Excuse the hyperbole, but in this case, it’s warranted. Unless you live under a rock, you have heard the news today that Urban Meyer is stepping down as the head coach of the Ohio State Buckeyes. Win or lose on New Year’s Day in the Rose Bowl against Chris Petersen and the Washington Huskies, it is obvious Meyer is the best college football coach ever.
We’ve already exposed the fraud that is Nick Saban here, so we can dispense with that garbage right now. It is safe to say that no coach in college football history has ever done what Meyer has done: Win everywhere he coached, from Bowling Green to Utah to Florida to Ohio State.
If you want a real comparison to Meyer, look no further than the legendary Bear Bryant. Meyer has never had a losing season, and Bryant just had one (his first season at Texas A&M, when the Aggies posted a 1-9 mark). Otherwise, they’re very similar coaches.
Meyer’s .853 winning percentage tops Bryant’s .780 mark, of course, but Bear coached 38 seasons while Urban has only coached for 17 years. In this day and age, though, it’s hard to see a coach lasting almost 40 years in the profession and staying healthy. Meyer certainly has had his health problems, not to mention the off-the-field stuff that Bryant never had to deal with in the twentieth century.
What separates Meyer from Bryant, in truth, is the consistency: Meyer actually coached Bowling Green to a Top 20 Associated Press ranking during the 2002 season. Think about that for a moment, and then remember Bryant only led Maryland for one season, in 1945, but he couldn’t get his first school into the AP poll.
(For what it’s worth, it took Saban three seasons at Michigan State to even crack the AP Poll. That’s pathetic.)
Then Meyer went to Utah and posted an undefeated mark in just his second season there. By contrast, Bryant’s second year at Kentucky was a three-loss campaign. Meyer moved on to Florida and won a mythical national title there in his second season, where as Bryant’s second year at his third school (A&M) merely produced a 7-2-1 mark.
Considering that Meyer took the Buckeyes to an undefeated season in his first year there (2012), it’s quite amazing. His 82-9 record at Ohio State in seven seasons stuns even the casual statistician, and assuming the Buckeyes beat Washington in the Rose Bowl on January 1, Meyer will finish his OSU stint with a single-digit loss total.
Bryant’s best stint at Alabama came from 1971 to 1979, when the Crimson Tide posted a 107-13 mark in one of the more dominant stretches of college football ever.
(And yes, we know Saban’s record at Alabama, but considering he could not win very much at Michigan State or at all, really, in the NFL, he is not a part of this conversation, even on the topical level.)
Bear Bryant was the best coach of the twentieth century in college football, and we’re pretty confident that when all is said and done in the year 2100, Urban Meyer will wear that hat for the twenty-first century.