Meyer’s ultimate test will come Oct. 2 at Alabama

 Destin—Before Tuesday, the last time I spoke to Urban Meyer in person was on the Friday before the SEC championship game in December. Tim Brando and I had a chance to visit with the Florida head coach on the floor of the Georgia Dome prior to No. 1 Florida meeting No. 2 Alabama for a spot in the BCS title game. I remember that he looked tired and way too thin.

As we walked away I remember saying to Brando: “He does not look good.”

A lot has happened to Urban Meyer since that Friday in Atlanta and yesterday, when he stood before a podium and actually laughed while he addressed the media at the SEC Spring Meetings began. Some of us who cover Florida wondered if we would ever see him laugh again. He took some good-natured ribbing from the press and was able to give it back with a smile. We sure didn’t think we’d see that again.

Here is the short version of Meyer’s unusual journey: In 2009 the strain of trying to repeat as national champions and stay No. 1 took their toll on Meyer, who won’t turn 46 years old until July 10. He had been secretly battling chest pains with no known cause. On Dec. 26, 2009 Meyer shocked the college football world by announcing that he was going to retire for health reasons. Then he shocked it again a day later in a bizarre press conference in New Orleans by saying that he was going to simply take a leave of absence.

The flip-flop opened Meyer up to waves of criticism and speculation. A lot of it was deserved. Some of it was not. It came on top of a season that saw him fined $30,000 by the SEC office for complaining about officiating. It came on top of a poorly-made decision to suspend linebacker Brandon Spikes for only a half-game for sticking his hand in the facemask of a Georgia running back. It came on top of the suspension of defensive end Carlos Dunlap for being arrested on the Monday before the SEC championship game. It ultimately came on top of a total meltdown against Alabama at the Georgia Dome. Alabama was the better team. Florida looked dazed and confused and tired. So did its head coach.

“Last year we kind of brought some of that stuff on ourselves. It was a crazy year,” Meyer said. “Every time you turned on the TV it was ‘Gators This” and “Gators This.”

Meyer’s diagnosis was uncertain as was his future as Florida’s football coach. And in the absence of good information, which Meyer did not provide, speculation filled the void. That is the reality of the 24-hour news cycle.

 Was he in or was he out? Was he telling the truth about any of this? Was he really going to return as coach and if he did, could he take a bunch of time off and keep the edge that enabled him to win two national championships in three years (2006, 2008)? Could Urban Meyer even BE Urban Meyer is he wasn’t obsessive about the details of his football program?

On Tuesday Urban Meyer looked like a man who had been shaken up over the past year and in the process had learned an important life lesson. He hopes to take that lesson, move forward and be just as good at his job as before.

“I have to be smarter in the future and I’m going to be,” said Meyer, set to begin his sixth season as Florida’s head coach. “ (People said) Just take care of yourself and I didn’t do that. The last year and a half was really a bizarre deal.”

The good news, Meyer said Tuesday, is that he finally got a diagnosis for his ailment: esophageal spasms. They create chest pains, which Meyer said he had been having for years, and can be treated with medication. Meyer said the medication works and that he has not an an episode since January.

Meyer said that not knowing the cause of his ailment only added to the stress of his job.

“When they finally say ‘this is it. Take this,’ then you feel a lot better about things,” he said. “Okay, good. Let’s go.”

Losing to Alabama in the SEC championship game cost Florida a shot at another BCS national title. But it may ultimately serve as the motivational spring board for the Gators to begin life after Tim Tebow.

“I hope that it will,” said Meyer. “I’ve had some discussions with our coaches about it. Some people overlook that but when you’re talking about a group of 18-to-20 year olds you need to talk about what the rallying cry will be.

“Last year it was hard to come up with one. This year it will be a little easier.”

After losing Tebow, one of the most decorated players in college football history, and five drafted players from the Florida defense, the Gators are supposed to take a step back in 2010. Those expectations—or the lack of them—may also be a good thing, said Meyer.

