Well, Urban Meyer sure got a lot of attention during Mickey Joseph’s head-coaching debut at Memorial Stadium.
Some of that was to be expected. The former coach who won national titles at Florida and Ohio State, was scheduled to be in town as part of Fox’s “Big Noon Saturday” pregame show, his current job, long before Scott Frost was fired. Meyer met an ignominious end after one disastrous year in the NFL with the Jacksonville Jaguars. That followed a handful of controversies from his college years, but college football at large has never really had a problem keeping winning first, and Meyer has won everywhere he’s coached in college.
So, it wasn’t a surprise that Meyer was mentioned, among 20 or 30 other names this week, as a potential candidate for a Husker program that fell, on Saturday, to 19-40 since 2016, its last winning season. It wasn’t a surprise that “Big Noon Saturday,” with fans in the background, was basically built around the inevitable flirtation between a crowd of people hungry for their team’s future success and a coach with championship rings sitting 40 feet in front of them.
"We want Urban!" 👀 pic.twitter.com/g0pLheTfOL
— FOX College Football (@CFBONFOX) September 17, 2022
If it had ended there, and Nebraska then went and played a solid football game, it would’ve been about what you could expect given the circumstances and human nature.
But the Huskers didn’t really give anyone a reason to talk about anything else in the 49-14 loss to historic rival Oklahoma. With Nebraska already down big in the second quarter, the Fox cameras found a fan wearing a “HIRE URBAN MEYER” shirt. Again, kind of human nature, if you’re being honest about it.
Then something totally out of the blue. Play-by-play man Gus Johnson reportedly became ill and couldn’t call the second half. So, Meyer and two of his pregame-show colleagues called most of the third quarter and all of the fourth.
But there was more: Late in the fourth quarter, Dennis Dodd of CBSSports.com reported that Meyer “has been contacted by Nebraska,” whatever that means. One line later, the story reads: “It was not made clear whether Meyer was asked about his interest in holding the job.”
Best-case scenario for the Huskers on Saturday was that, through their play, everyone could just revel in the nostalgia of another Nebraska-Oklahoma classic. Beyond the first four or five drives, the Huskers couldn’t make it happen. Not that surprising given the week that was and the state of these two programs over the past decade.
Second-best-case scenario was Nebraska looking like a team that had already benefitted from turning the page. That wasn’t in the cards either.
Worst-case scenario might’ve been what actually unfolded. With the past looking even more distant and the present lacking the promise it had at the start of the day, this Nebraska game became almost exclusively about the future.
I still have a hard time seeing that future including Meyer. His football record speaks for itself. So does his record in general. I’d be really surprised if Nebraska Athletic Director Trev Alberts, if he even does kick these particular tires, finds more to like there than be concerned about.
Nebraska just came off a can’t-miss, get-the-deal-done-and-just-wait-for-the-wins era that failed. If there was ever a time when most people should know winning in this sport isn’t actually about how big a check a school can write, this would seem to be it. None of Alberts’ comments six days ago would seem to describe Meyer.
But I supposed the almost inevitable interest in an available coach who has won it all is just human nature again.
To be fair, Meyer has more upside on the field, now, than Scott Frost did at the end of 2017. Also to be fair, he might have more downside and that goes beyond just his various missteps of the past few years.
Saturday’s loss to Oklahoma practically screamed that the Huskers may not be in line for any quick fixes. This probably isn’t the job for a coach looking to get in and out quickly.
If such a hire worked, if Nebraska got instantly better and was looking for a new coach again in four years, plenty of people might have a hard time not taking that deal.
But there would never be such a deal because there are really no sure things when it comes to hiring coaches. That being the case, I’m not sure immediacy is top of the list over sustainability.
That’s what Meyer represents to me, if we’re boiling it all the way down, and that would be a worse sign for the program’s future than its 1-3 start and a defense that has allowed more than 2,000 yards through four games.
Though, I guess I’m only contributing at this point. On a day when Nebraska played Oklahoma, this column, like the day itself, became all about Meyer.
No one’s ever said he doesn’t win.
Brandon is the Managing Editor for Hail Varsity and has covered Nebraska athletics for the magazine and web since 2012, Hail Varsity’s first season on the scene. His sports writing has also been featured by Fox Sports, The Guardian and CBS Sports.