Buckeyes, Sportsman of the Year

My Cleveland Sportsman of 2013: Urban Meyer

Jeff Hanisch-US PRESSWIRE

Jeff Hanisch-US PRESSWIRE

Jeff Hanisch-US PRESSWIRE

It took over two regular seasons for Urban Meyer to lose a football game in Columbus, Ohio.
Jeff Hanisch-US PRESSWIRE

Sports Illustrated’s Sportsman of the Year is an annual must-read. Given that the national recognition rarely has anything to do with the teams or individuals whom we cover. In turn, WFNY will soon announce its choice for 2013′s Cleveland Sportsman of the Year. Here’s one of the nominations for that honor by an WFNY writer.

WFNY’s Sportsman of the Year
_________________________

MITCH: Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer
RICK: Coming Soon
TD: Coming Soon
ANDREW: Coming Soon
SCOTT: Coming Soon
CRAIG: Coming Soon
JON: Coming Soon
KIRK: Coming Soon
JACOB: Coming Soon

Urban Meyer was publicly introduced as the next head football coach of the Ohio State University on November 28, 2011, a little over 25 months ago. In those 25 months, Meyer has coached 26 football games. He has won 24 of those games, including 12 this year, but of course all everyone can focus on right now is his two most recent, the first defeat of his tenure at the hands of the Michigan State Spartans in the Big Ten Championship Game earlier this month and the loss to the Clemson Tigers in the Orange Bowl.

Luckily for Meyer, the award is called Sportsman of the Year, not Sportsman of the Month, and no one is more deserving of the honor for 12 months of achievement than the Buckeyes’ sideline boss. In a city that deals with so much sports misery and failure on such a regular basis, Meyer’s team offered a rare ray of hope each and every Saturday.

Ignore the schedule—it is what it is, and Meyer had no hand in shaping it. What he did do was prepare his team to win every week with an entertaining and fast-paced brand of football that was as pleasing to watch as it was ruthlessly efficient.

Like many of the best Urban Meyer squads, this year’s Buckeyes ran the spread offense to perfection. No matter who was under (or five yards behind) center, Ohio State seemed to turn almost every Saturday into a game of “Guess How Many Plays It Will Take the Buckeyes to Score a Touchdown.” Once running back Carlos Hyde came back from his three-game suspension, that offense became all the more potent and fun.

That suspension serves as an example of another way in which Meyer distinguished himself in 2013. Meyer has for years been plagued by a reputation that says he is soft on players who commit crimes or break team rules, a reputation that was lent further credence when former Florida Gator (and New England Patriot) tight end Aaron Hernandez was arrested on a murder charge in August. This year, he made a concerted effort to become a tougher disciplinarian and try to shake that unfortunate narrative. First came the twin suspensions of Hyde and cornerback Bradley Roby, arguably the Buckeyes best players on both offense and defense, just before the start of the season. The penalties–one game for Roby’s bar fight and three games for Hyde’s alleged striking of a female in a Columbus club–did little to cripple Ohio State’s early season chances against teams like Buffalo, San Diego State, and Cal, but they sent a message that Meyer’s program would not sweep offenses under the rug, even if neither of the incidents resulted in any legal action against the two players.

While sending a message early in the season during nonconference play is relatively easy, it is much more difficult for a coach to maintain that atmosphere of discipline and accountability later on as the games get tougher and more impactful. Nonetheless, Meyer did just that when he “suspended” starting right guard Marcus Hall for the Michigan State game following his double-bird farewell salute to the Big House crowd after being ejected from the Michigan game.

While Meyer initially announced that Hall would play in the Big Ten Championship Game, the lineman–who had started all 12 regular season games for the Buckeyes–never left the bench. The decision not to play Hall was silent (although it was announced during the week that he would not start), but Meyer’s decision spoke loud and clear: He was going to hold his players accountable, whether or not the media was going to heap praise on him for it.

Of course, the Buckeyes fell to the Spartans in Indianapolis, ending dreams of a second consecutive perfect season and a shot at the BCS championship, and would follow that up with a there-for-the-having loss in the Discover Orange Bowl. The loss to the Spartans was not attributable to the absence of Hall, as Ohio State was still able to rack up 273 yards on the ground against the top-ranked Michigan State rush defense. Blame Meyer all you want for the Buckeye defense that was miserable for much of the season and especially so against the Spartans, but it has been abundantly clear since day one that Meyer would be focusing his energies on the offense and allowing Luke Fickell and the rest of his staff to worry about stopping the opponents.

Even so, focusing so much attention in a judgment of Urban Meyer on the loss to Michigan State reflects the worst possible recency bias. Two consecutive undefeated regular seasons is a ridiculous accomplishment for any team, regardless of who is on the schedule. This season, Meyer faced the highest of expectations and came up just short of meeting them. In Cleveland, we’re used to the opposite: teams having low expectations and still failing to meet them.