“I don’t want to say that our guys have a chip on their shoulder but we expect to compete for Atlanta (the SEC championship game) every year,” he said. “They’ve heard what people have said. I’m not doing all the talking. I’ve been doing some listening to our players. I like the look in their eye. We’ve still got some really, really good players.”

Finally, Meyer said that he is learning to trust the people who work for him and not try to micromanage every detail of the football program. That, if he can actually pull it off, represents a big change for Meyer, who wants to micromanage everything.

“I have a better appreciation for the guys around me,” said Meyer. “You can just bolt for five days. I’ve never done that in my life. But you know what? The stadium is still standing. Guys are working out and getting faster. And guys are graduating.”

So will Urban Meyer’s new outlook on life and coaching last? Or, will he return to his old habits under the weekly pressure of game preparation this fall? Coaching at the top of his profession and be excessively demanding and unforgiving.

Florida goes to Alabama on Oct. 2. If the two teams are undefeated and ranked in the top five, That week Meyer’s new life will be put to the ultimate test.

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259 comments Add your comment

Kid Ray

June 2nd, 2010
8:22 am

first, go Rutgers

naganole

June 2nd, 2010
8:25 am

UF has no chance…

George G.

June 2nd, 2010
8:32 am

Bama loses two in September and Florida goes undefeated in the regular season.

Gator fan

June 2nd, 2010
8:40 am

We have the tradition of Wake Forest but the arrogance of Notre Dame.

Cow bells

June 2nd, 2010
8:42 am

Tim Tebow will cry from Denver.

Mikey in the SAV

June 2nd, 2010
8:43 am

I am one of the folks that do not like Urb personally, but I am glad he is taking care of his health. His family is more important. Whether or not he goes back to his “old” self remains to be seen, but I suspect he will.
It’s very hard to change work habits.I have seen his type in business environments for many years and some have attempted to change and very very few succeed at it.
Good luck to him except when we meet in Jax.

you're right

June 2nd, 2010
8:43 am

you’re right naganole. florida has no chance of losing to FSU this season.

FACTS

June 2nd, 2010
8:44 am

What’s the over/under before Patrick shows up with his weak lies and statistics? I’ll say 2 post before the end of the first page.

SEC Fan

June 2nd, 2010
8:55 am

Take a Zantac Urban and save all the dramatics to Fred Sanford, Willis Reed and “soccer player”. Find another way to take the attention off your team when they lay an egg against Alabama.

kgator79

June 2nd, 2010
8:58 am

wow! did not know Wake Forest had 3 National championships and 3 heisman winners. Guess if UF has the tradition of Wake Forest with that, what does that say about UGA with their 1 title?

Can You Dig It

June 2nd, 2010
8:58 am

Meyer is known throughout the college coaching ranks as an egomaniac. He takes all the credit and gives none to his assistant coaches. This coming season will be hard for him to handle. Tebow is gone and now he has nobody to single handidly pull the Gators from behind against good teams in close games. The Gators will lose at least three games this year…and could lose four…its gonna happen…believe me. Bama will kick thier ass…as will LSU…Georgia and either S. Carolina or Fla. State. Meyer will implode sometime during the season and start pointing fingers at everyone except himself just like he always has when things got tough. Tebow was a one of a kind athlete..the kind that comes along every 15-20 years…he’s gone and Florida is gonna suffer because of it. …Also some of the athletes they have signed the past two years have major character issues (not to meantion grade troubles…why can some of thier signees get in Fla. but can’t get in other schools because of their grades?) and that will ultimately bring the Gators down. Its gonna be fun watching the Gators go down in flames….and I can’t wait….Can You Dig It.

SimpleDawg

June 2nd, 2010
8:59 am

The Gators will be good again, but Bama will be better than the Gators…again.

Hopefully, the Dawgs will be better also…….and beat the Gators this year.

We need to develop some more depth and talent in the Uga line.

It’s going to be an interesting season.

kgator79

June 2nd, 2010
9:00 am

expecting this article gets to about 5 to 6 pages long. Gator articles always seem to bring out the conversation in fans.

