Urban Meyer As JoePa’s Successor? Yes, Please.
Another football season in Happy Valley, another rumored successor for Joe Paterno.
Phil Grosz, of Penn State Rivals.com affiliate Blue White Illustrated, reported after Saturday’s game that former Florida head coach, and current ESPN analyst, Urban Meyer has interest in Penn State, and that interest appears to be reciprocated by the Penn State brass. Grosz reports that Meyer met with both Penn State Athletic Director Tim Curley and University President Graham Spanier while in State College interviewing Penn State linebacker Mike Mauti for an ESPN segment.
In reading the reactions to the various rumors connecting Meyer to Penn State, I have noticed that fans either love the idea of Meyer succeeding Paterno (like I do) or vehemently oppose it. While I recognize that any hire following forty-something years under one of the greatest coaches in college football history will come with some reservations, fans also need to realize that Penn State is not just going to be able to replace a living legend with a (younger) carbon copy of himself.
With that in mind, why would Penn State not want to target one of the most, if not the most, successful coaches on the market, especially when he appears to have interest in the job as well? Meyer should be candidate 1A if Joe Paterno decides to retire in the near future, and here’s why.
Meyer’s success on the field speaks for itself. He carries a 104-23 record in ten seasons as a head coach, which includes a 7-1 bowl record and an astounding 4-0 record in BCS bowls. Perhaps most impressive and emblematic of his ability, Meyer was named the Coach of the Decade by both The Sporting News and Sports Illustrated.
He led Utah to an undefeated season in 2004, and coached quarterback Alex Smith to become the #1 overall pick in the 2005 NFL Draft. Meyer left Salt Lake City and headed off to Florida in 2005, where he won two BCS Championships in a four-year span and finished with a 65-15 overall record. His tenure in Gainesville also included a 36-13 conference record, two SEC championships, and a Heisman Trophy winner (Tim Tebow, 2007).
Meyer’s explosive offense and aggressive defense would be a welcome change in Happy Valley, especially if it results in the same success that it did at Utah and Florida–and the track record indicates that it would.
Plain and simple, kids want to play for Urban Meyer. He put together an incredible string of top recruiting classes at Florida, all but one ranked in the top three by Rivals.com. Meyer obviously has recruiting ties to talent-rich Florida, and has pulled in top talent from the Northeast as well–numerous times snagging a player away from Penn State’s traditional recruiting grounds. From that standpoint, Urban Meyer would be a home run hire.
This is obviously the area of biggest concern to Penn State fans and administrators, as Meyer has not been known to stress academics or avoid NCAA rulebook controversy in the way that he would have to at Penn State. Still, he also hasn’t gotten himself into nearly enough trouble to be eliminated from consideration.
Meyer’s teams at Florida hovered around the NCAA average in graduation rate (67%), and Florida football’s 2009-2010 APR score (976) was actually higher than Penn State’s (972). Though many Penn State fans remain skeptical of his morals, Meyer currently has no major NCAA violations attached to his name (though there are a few minor ones). Perhaps most importantly, JoePa certainly likes him, saying before the Outback Bowl, “Urban’s been great for this game, he really has.”
I have to believe that Curley and Spanier will stress the importance of ethics and academic performance throughout the coaching search (whenever it occurs), and if they think Meyer will be able to uphold the standards that we’ve come to expect at Penn State, that’s good enough for me.
The Bottom Line
I don’t know when Joe Paterno will decide to retire, but I do know that Urban Meyer should be at the top of the list–provided he’s still available–when that time comes. We certainly know what happened to Alabama when they hired Nick Saban, and I believe that Urban Meyer could achieve similar things here at Penn State in the post-Paterno era.
Where do you fall on the idea of Urban Meyer succeeding Joe Paterno? Leave a comment below!