COLUMBUS, Ohio — Urban Meyer, the coach who won three national football championships and was suspended for three games this season for his handling of domestic violence allegations against a now-fired assistant, will retire after Ohio State plays in the Rose Bowl.
The university announced the decision Tuesday but did not say why he was leaving after seven years at the Big Ten school, where he has an 82-9 record. But the 54-year-old coach has previously cited health concerns. He has a cyst in his brain that causes severe headaches.
A news conference was scheduled for Tuesday during which Meyer is to announce his retirement, with co-offensive coordinator Ryan Day appointed the team’s 25th head coach.
Meyer guided Ohio State to the national championship in 2014 after doing so at Florida in 2006 and 2008.
He has shown obvious effects of pain on the sideline this season. He also was reproached for what some saw as overly lax treatment of Zach Smith, the assistant coach who was accused by his ex-wife of domestic abuse.
Meyer said he knew about the accusations against Smith — grandson of former Ohio State coach Earle Bruce — but wasn’t sure they were true and kept Smith on staff because no criminal charges were filed. The university cited that lapse in suspending Meyer for three games after an investigation.
A report issued by an investigative committee left a lasting stain, detailing behavior by Meyer that could have taken down a coach of lesser stature. The investigation showed he tolerated bad behavior for years from Smith, including domestic-violence accusations, drug addiction, lies and other acts that directly clash with the values Meyer touts publicly.
The Buckeyes’ strong finish this season belied on-the-field problems that made for a stressful season for Meyer and his staff. He lost star defensive end Nick Bosa to an early season-ending injury, and the Buckeyes’ defense never fully recovered. During his suspension, the team was run by Day, the co-offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach. He’s a second-year Ohio State assistant who had never before been a head coach.
The team alternated expected blowout wins with puzzling play that included a pair of one-point wins (Penn State, Maryland) and a closer-than-expected win over a struggling Nebraska team. A startling blowout loss at unranked Purdue on Oct. 20 pushed Ohio State to the fringe of the national championship chase and prompted questions about Meyer’s future.
Shortly before the end of October, Meyer addressed speculation that he would step down at the end of the season, saying he felt fine.
“I plan on coaching,” he said on Oct. 29. Asked if he would definitely return to Ohio State next year, he answered, “Yes.”
Ohio State had a stretch of five straight wins this season, including a rout of archrival Michigan that gave the Buckeyes another division title and a win over Northwestern for the Big Ten championship.
But the loss to Purdue weighed heavily and Ohio State finished No. 6 in the playoff rankings. The Buckeyes will play in the Rose Bowl against Washington on New Year’s Day — Meyer’s coaching finale.
Meyer’s time in Florida over six years included two national championships. After stepping down at Florida because of stress-related health concerns, he took the Ohio State job before the 2012 season after Jim Tressel was forced out for lying to the NCAA amid a memorabilia-for-tattoos scandal. It appeared to be a dream job for the Toledo native and success quickly followed.
His contract was extended in April by two years through 2022, increasing Meyer’s salary to $7.6 million in 2018 with annual 6 percent raises. Meyer has about $38 million left on his contract.
He started his head-coaching career at Bowling Green in 2001 and moved on to Utah two seasons later before taking the Florida job in 2005 and rocketing to the top of the college football coaching ranks.