- Associated Press - Tuesday, November 29, 2011

COLUMBUS, OHIO (AP) - Before Urban Meyer could agree to a contract as Ohio State’s new football coach, he had to sign something provided by his two college-age daughters and his young son.

It was a piece of pink paper on which he promised that he won’t overdo it, that he won’t work too hard, that he’ll take care of himself this time.

“This is a contract that my kids made me sign before I was allowed to sign a real contract,” he said. “It’s tougher than any other contract I’ve signed in my life.”

With that out of the way, Meyer was free to sign a six-year deal that pays him around $4.4 million a year, not counting bonuses and incentives. A winner of two national championships during his glittering six-year tenure at Florida, he’ll be expected to bring some luster back to a football program that has been tainted by 12 months of NCAA violations, suspensions and a 6-6 record.

Meyer resigned as Gators coach after last season, citing health concerns and a desire to spend more time with his family.

“A year ago in my mind I was convinced I was done coaching,” the 47-year-old Meyer said.

Now he’s convinced he can balance a healthy life and a high-pressure job.

“I had a health scare a couple of years ago that made me sit back, reflect,” Meyer said of heart and stress problems. “I didn’t feel right. But I feel fantastic now.”

He also yearned to be back on the sideline at the Horseshoe.

“If not for the coaching position at Ohio State, I would not have coached this year,” said Meyer, who grew up in Ashtabula, Ohio, about 200 miles from campus.

Interim coach Luke Fickell, who took over when Jim Tressel was forced out for breaking NCAA rules, will coach the Buckeyes in their bowl game. Meyer will keep him on as an assistant but declined to say in what capacity.

Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith said his first conversation with Meyer about the coaching job was by phone on Nov. 20. The two met face-to-face three days later. Things moved quickly from there.

“We’re blessed to have him as our football coach,” said Smith, who said it was luck that he was able to find a candidate with such a sterling resume.

Meyer spent six years at Florida, winning national titles in 2006 and 2008. He spent his year away from coaching working as a college football analyst for ESPN and watching his two daughters play volleyball for their college teams.

Meyer met with the team on Monday before the news conference and said he was impressed with the players’ enthusiasm.

Meyer takes over a program that could face additional NCAA sanctions and was crippled by Tressel’s forced resignation. The Buckeyes completed their only season under Fickell with a 40-34 loss to Michigan on Saturday that snapped a seven-game winning streak against their rivals.

Tressel was forced out for knowing but not telling his superiors that Buckeyes players likely broke NCAA rules by taking cash and free or discounted tattoos from the subject of a federal drug-trafficking investigation.

In 10 seasons as a head coach _ two at Bowling Green, two at Utah and six at Florida _ Meyer has a 104-23 record. His teams are 7-1 in bowl games, including the Gators’ 41-14 victory over unbeaten and top-ranked Ohio State in the 2007 Bowl Championship Series title game.

Meyer initially denied all the talk about succeeding Tressel, saying he wasn’t interested in leaving ESPN.

“He enjoyed what he was doing, but I think he also had the bug to start coaching again,” ESPN broadcast partner and former Ohio State linebacker Chris Spielman said. “This was just an opportunity that he couldn’t pass up.”

Ohio State’s .500 record this season marked the most losses at Ohio State since John Cooper’s 1999 team also went 6-6 overall and 3-5 in the Big Ten.

The Buckeyes already lost their string of six Big Ten titles when the school was forced to vacate the 2010 season for the NCAA violations. The school also has self-imposed two years of NCAA probation and offered to return $339,000 in bowl revenue from 2010 and to forfeit five scholarships over the next three seasons.

Ohio State is awaiting final word from the NCAA’s committee on infractions. The committee tagged Ohio State with a “failure to monitor” label _ second only to a lack of institutional control on the list of most egregious charges against a university. The school could still be hit with a bowl ban, a loss of more scholarships, or other penalties.

Ohio State President Gordon Gee was at Vanderbilt when Meyer was in the Southeastern Conference with Florida.

“I always viewed him the way many other coaches referred to him as being a goody two-shoes,” Gee said in a phone interview. “He was called that because he always tried to do things right, and he was upset if others didn’t try to do it right. I have always admired him.”

But Meyer’s teams have not always been so well-behaved.

The Gators had 30 arrests involving 27 players during Meyer’s six seasons.

In his second season with the Gators, No. 2-ranked Florida beat unbeaten Ohio State, coached by Tressel, 41-14, to win his first national title.

Two years later, Florida won another national title, beating Oklahoma 24-14 behind Tim Tebow.

Meyer said he’s not worried about the NCAA hammering Ohio State, possibly tacking on a bowl game ban a year from now.

“At the end of the day I asked the same question: Is there anything behind Door No. 2? 3? 4?” he said. “I feel very confident and have great trust that there’s not.”


Follow Rusty Miller on Twitter: https://www.twitter.com/rustymillerap.

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