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Moore: Arizona State should call Urban Meyer after blowout loss to Utah

Arizona Republic 9/25/2022 Greg Moore, Arizona Republic

Arizona State’s 34-13 loss to Utah at Sun Devil Stadium on Saturday makes an obvious and hugely controversial point: Ray Anderson needs to call Urban Meyer.

ASU is in search of a new leader after the abrupt departure of Herm Edwards, and there’s pressure on Anderson to make a bold impression with the hire as major programs realign into lucrative super-conferences.   

Talking to Meyer is nothing if not bold.

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Urban Meyer’s career has been bookended by success and scandal, so much of each that it’s hard to imagine a more polarizing candidate. He’s either a misunderstood winner or all that’s wrong with big-time sports. And if I’m Arizona State’s athletic director, I make the call either way.

Meyer put Utah on the map in the early 2000’s before going on to win three national championships with Florida and Ohio State. Before Meyer, Utah was a middle-of-the-pack program in the Mountain West, just as likely to finish with a losing record as to make a Las Vegas Bowl, Freedom Bowl or Copper Bowl.    

FOX Sports college football analyst Urban Meyer walks along the sideline before a game between Michigan and Maryland at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor on Saturday, Sept. 24, 2022. © Junfu Han, Junfu Han / USA TODAY NETWORK FOX Sports college football analyst Urban Meyer walks along the sideline before a game between Michigan and Maryland at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor on Saturday, Sept. 24, 2022.

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Meyer showed up in time for the 2003 season and went 22-2. Utah had gone 26-20 in the four years that preceded him.

In 2004, Meyer led Utah to a 12-0 record, a win in the Fiesta Bowl and a No. 4 finish. It remains one of the best seasons in the history of a program that goes back to 1905.

Meyer’s two-year run, in many ways, set the stage for the success that Utah enjoys today. His defensive coordinator and successor was Kyle Whittingham, who has led Utah to a No. 2 finish and appearances in the Rose and Sugar Bowls over the past 19 seasons.  

After Utah, Meyer went to Florida, where he led the Gators to two national championships in six seasons.

From there, he won another national championship at Ohio State, plus wins in the Orange, Sugar, Fiesta and Cotton Bowls.

If this were all there was to the Urban Meyer story, his hire would be a no-brainer, assuming ASU could even afford him.

But at Florida, he presided over a program that saw more than two dozen players arrested on a variety of charges, according to a count complied by the Orlando Sentinel.

At Ohio State, Meyer was suspended for failing to properly supervise an assistant coach who was abusive toward his ex-wife.

Then, at a brief stop in the NFL, 13 games with the Jaguars in 2021, Meyer was fired with a 2-11 record. Players said he had been verbally abusive and that he skipped a team flight to go clubbing with a woman who wasn’t his wife.

And if I’m Ray Anderson, I call him to set up a meeting.

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I’d ask about each scandal in detail. What happened? When did it happen? And most importantly, what did he learn?

Was there anything he could have done to help Aaron Hernandez, a player who would later go on to be convicted of murder before killing himself in a prison cell? Hernandez was questioned in a shooting and accused of punching a nightclub bouncer during his time in Gainesville. In hindsight, did Meyer do enough to help?

It could be that Meyer extended himself to help a troubled young man and set him up for a life-changing opportunity in the NFL. It could be that Meyer’s influence was calming and steadying before the inevitable.

Anderson should ask and find out.

What about the domestic abuse charges against former assistant Zach Smith? Meyer said at the time that he tried to get his former protégé treatment for anger and drug issues, and he ultimately fired Smith. Sounds like a good mentor, to me. But does Meyer stand by that? Was it enough? What else could he have done with the benefit of hindsight?

Given all the issues, it would be a high bar to clear before recommending Meyer for the ASU job, but he’s been vetted and cleared of enough wrongdoing to qualify for and secure other high-profile jobs.

After Florida, he was hired by Ohio State. After Ohio State, he was hired by Jacksonville. And he currently works as an analyst for Fox Sports.

But the thumping that Utah put on ASU on Saturday, shows the need for strong leadership with the Sun Devils.

At the very least, Anderson could pick Meyer’s brain enough to collect some ideas for how to run a successful program.

But it could be that being bold enough to give Meyer a fresh opportunity will bring ASU the level of success it so badly desires. 

Anderson should call Meyer and figure it out.

I would.  

Reaction: ASU football fans have very different takes on Urban Meyer as potential Sun Devils coach

Reach Moore at gmoore@azcentral.com or 602-444-2236. Follow him on Instagram and Twitter @SayingMoore.

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This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: Moore: Arizona State should call Urban Meyer after blowout loss to Utah

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