Ohio State took a giant step toward polishing its tarnished image last week when it hired Urban Meyer as its next football coach.
The 47-year-old Meyer will bring a much-needed sense of stability to one of the nation's elite college football programs that has been forced to take a hard look at itself during the past 12 months.
Put aside this year's 6-6 record and the 40-34 loss to Michigan. The team has been reeling since it was discovered that former coach Jim Tressel knew that some of his players received cash and free or discounted tattoos from a man who was the subject of a federal drug-trafficking investigation.
Tressel was forced to resign in the aftermath of that discovery, a major violation of National Collegiate Athletic Association rules.
His replacement, Luke Fickell, will coach Ohio State in this year's bowl game and will remain as a member of Meyer's staff. Fickell, who is an up-and-coming coach, deserves credit for being willing to step up when his alma mater asked him to. We are confident he will continue to serve the Buckeyes well and, if he so desires, will someday again have the opportunity to be a head coach.
Meyer brings solid credentials to his new job. A native Ohioan, he calls Ashtabula home Meyer began his coaching career in 1986 as a graduate assistant on the staff of former Buckeyes' coach Earle Bruce. His career has included head coaching jobs at Bowling Green, Utah and Florida. Meyers teams have a combined record of 104-23 and a record of 7-1 in bowl games.
Buckeye fans remember, of course, that one of those bowl wins came in the form of a 41-17 victory over Ohio State in the 2007 Bowl Championship Series title game.
That track record means there is reason for optimism. There are, unfortunately, some pending questions and hurdles that seem to lie directly ahead.
Ohio State is still facing NCAA sanctions in addition to its self-imposed two years of NCAA probation and the loss of five scholarships during the next three years. The sanctioning board's committee on infractions has yet to rule on the Buckeyes, but there is a real possibility the school could face a bowl ban, the loss of additional scholarships or even other penalties.
Then there are legitimate questions about his health and a desire to spend more time with his family that led him to walk away from the Florida job twice. Meyer says his year away from coaching, a period in which he served as an analyst at ESPN and watched his daughters play college volleyball, has him ready to return to the rigors of coaching college football at the top level.
From that standpoint, its seems that Meyer's six-year contract worth $4.4 million a year before bonuses and incentives could be viewed as a bit of a risk for university President G. Gordon Gee and Athletic Director Gene Smith.
That is a valid argument, but it is, we are certain, a risk worth taking.
That said, we join Buckeye fans around the world in welcoming Meyer and are sure his leadership will take Ohio State back to the top of the college football world.