Meyer calls moving Michigan game ‘heartbreaking,’ talks players opting out
Ohio State captains Justin Fields, Wyatt Davis and Jonathon Cooper were all in agreement Tuesday: the date on which the Buckeyes square off with Michigan does not matter, as long as the arch-rivalry still takes place.
But now that The Game has been slated for mid-October rather than the traditional last week slot of the regular season, former Buckeye head coach Urban Meyer isn’t quite as willing to dismiss the significance.
“It’s heartbreaking to be honest with you, but adaptability, sacrifice are all gonna be critical on everyone’s part,” Meyer said on the Big Ten Network’s schedule release show Wednesday.
Meyer said seeing the rivalry game, of which he won all seven matchups as Ohio State head coach from 2012 to ’18, move from its customary position on the season schedule “takes your breath away.”
However, Meyer said coaches across the country can’t get too caught up in their personal feelings on how the season may look given the fluctuating circumstances surrounding the pandemic.
“I’m very proud of Ryan Day, I’m very proud of some of these other coaches I’m colleagues with, I talk to them, they’re friends of mine,” Meyer said. “It’s not your job to make statements, it’s not your job to give opinions. Really, your opinion doesn’t matter. A football coach is exactly that, a coach.”
Meyer said the teams that will have success despite ongoing uncertainties are those with head coaches whose focus has not wavered.
“When the athletic director gets the go ahead and he gives you the thumbs up, your team better be ready to play and if you’re focused on your team, you will be,” Meyer said.
Another element of this football season Meyer deemed “heartbreaking” for college coaches is seeing some of their top players opt out.
Minnesota wide receiver Rashod Bateman announced he would forego the season Tuesday, and reports have stated that Penn State linebacker Micah Parsons will do the same.
But Meyer has dealt with similar situations even before COVID-19, and said he fully grasps the decision from a player’s perspective.
“I certainly understand it, I went through it with Nick Bosa –– arguably the best player in America. I think he was the best player,” Meyer said. “He wasn’t only that though, he was a leader, he was a captain.”
Still, understanding the move doesn’t make it less deflating for the team, Meyer said.
“I had a hard time pulling myself up out of the chair when your best player does that, but do I understand? Sure I understand,” Meyer said. “You have an opportunity at generational money. Ultimately what’s your job? To take care of your family.”
The Big Ten took a couple big steps forward with the release of the season schedule and the announcement of conference-wide standardized medical protocols Wednesday, but Meyer said things aren’t in the clear just yet.
“It’s not over,” Meyer said. “The flexibility of the schedule, you’re gonna see things happen in the next few weeks.”