Steve Addazio

June 2nd, 2010
9:02 am

Looks like you’ll be seeing a LOT of me at future quarterback club and Gator Club speaking engagements Gator fans.

5IML

June 2nd, 2010
9:06 am

The New Meyer will revert to the Old Meyer which is the Real Meyer. Hopefully, the medication will continue to work (no sarcasm, I really mean this).

Typical Gator Fan

June 2nd, 2010
9:06 am

Finally! An article I can comment on. Wait, that’s not right. Finally, an article I can comment on and be on topic.

Reptiles Rule

June 2nd, 2010
9:06 am

Urban probably thinks he has found a new lease on life. A key for him will be to continue to strive for that balance in his life that has been missing. As far as going back to the bad old habits of not taking care of himself, I think his wife and kids and Jeremy Foley are gonna be keeping a close eye on that. This season is not going to bring the unreal burden of expectations or hopefully the craziness that last season did. Oct 2 at favored Bama will be important, but not like the rematch in Atlanta.

AlwaysAVol

June 2nd, 2010
9:07 am

Two names that should be banned for a year in college football columns, Teboe and Kiffin. I look for Alabama to pull off another undefeated year and for Florida to go into Atlanta with one or two losses. Both are talented teams, but I think Coach Saban will keep Alabama more focused. I think UGA will be surprisingly good this year, and I think my Vols have some rebuilding to do.

Jax Dawg

June 2nd, 2010
9:09 am

Reptile, you mean the daughter that “had her Daddy back” for one week? These type of coaches can’t tone it down, it’s what drives them to be successful.

FACTS

June 2nd, 2010
9:10 am

Can you dig it—

You’re an idiot…

Do you enjoy just making up crap to make yourself feel better about Meyer and Florida being better than your team?

Get a life. It’s so sad someone would just make up stuff to try and demean people they have never even met in their lives and who they are pathetically jealous of.

I feel sorry for you. Poor guy.

ugahater

June 2nd, 2010
9:11 am

alabama will not repeat, even as West Division champs. Auburn will win the West, Florida will win the East. Did I mention that I hate uga.

Typical Georgia Fan

June 2nd, 2010
9:16 am

Meyer will collapse on the sideline because he is a jerk and I don’t personally like him though I have never personally met him. Maybe then we’ll have a chance in Jax unless they decide to bring back the Zooker. Oh yeah, and did I happen to mention that he’s a jerk?? Same goes for Saban or any other coach out there that wins against us. But we sure like Spurrier a whole lot more now. Turned out after being a jerk for 12 years he wasn’t so bad after all. I even laugh at some of his jokes now. Just hope he doesn’t turn into a jerk again this year.

Typical Gator Fan writing a comment as Typical Bulldog Fan

June 2nd, 2010
9:17 am

Soooo 2000 and late.

Alphare

June 2nd, 2010
9:22 am

UGA has to find a systematic way to defeat Florida, like Saban is doing with BAMA. Does Saban call it “system”?

In the West, it has been Auburn, LSU and BAMA in the last 10 years with 3 NC titles.

But in the East, it has been mostly Florida with 3 NC titles.

Just make it interesting, dawgs!

Reptiles Rule

June 2nd, 2010
9:22 am

Jax Dawg, not that you really care but that is one of the things Urban is really striving to change in his life by spending more time with his family. Went on a rare family vacation to Europe and is spending more time at daughters volleyball games etc. He needs to continue that……

kgator79

June 2nd, 2010
9:23 am

Can You Dig It….

Meyer will start pointing fingers at everyone else like he always does when things dont go right? What a moron. Give one example of him EVER doing that. As for the rest of your idiotic post. Please name the list of current players who have “character issues” or were accepted at UF that could not get into any other university. UF ranks 2nd in the SEC only behind Vanderbilt in academic standards, so I’d really like to know where you pulled that info out from.

BAMA1

June 2nd, 2010
9:26 am

Uga hater: you are in for a BIG surprise!

