By MIKE MATHISON
Special to Tribune Chronicle
WINTERSVILLE - Ohio State football coach Urban Meyer said his employment with Lou Holtz began in 1996.
He also said it hasn't stopped.
"When coach Holtz asks me to do something, I don't say no," Meyer said Monday night as he was the featured speaker at the 15th-annual Lou Holtz/Upper Ohio Valley Hall of Fame induction banquet at St. Florian Hall.
Meyer began his coaching career in 1986 as a grad assistant for the Buckeyes.
He spent two years at Illinois State, six at Colorado State before Holtz hired him as a wide receivers coach at Notre Dame.
Meyer was the head coach at Bowling Green (16-6, 2001-02), Utah (22-2, 2003-04) and Florida (64-15, 2005-10, two national championships) before taking over the Buckeyes a year ago.
"My experience in Ashtabula, Ohio, on my high school team, if you watch the way we practice, the way we handle our players, the way we love our players, the way we push our players, it's the same thing I learned in 1981-82 at Ashtabula St. John High School with the great coaching I had," Meyer said.
"It was also the Woody Hayes era, the way he treated his players, the way a premium was placed on education, how he loved his players, how he pushed them very hard to be excellent, not only in football, but off the field as well."
Only two coaches have had more victories in their first 10 years as a head coach than Meyer's 104: George Woodruff (124 between 1892-1901 at Pennsylvania) and Bob Stoops (109 between 1999-2008).
Those records include at least five years as a Division I coach.
Meyer has won 13 games three times during his career, including back-to-back seasons in 2008 and 2009 to become the first Bowl Championship Series coach to ever accomplish that feat.
His teams are 21-3 in rivalry games - Bowling Green was 1-1 against Toledo, Utah was 4-0 against Utah State and BYU, Florida was 16-2 against Florida State, Tennessee and Georgia and Ohio State is 1-0 against Michigan.
His teams are also 68-18 in conference play with four conference championships (two apiece at Utah and Florida). Florida went 2-1 in SEC title games, and overall, Meyer-coached teams are 7-1 in bowl games, including a 4-0 record in BCS bowl games.
The Buckeyes became the sixth team in school history to go undefeated last year, 12-0, while on probation.
"It was arguably the most refreshing year in college football that I've had," he said. "I got into coaching to be around great leaders and great people."
While the possibility of playing a bowl game was there, the NCAA hit the Buckeyes with no bowl game due to the NCAA infractions, which had nothing to do with the any players on Meyer's team.
"Here are the top two reasons why those guys didn't leave. "No. 1, their genuine, not fake, great love for Ohio State University. They really love Ohio State. No. 2, and I get chills even thinking about it to this day, their genuine love and respect for each other. That doesn't happen every day in college football. I got to coach that team.
"If we can somehow develop a similar-type leadership, I don't know that we can match the leadership we had, but if we can develop some leadership, you'll see Ohio State doing some damage in November and compete for championships, which is why you come to Ohio State."