who graduated from St. John High School in Ashtabula, previously won two national championships as coach of the Florida Gators, including in 2006, when Florida stomped the top-ranked and undefeated Buckeyes, 41-14.
The Ohio native previously had two, two-year coaching stints at Bowling Green and the University of Utah.
He replaces Jim Tressel, who resigned on Memorial Day after admitting he lied to NCAA investigators about his knowledge of impermissible player benefits, a situation better known as “Tattoogate.”
Some fans, however, feel that Meyer is Tressel 2.0 and didn’t agree with the hire.
“Florida led the nation in arrests under Meyer,” said Keary Iarussi, a Struthers graduate and University of Miami student, referencing the litany of legal troubles that plagued Meyer’s Florida teams. “This goes to show that all OSU cares about is wins and losses.”
Others such as Joe Cassese, a Tressel backer, chose to remain mum on the hiring. Cassese opted not to comment on Meyer.
The hire solidifies the coaching position. Luke Fickell, this year’s Buckeyes coach, was only guaranteed the position for this season.
That lack of speculation also is a victory for business that depend on Ohio State’s gridiron success.
Jeff Lyda, co-owner of Everything Buckeyes at Eastwood Mall in Niles, said that after this year — which included Jim Tressel’s departure, OSU’s worst record since 1999 and the team’s first loss to Michigan since 2003 — the Meyer signing came at the perfect time.
Everything Buckeyes registers about 35 percent of its annual sales during the holiday shopping season.
“It’s kind of like the next chapter,” he said of the hiring. “It’s definitely going to help.”
He said sales of OSU apparel and memorabilia have slowed this year, particularly when it came to rivalry apparel.
“Normally it’s gone the first day within hours,” he said. “Even now, we have ample supply.”
“That shows you that when you’re not on top of the world, the fair weather fan isn’t spending the money.”