Little surprises me any more but I was stunned tonight to learn that Urban Meyer would resign as the head coach at Florida after the Sugar Bowl.
It was widely known in the football community that this season was a very stressful one for Meyer, who is only 45. The pressure of defending the national championship, being No. 1 for the entire season, and various off the field problems eventually took their toll on Meyer.
There was the Tim Tebow concussion and the constant second-guessing that came with his decision to let Tebow play against LSU.
Then came the Brandon Spikes eye-gouging incident against Georgia. Meyer originally suspended Spikes for only one half and was hit with a storm of national media criticism. Spikes later “asked” that his suspension extended to a full game and even that decision was met with skepticism.
He was fined $30,000 by the SEC office for commenting on officiating.
And finally there was the worst incident of all when defensive end Carlos Dunlap was arrested on an alcohol related incident on the Monday before the SEC championship game. Meyer never said this publicly but it was the worst kind of betrayal by a player on the eve of the biggest game of the year. Florida would not have beaten Alabama even if Dunlap had played. But the Gators got embarrassed and seemed shell shocked.
Put it all together and you can understand what may have led Meyer to this decision. There are health issues involved here but none of us knew it was this serious. I spoke to several people close to the Florida program Saturday night and they were just stunned.
I visited with Meyer before the SEC championship game on Dec. 5 and thought he looked thin. In the post-game press conference after the loss to Alabama, he looked drained. He was admitted to the hospital for what the school said was dehydration. Several people told me they heard it was more serious.
Regardless of the school you support, this is sad. The man is a helluva football coach.
And now the dominoes start to fall. Who does Florida hire? Jeremy Foley has to pick up the phone and call Bob Stoops of Oklahoma and make him say no. And if Stoops says no, where does Florida go next? Do you call Dan Mullen, who just left Florida to take over at Mississippi State? There is no question that Florida’s offense lost something when Mullen left Gainesville.
All I know is that this is one of those big moments in the history of the SEC which can change the power structure of the league. I remember the day in January of 2002 when Steve Spurrier announced he was leaving Florida after 12 seasons. We were all stunned. This feels a lot like that.