As expected, Urban Meyer announced Sunday afternoon that he has changed his mind and will not resign as Florida’s head coach after Friday’s Sugar Bowl game with Cincinnati.
Meyer will take an “indefinite leave of absence” from his duties as head coach and offensive coordinator Steve Addazio will serve as interim head coach. Meyer will not put a timetable on his return as head coach but he did indicate that believed he would be the head coach when the 2010 season rolls around.
Based on conversations I’ve had today with people close to the situation, Meyer told his family on Christmas night that he was going to resign as coach. The school put out a press release on Saturday that Meyer would be stepping down for the sake of his health. But things really changed in the next 24 hours.
The Gators practiced in Gainesville this morning before getting on the plane to go to New Orleans. Meyer met with athletics director Jeremy Foley after practice and discussed the possibility of him taking a leave of absence instead of resigning.
The fact is that Meyer’s wife, Shelley, Foley, and president Bernie Machen had put the idea of a leave of absence on the table a while back. Meyer told them he didn’t think he could do that and that just walking away was the best thing for everybody involved.
Meyer said he had a change of heart after Sunday morning’s practice. He decided to reconsider the leave of absence idea and to see if he could make it work.
Whether or not he can change his approach to coaching and come back remains to be seen. If he backs off his intense approach to the job, does he lose the edge that made him so successful? That is the challenge for Meyer in the weeks and months to come.
This is a good result for Meyer, but why would Florida do this? First of all, this buys Florida some time and holds this recruiting class together–at least for now. According to various reports, word has already been given to the players committed to Florida that Meyer will eventually come back as head coach. But it is a good six weeks between now and national signing day and you can bet that opposing coaches will hammer Florida about the uncertainty surrounding the program. There will be some defections.
There is another element of risk on Foley’s part. If Meyer does not come back for the 2010 season, this decision could set the Florida program back for a couple of years. But if Meyer comes back fit and rested, Foley has managed to retain one of the very best coaches in the game. If I’m Foley I believe it is a risk worth taking.
By the way. How would you like to be the University of Cincinnati football team? Wonder if they will get any coverage this week?