Long before Urban Meyer was leading the Ohio State Buckeyes onto the field at Ohio Stadium in front of more than 105,000 fans in Columbus on Saturdays in the fall, he was at a different Ohio school trying to build up a once-proud program.
And Saturday’s game against Bowling Green State University provides Meyer an opportunity to look back at where his head-coaching career began during the 2001 season.
“The one thing that I loved about Bowling Green is that -- and the reason we took it, first of all, I really appreciate the administration there -- and a lot of respect for the previous coach, Gary Blackney, but they had a winning record against every team in that conference, overall record,” Meyer said in his weekly press conference.
“Taking over a place that's never done it is hard, but to take over a place that's done it, maybe has fallen off a little bit, I still remember that to this day. When I think about Bowling Green, it's one of the most tradition-rich programs in the MAC. A lot of great respect for them. I loved my time there.”
Although Meyer loved his time in Bowling Green, the start was far from easy, as his players, all 50 of them, did not have matching workout gear. Through some hard work raising funds and a deal with Adidas, Meyer got his players new gear, even if the shoes were not the official school colors.
“They came and I think they were blue and gray,” Meyer said. “Their colors are orange and brown, but it didn't matter. Man, the kids got blue and gray shoes to wear. That tells you the expectation level of those young people, ‘Hey, thanks for the T-shirt, Coach, I appreciate it.’
“No one said these aren't our colors, but they got a free T-shirt and a pair of shoes. That was probably the moral of the story or the point of the story is zero expectation. They want nothing other than to find somehow to finish their careers with a winning record. That was our whole mantra, finish their career with a winning record, the seniors.”
While Meyer’s tenure at Bowling Green lasted just two years ahead of him taking over the program at the University of Utah and leading the team to an undefeated season in 2004, he still has a close relationship with his former Falcons players.
“I'm still extremely close with those players,” Meyer said. “We had a little reunion up there last year, a fundraiser, and a lot of guys will show up at practice still, and I keep in touch with them.
“It's one of the really neat experiences, zero expectations. Obviously, you don't experience that much anymore, but I remember one of those preseason magazines came out, I think we were 129, or 119 or something like that. That was our ranking.
“I thought you have to be blanking me when I saw that. I didn't know there were 129 teams or 119 teams, 120 teams. Posted that in the weight room, a 36-year-old coach trying to get a team motivated that was ranked preseason 119. Good thing is, we did not finish 119.”