Every head coach in the NCAA has gotten his start somewhere, whether it be with a Power Five school, in a lower division or with a high school from across the nation. For Ohio State coach Urban Meyer, the college where he got his start as a head coach will be his first opponent of the season.
The Buckeyes will be facing off against the Bowling Green State University Falcons to kick off the 2016 season. While there is a stark difference in the Associated Press rankings for both teams (OSU comes in ranked sixth in the nation while BG sits well-outside the top 25 at No. 93), the game is more to Meyer than just a test against an unranked opponent.
In his opening statement at Monday’s press conference, Meyer had nothing but praise for his former team.
“I want to say a couple of things also about a great school we’re playing this week, Bowling Green,” he said. “Paul Krebs, a former Buckeye, was an assistant AD who hired me — what was it — in 2001. And I took the job at Bowling Green. I wasn’t sure what to do, and I took home the media guide.”
Although it took some time to adjust to the pressures of leading a Division I team, Meyer enjoyed a high level of success with the Falcons.
In the year prior to his arrival, Bowling Green had finished the season 2-9, which was the sixth year in a row the team finished below a .500 winning percentage.
“It’s one of the really neat experiences, zero expectations,” Meyer said. “And that’s, obviously, you don’t experience that much anymore.”
Regardless of the lack of expectations when he arrived, the team turned around immediately. In the two years Meyer was at the helm, the team finished 8-3 and 9-3, respectively.
In his first year, Meyer was named the Mid-American Conference coach of the year. Before he started in his first head coaching position, the Ashtabula, Ohio, native realized many fans were far from optimistic, a reflection of the early rankings of the 2001 season.
“I think we were 129, or 119 or something like that. That was our ranking,” Meyer said. “I thought, ‘You have to be blanking me’ when I saw that. I didn’t know there were 129 teams or 119 times, 120 teams.”
To start the season, Bowling Green faced Missouri in 2001. The Tigers were in a similar scenario as the Falcons. After a string of disappointing performances, they were under the direction of a new coach, Gary Pinkel.
Even though the Tigers had finished 3-8 in the year prior, a mere one game better than the Falcons, Meyer was wary of how his first game at the helm of a college team would go.
“We sat there. I looked at Shelley, ‘What if we lose every game we play, because who knew?’ She said, ‘I bet you win tomorrow.’ I looked at her, and I said, ‘We have no freaking chance of winning this game tomorrow,’” Meyer said. “Something happened in the middle of the night. I remember waking up, our staff and our players thought they’d win it, and they did.”
The trip down memory lane for Meyer brought a smile to the Buckeyes’ coach during the presser. Although the team across the field of the Scarlet and Gray on Saturday will be approached as an adversary, there is more behind the matchup than just the previews and the box score.
OSU is scheduled to face Bowling Green on Saturday at noon in Ohio Stadium.
Correction 9/3: Original edition of the article listed Meyer as a native of Toledo. He is a native of Ashtabula, Ohio.