COLUMBUS – The plan has been modified, tinkered with, expanded in some areas and reduced in others.
But Urban Meyer today still does a lot of the same things in a lot of the same ways he did them in his first job as a head coach at Bowling Green State University from 2001-2002.
It started at BGSU with a job Meyer was at first hesitant to take. At the time, he was Notre Dame’s receivers coach, a job Lou Holtz hired him for in 1996.
Meyer called Holtz after he was offered the job and said he was worried. “This is not a very good job,” he said.
Holtz replied, “Of course not. If it was a good job do you think they’d be calling you?”
One of the first similarities between Meyer at Ohio State and Meyer at Bowling Green begins with a call.
At OSU, he called the Buckeyes in for a 5 a.m. meeting the first day he was in charge of the program the day after a Gator Bowl loss dropped them to 6-7.
A day or two after he took over at Bowling Green, the players got a call from the football office telling them to report to the indoor practice field at 5 a.m. the next morning.
It was the infamous “Black Wednesday” at Bowling Green, where Meyer began sorting out who was going to buy into his plan after a 2-9 season and six straight losing seasons and who wasn’t.
St. Henry High School athletic director Dennis Wendel, a starting offensive lineman on both of Meyer’s BGSU teams, was one of the players summoned to that 5 a.m. session.
“I showed up at 5 a.m. and the next 2 ½ hours were just brutal. We started running gassers and you just kept running until you could hardly walk anymore,” Wendel said.
“The whole point of that was that you’re either going to be a part of this team or you’re not. You’re either all in or you’re not,” he said. “You’re either going to do it the right way and you’re going to do it the right way all the time, or you’re going to walk out the door.”
Actually, one of the players who decided Meyer’s way wasn’t for him ran out the door.
“We were coming back from running a gasser and somebody just kept running straight out of the door of the building and I never saw him again in my life,” Wendel said.
Bowling Green had an 8-3 record in 2001 and went 9-3 in 2002, launching Meyer into the job as Utah’s head coach, which led to the Florida job and eventually to Ohio State.
“There was a complete culture change,” Wendel said about Meyer’s two years at Bowling Green. “He left no stone unturned.
“The first thing I remember about him is his walk when he walked into the room when he was introduced. As soon as he walked into the room he definitely had a presence about him. He commanded the room immediately,” Wendel said.
There are other similarities between Ohio State and Bowling Green.
Earlier this season, Meyer called Ohio State’s offensive linemen “my favorite guys on the team.”
The Bowling Green lines Wendel played on earned a similar sort of affection from Meyer.
“The first six months were really rough. Our offensive line was really bad. We had to come in and lift on Saturday when nobody else did,” Wendel said. “Once we got past that first six months and he saw that the core of us were really buying in, we were his guys. At team meals, we got to eat first and he always sat with us and talked to us a lot.
“Once you earned his trust, he treated you like a million bucks. If you’re a guy who does things the right, if you’re a good person who goes to class and is committed to the program, he’s going to know you forever.”