And, even with the disappointing loss in Indy, and the crushing BCS Bowl game defeat, December hasn’t been all bad for Meyer.

That image has already begun to be repaired in Meyer’s brief time at the helm. Just last week, Ohio State landed two big-time recruits from deep within hostile territory. First there was the news from Hinesville, Georgia that five-star inside linebacker Raekwon McMillan, the top ranked player nationally at his position, had chosen the Buckeyes over a quartet of southern schools – Alabama, Auburn, Clemson, and Georgia. The next day, four-star wide receiver Johnnie Dixon from Dwyer High School in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida made it known that he would be bringing his talents to Columbus. He chose the Buckeyes over hometown Miami and Alabama.

After the tattoo scandal that rocked Ohio State and ended the wildly successful Jim Tressel-era in Columbus, the Buckeye program found itself in a confusing period of transition. Urban Meyer stepped into his dream job and in two short years has brought the Ohio State program back to the summit of national relevance. Meyer is possibly the only coach who could have led this resurrection so quickly while simultaneously charting a path towards a brighter future. That leadership and success is why Urban Meyer is my 2013 Sportsman of the Year.

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  • Natedawg86

    *26 games, won 24

  • Natedawg86

    although somewhat confusing, i see how you may have expected this article to come out before Jan, where he would have been 24 of 25

  • Natedawg86

    He needs to figure out what to do with the Defense and Special Teams in 2014

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Kinda sad when a nominee for Cleveland Sportsman of the Year works in Columbus. Just sayin’!

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    He’s bringing in help for the defense I just hope he finds some WRs too not to mention another RB.

  • JNeids

    I tried to stay passive with my comment in the #1 Cleveland sports story of the year, but c’mon…you really don’t see a problem with this headline: “My Cleveland Sportsman of 2013: Urban Meyer.”
    I am not a pinball wizard, and am therefore not deaf, dumb, or blind. I realize that the majority of the people in this town are Buckeye fans, even some who didn’t even attend OSU. But to nominate someone affiliated with a non-Cleveland sports team for a Cleveland-centric award is borderline insulting. I realize also that narrowing it down to Cleveland sports teams does not present you with many options, but it’s not like the ballot would be completely empty. As I have stated before, it is easy enough for me to ignore OSU articles (so long as the headline doesn’t bait me in) and therefore have reserved my complaints about my favorite Cleveland-based website adopting a non-Cleveland sports team. But this…this makes me feel like I don’t belong on this website if I don’t adopt them as well. I read this as “Ohio State is a Cleveland sports team whether you like it or not.”

  • http://waitingfornextyear.com/ Scott @ WFNY

    Yes. This is my fault from an editorial standpoint. This was written before the New Year.

  • http://waitingfornextyear.com/ Scott @ WFNY

    I understand your point of view, but given that we cover Ohio State at WFNY, the nomination is more than acceptable. We once covered the Blue Jackets and Clippers (both Columbus-based). We ocassionally cover Cleveland State, the Lake Erie Monsters and, every so often, something that may have to do with a MAC or A-10 school. Not every post is going to relate to every reader, just like every other news outlet. We don’t make anyone read anything. We don’t charge for it to be read. Ohio State will continue to receive coverage on these pages. My hopes, as a fan, writer and editor, is that the Cleveland teams can consistently produce a fraction of the success that the Buckeyes have in both major sports.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Yea but will a Cleveland coach win the Columbus Sportsman of the Year or how about Cincinnati?

  • JNeids

    Again, my complaint was not that you choose to write about OSU, but that a non-Cleveland athlete or coach was being considered for CLEVELAND sportsman of the year. If the title read “My WFNY Sportsman of the Year…” you wouldn’t have heard a peep out of me.
    I realize this website is all encompassing, and I appreciate it for being so. What I don’t appreciate is the sentiment of “OHIO STATE IS A CLEVELAND TEAM” being forced on me. And to clarify, I’m not saying that’s what Mitch is doing, but one could easily make that argument after reading only the title of the article.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    You get an up vote but I got a down vote yet we dealt with the same thing. LoL

  • JNeids

    Your down vote probably had more to do with the sad state of Cleveland sports.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    The truth shall set them free!!!!

  • Garry_Owen

    We’ve been over this. Ignore the downvotes, Frodo. They are but farts in the wind.

  • Garry_Owen

    Rest easy. There are 8 more nominations. You’ll have all the Hadens, Thomases, Irvings, Franconas, and Giambis that you dream of!

  • mgbode

    Please, no Giambi.