Can You Dig It

June 2nd, 2010
9:27 am

kgator79, I think blaming Billy Gonzales for his players attending a party thrown by agents the Monday before the SECCG is finger pointing, don’t you?

Volunteer Nation

June 2nd, 2010
9:29 am

Look for Double D & the Vols to a make serious run at the East title this year as FLA & UGA look to have down years replacing QBs and most of defense.

Tide4u2c

June 2nd, 2010
9:29 am

I think it is good for the SEC to have a coach like Urban Meyer eventhough I don’t like how he likes to run up the score on teams but he has proven to be a winner and so it is good for the SEC.I like tough competition and I think it makes the games more interesting.I can’t wait to see the Florida and Alabama game this season.It remains to be seen if he can correct what plagued him after being knocked off that Tim Tebow pedestal and out of the number 1 spot.

Atlanta Gator

June 2nd, 2010
9:29 am

Well, the diagnosis is in, and the prescription has been delivered. No more esophageal spasms, no more tightness in the chest. Now, Meyer can focus on football again. Number one-ranked 2010 recruiting class in the country? Check. Stud quarterback who is a better pure passer than the Heisman-winning guy who just graduated? Check. Solid running backs? Check. Talented young defense? Check. Reliable deep-threat wide receivers? Question mark, but talent should step up.

All in all, I feel pretty good about the 2010 . . . I predict a 10-2 regular season and a very competitive SEC championship game. The predictions of the early demise of the Gators football program are premature, overstated, and largely wishful thinking by opposing fans.

Jax Dawg

June 2nd, 2010
9:30 am

Reptile, I have no love for Urban that is true. Just don’t pee on my head and tell me it’s raining though. He’s wired to coach football at a fast pace. He can’t go half speed. He’ll spend time with family and friends after he retires. The only coaches in the SEC that truly take time off from the grind is Richt and Spurrier.

Atlanta Gator

June 2nd, 2010
9:33 am

As for spending more time with his daughters, I suspect Urban looks forward to seeing more of his daughter at Georgia Tech the first weekend in December.

= )

Gen Neyland

June 2nd, 2010
9:33 am

Healthwise, I wish Meyer well. I truly do. Other than that, I’d like to see his Gators finish 2nd or worse in the East or 4th or worse overall in the SEC. Will I get my wish..? No, probably not but the games haven’t been played either. The way it’s projected, Tennessee will be on the outside looking in but stranger things have happened. For instance, E.T. went home. Here’s to hoping UT can upset at least one applecart…

Reptiles Rule

June 2nd, 2010
9:34 am

As far as I know, all the UF signees have been academically cleared. I believe Meyer has only had 1 non qualifier during his time at UF. Some schools (?) have twice that many (or more) in just one year.

FACTS

June 2nd, 2010
9:35 am

Can you dig it-

When exactly did Meyer blame Gonzalez for that? Let me guess you read it on the internet so it must be true. If not show us ONE link to an ACTUAL quote where Meyer did what you’re saying he did.

Like I said get a life.

kgator79

June 2nd, 2010
9:36 am

Tony:

Coach Meyer’s real diagnosis is “Sabanitis”. Not too serious, but unfortunately it will flare up again this October 2. Go Gator!

Duh

June 2nd, 2010
9:37 am

Mr. Safe, You have such insight. Alabama #1 in the West and Florida #1 in the East. Floridas’ big test at Alabama. I guess I don’t need to write this one down.

Reality

June 2nd, 2010
9:40 am

Reptiles Rule

June 2nd, 2010
9:34 am
As far as I know, all the UF signees have been academically cleared. I believe Meyer has only had 1 non qualifier during his time at UF. Some schools (?) have twice that many (or more) in just one year.

They qualify and then are kicked off the team. Shall I list the ones that committed felonies while under Urban Meyer’s careful watch?

FACTS

June 2nd, 2010
9:41 am

Volunteer Nation-

The Vols make a run at the East because UF & UGA are replacing QB’s and most of the defense? I guess the FACT UT is replacing MORE of their defense than either UF or UGA and that UT’s QB will have never have taken one snap in SEC play seems to be lost on you huh?

