COLUMBUS, Ohio — Despite numerous reports saying he's all but set to become Ohio State's next football coach, Urban Meyer said today that is not the case.
"I have not been offered any job nor is there a deal in place," the former Florida coach said in a statement released through ESPN, where he is a college football analyst. "I plan on spending Thanksgiving with my family and will not comment on this any further."
Several websites, TV stations and The Columbus Dispatch have reported that Meyer has reached an agreement in principle with Ohio State and, barring any last-minute problems, will be introduced as the Buckeyes' coach next week.
People within the athletic department and close to the team told The Associated Press the job has not been offered to Meyer and nothing has been completed. They spoke on condition of anonymity because the coaching search is supposed to be confidential. Athletic director Gene Smith declined to comment today.
Ohio State, under interim coach Luke Fickell, plays at No. 17 Michigan on Saturday. Fickell, who some reports have said will be retained on Meyer's staff, declined to address the story, which has been percolating for days.
"No, I won't," he said today. "It's not about that. I'm going to have enough respect for this football game to make sure it's about this football game. I don't think this is the time and the place."
Speaking briefly to reporters, he was asked if he knew whether a decision on a new coach had been reached.
"I know there's a game at noon on Saturday," he said.
Meyer is from Ashtabula and was a graduate assistant at Ohio State under Earle Bruce in the 1980s. He grew up an Ohio State fan and has said he has a portrait of legendary Buckeyes coach Woody Hayes hanging prominently in his home.
In addition to winning national titles in Florida in 2006 and 2008, he also has been a head coach at Bowling Green and Utah and worked as an assistant at Notre Dame, Colorado State and Illinois State.
He announced in December 2009 he was stepping away from coaching because of health concerns, but quickly changed his mind. After taking a leave of absence, he returned to the sidelines for the 2010 season and then retired again in December.
Alabama coach Nick Saban said he would welcome Meyer back into the coaching fraternity.
"Urban Meyer is a very good coach, he's a good teacher. He's good for young people," Saban said on the Southeastern Conference coaches conference call this week. "If coaching is in his heart, I think that's what he should do."
One of Meyer's star players at Florida, Tim Tebow, also said he was glad to hear Meyer might be coming back to coaching.
"Whatever he decides to do, I'll be 100 percent behind him," said the Denver Broncos quarterback. "It will be exciting to see what happens. I know, more than anything, he wants to be right by his family and have their support in anything he does. Most of when we've talked it's been about that. When he comes back, he's going to be a great coach, and I'm excited to see what happens."
Saban said he understood why Meyer had apparently changed his mind about returning to coaching.
"As you go through life and you do things and you make choices and decisions about what you do — and I know his involved circumstances around his health — but still you learn about yourself in everything you do," Saban said. "As you learn these things, sometimes things change in terms of what his direction is. I think everybody has to do that, and I don't think anybody should be criticized for that."
Jim Tressel was pressured to resign on May 30 after 10 years as the coach of the Buckeyes. His downfall came about when it was learned that he knew that several of his players had accepted cash and tattoos from a tattoo parlor, the focus of a federal drug-trafficking investigation. Ohio State is awaiting NCAA penalties stemming from several violations.
Fickell, a defensive assistant coach for nine years, was promoted to head coach.
In a season with NCAA sanctions looming, several players suspended and injuries to important players, the Buckeyes have gone 6-5 — their worst season since Tressel went 7-5 in his first season in 2001. Should the Buckeyes lose at Michigan on Saturday, the 6-6 mark would be their worst since John Cooper went 6-6 in 1999.
The speculation about Meyer has been making the rounds for weeks.
One of the top football recruits in Ohio for next fall, defensive end Adolphus Washington from Cincinnati's Taft High School, committed to Ohio State on Tuesday. Asked at his news conference who he thought would be coaching the Buckeyes next season, he said, "I believe Urban Meyer. I hope so."