Google searches for "Urban Meyer USC" spiked the week of Dec. 2-8, 2018, the week Meyer announced his retirement from Ohio State. It spiked again a few weeks later as job security questions engulfed USC head coach Clay Helton and again several times over the offseason. Then it went ballistic last week when "Urban Meyer USC" registered the highest volume in its search history.
Let's say Meyer returns to college football in 2020 but not as USC head coach. Where could he land? Insiders have long speculated that if Meyer returns he won't return to a bottom-feeder, nor will he return to a mid-level program.
Could he land at one of these five programs?
Tennessee sucks at hiring coaches. And while Jeremy Pruitt deserves more time to prove he wasn't another wrong hire, his on-field results and off-the-field comments aren't inspiring optimism in Knoxville. Urban Meyer would inspire optimism.
For the long-suffering football stakeholders, Meyer would be worth a massive salary and Pruitt's $9-million buyout. The Vols wouldn't be immediate title contenders, but they have talent and support to make a quick turnaround.
Virginia Tech athletics director Whit Babcock hired Justin Fuente and extended Justin Fuente (twice). Would Babcock and the Hokies' leadership change course and pay Fuente a $15 million buyout as the fourth-year head coach continues stumbling?
Like every potential opening on this list, the buyout is a huge piece of the puzzle. If you're paying Fuente $15 million to not coach, can you afford to pay Urban Meyer at least $6-7 million per season and meet Meyer's other infrastructure, personnel and facility demands?
Virginia Tech is struggling in a weak conference and is miles away from playoff contention. Still, it's an attractive job at a stable athletic department with good leadership.
If Willie Taggart's buyout wasn't $17 million, Florida State would be a bigger player — and the heavy non-USC favorite — in the Urban Meyer sweepstakes.
Despite recent struggles, it's still a good program in a lush recruiting area that Meyer once dominated as Florida coach. Athletic department revenue is way up, fans are irate, and despite small improvements from Taggart and Co. recently, Meyer would be an attractive option.
Is South Carolina that good of a job? Debatable. It's not a bad job, but it's not an upper-tier job, which, presumably, would turn off Meyer if he's looking for immediate playoff contention.
Still, there's enough support in Columbia and nearby talent to build the Gamecocks into an eventual playoff contender. That's if they're willing to write a huge buyout check to Will Muschamp and an even bigger check to Meyer.
Hear me out. Take a deep breath. Hear. Me Out.
If Chris Ash receives his full, contractually obligated buyout, Rutgers will pay $7.5 million. If they're paying Ash $7.5 million to go away, will they have millions to lure a high-profile, established coach to one of the worst jobs in America? Or, if Rutgers is already throwing $7.5 million at Ash, might they double down?
Seriously consider it: Would Rutgers offer Meyer a fully guaranteed in the neighborhood of $8-10 million per season? And if so, would Meyer accept it? It's a crazy thought, though not an impossibly inconceivable thought in college football.