UT doesn’t have anywhere close to the talent or experience UF does on Defense and it’s an even bigger gap on O. UT doesn’t have a single returning starter on the OL and only returns 2 guys that have any semblance of playing time on the OL. UT’s running backs have almost as much inexperience. Not to mention UT has an almost completely new coaching staff with a Head Coach who had a losing record in the WAC.

UT will be lucky to be 4th in the SEC East.

Talk about being ignorant to reality…

Volunteer Nation

June 2nd, 2010
9:41 am

Once again Satan is signing illegal recruiting classes (over the NCAA limit) and continuing to cheat the system in every way imaginable, but then again, what else is new down in Bama?

Can You Dig It

June 2nd, 2010
9:42 am

Hey Facts…I guess you take exception to my comments about Tebow..huh? …the truth hurts doesn’t it? Lot of people are still wondering how Florida got Lawerence Marsh in school….S.Carolina, Clemson, Georgia, Ga. Tech,Auburn all had to quit recruiting him because of his grades but he ends up getting into Florida….wonder how that happened?…you Florida fans need to quit looking at yourselves in the mirror, patting yourselves on the back and telling everyone how great you are……Bama passed you by last season as the best team in the SEC …and there are other teams poised to kick you to the curb right behind them….Do you really think anyone else in the conference gives a rats ass about Florida and Meyer after the pompous attitudes you Florida fans have had while Tebow was playing for the Gators these past few years?….yah right….Floridas going down ….and its gonna be fun to watch…Can You Dig It!

Can You Dig It

June 2nd, 2010
9:42 am

FACTS

June 2nd, 2010
9:35 am
Can you dig it-

When exactly did Meyer blame Gonzalez for that? Let me guess you read it on the internet so it must be true. If not show us ONE link to an ACTUAL quote where Meyer did what you’re saying he did.

Like I said get a life.

EVERYONE knows that Coach Meyer held Billy Gonzales responsible for keeping him in the dark about that party. Ask ANYONE close to the program, I have.

FACTS

June 2nd, 2010
9:44 am

Reality-

List for us how many players that Urban Meyer recruited committed felonies? Then list the number of felonies Mark Richt’s players have committed. Go ahead and also list the number of players arrested under Meyer since he’s been at UF and then list the number of UGA player arrest during the same time frame.

I don’t think you will like that reality…

BIRDDAWGONE

June 2nd, 2010
9:46 am

Gen Neyland, Thanks for supporting your team, I guess its OK for me, a “delusional” UGA fan to think we might win a game this year. Can you believe I actually think each year that we should play the scheadule.

Miles

June 2nd, 2010
9:47 am

FL @ Bama…the biggest game of the year in the SEC!

Can You Dig It

June 2nd, 2010
9:48 am

Gotta love all these people posting on this blog using my name….9:27 post is not mine….either is the second post at 9:42….come on people get original…Can You Dig It!

FACTS

June 2nd, 2010
9:49 am

Even IF Urban Meyer DOES hold Billy G. responsible that does NOT support your claim that he blames other coaches. There isn’t ONE quote publically where anything has EVER been mentioned in that circumstance.

You really are pretty dumb too for trying to make that point. Urban Meyer was Billy G’s BOSS. If he held something VERY important like that from him then Meyer has ABSOLUTELY every right to have an issue with him. If that’s the case he also did everything right by keeping that behind closed doors and not in the public.

It’s amazing you’re so jealous that you would try and make a point of something like that when there’s no point to be made.

kgator79

June 2nd, 2010
9:52 am

Can You Dig it…

Meyer blamed Gonzales for that huh? Ok, please show a link where Meyer was EVER quoted saying that. Basically your taking a story you probably read on some blog and throwing in what you read in that blog that Meyer said that, when in fact he not once ever said or was quoted saying anything like that. Nice try though.

Reptiles Rule

June 2nd, 2010
9:52 am

Reality…only if you’ll list UGA’s first. How many so far this year?? I think you could be in the pole position my man!