  • mgbode

    but, he’s stuck in an elevator!

  • Garry_Owen

    Hey, I don’t get a nomination. It’s not up to me!

  • Garry_Owen

    Is the elevator moving?

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Yea but I made a New Year’s revolution not to be as harsh on Cleveland sports teams. Besides these down votes hurt, they hurt me in my soul.

  • mgbode

    I don’t believe you. I think you are sending backpacks full of money to get Lou Marson an honorable mention.

  • mgbode

    yeah, but the doors are stuck shut.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Better not be ‘cuz I ate Taco Bell 4 lunch – OH YEAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!

  • Garry_Owen

    Is it airtight?

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Lovin’ in an elevator livin’ it up when I’m goin’ doooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooown!!!!!

  • Garry_Owen

    Ah, sweet Lou.
    You have to admit, that play at the plate that ended his career in Cleveland was pretty sportsmanly.

  • mgbode

    agreed, it would be better as WFNY Sportsman of the Year in many aspects.

    However, Mitch only covers the Buckeyes for WFNY. It would be even odder for him to pick a non-Buckeye for the purposes of his column than it is to have a Buckeye named Cleveland Sportsman.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Lou who?

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    He should have picked former Buckeyes coach Mike D’antoni! ;-)

  • mgbode

    indeed. especially the part where it gave Gomes a chance to tear up MLB.

  • Garry_Owen

    Great. So I’m tracking 2 votes for Lou Marson . . .

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    TD will be picking Francona do doubt book it!

  • JNeids

    I see you point. Then a disclaimer stating Mitch’s qualifications to nominate for the award would have sufficed :)

  • Wow

    I won’t blame Meyer for the defense, that is on Fickell and he can’t ask if they won either. Meyer did make strange decisions in the final 2 games though. On a positive note, he was probably the only one who could have turned them around so fast.

  • WFNYKirk

    I, too, understand your concern. As someone who writes about both Cleveland and Ohio State teams for the site, I can see how you don’t think it fits. Perhaps, it would’ve been more properly labeled “WFNY Sportsman of the Year”.

    However, Urban certainly deserves to be nominated for this Cleveland-heavy award. If Ohio State had a full share in this Cleveland stake, it would be a runaway decision for Meyer. I can tell you, however, that his candidacy and chance at winning is measured and determined by diehard, casual, and non-OSU fans alike on the WFNY staff.

    But, there are a fair share of players from Northeast Ohio on the OSU roster. If Cleveland has a large-scale, 1-A collegiate program, it is undeniably OSU. Like it or not, Ohio State is a part of the Cleveland sports scene in a diminished capacity. I think we strike that balance quite well here.

    Not every Cleveland fan is a fan of all three Cleveland sports teams either.

  • mgbode

    sure, as long as I get to do the write-up. Better start writing the rough draft. Lou Marson: A terrible ballplayer, but one that recognized his own deficiencies and staged a fake injury so that a real ballplayer could take his place.

  • Garry_Owen

    Well now you’re just being mean.

  • mgbode

    all in good fun. I did appreciate Lou’s arm (not sure why it disappeared last year) and hope that he can keep finding a spot on someone’s 25man like Shoppach has done post-Tribe.

  • Garry_Owen

    He’s one of those guys you really feel for. Goes out because of an injury and gets replaced by an out-of-nowhere stud. No place for him. It’s going to be tough for him to latch onto another team, I think, given his weaknesses – but defensive catchers are always valuable.

  • WFNY_DP

    Rob Chudzinski indirectly saved me $500 on next year’s season tickets, and I live in Columbus, sooooo…..

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    …WFNY Night at Christie’s Cabaret with the first round of drinks and lap dances on DP!!!

    The Rock smells what ur cookin’!!!!

  • DonFelder

    I know it’s already been said, but I have to say my piece too: If this is indeed a Cleveland Sportsman of the Year award, giving Meyer this award is utterly absurd because he has absolutely nothing to do with Cleveland. I don’t see Crain’s Cleveland Business inducting Columbus or Cincinnati business leaders into its Northeast Ohio Business Hall of Fame. “Covering” a region or team outside of Cleveland is well and good, but awarding a “Cleveland” award to someone working in Columbus doesn’t jive.

    All that aside, if you’re going to look outside Cleveland, what about departed BG coach Dave Clawson? BG won its conference by blowing out a Heisman finalist (albeit lost its bowl game, just as OSU did). That accomplishment is far more impressive than anything OSU or Meyer achieved this year.

    At any rate, I don’t see how anyone other than Tito gets an award styled as a “Cleveland Sportsman of the Year Award.” He got blood from a stone and took a ragtag squad to the playoffs in the sport with (theoretically) the least parity of the big three.