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.

Please follow me on Twitter:

www.twitter.com/MrCFB

259 comments Add your comment

Chipper Jones would've graduated magna cum laude had he chosen to go to Florida

June 2nd, 2010
1:04 pm

Let it be known that I’ve made love to more women than Saban and Meyer have won national championships combined! Or, at least, I’ve made love to women more times than they’ve won national championships.

djgator

June 2nd, 2010
1:05 pm

Gators will crush bama!!!!!! That is all.

Bama fan

June 2nd, 2010
1:11 pm

Spasms? That’s all? Sucks for the dawg fans.

Bama fan

June 2nd, 2010
1:12 pm

djgator,

It will be a great game as will the rematch. Leave it at that.

U guys is stoopid!

June 2nd, 2010
1:25 pm

“UF goes 10-2, at worst, and gets a rematch in Atlanta December 4th!”

The gators schedule is waaaaaaaaaaaaaaay too easy this year. Do you gals even play a ranked team this year?

BAMA alum

June 2nd, 2010
1:30 pm

It’s going to be a fun season. Oh how I love the SEC.

Gator Up

June 2nd, 2010
1:31 pm

In 2 years Florida Quarterback John Brantley will Be the #1 pick in the Nfl……..mark my words all U Florida Naysayers………………………………..Fla will be a top 10 team this year and next…Boo..Hoo

archangeladidas

June 2nd, 2010
1:32 pm

One of the worst things in the “life of sports” is these sorry a$$ garbagedawgs talking sh!t. You losers will lose to the FLORIDA GATORS once again just like you always do. After the fact you will be cring about moving the game out of Florida. Damn losers!

Alabama Jack

June 2nd, 2010
1:36 pm

You have to remember that the UGA bulldog is the result of generations of uncontrolled inbreeding, and so is their mascot.

Bama Slammer

June 2nd, 2010
1:37 pm

Bama running back Mark Ingram will have an off year because he will be upset that his Daddy wasn’t paroled……………..

djgator

June 2nd, 2010
1:37 pm

Sorry Bama Fan sometimes I can’t help myself. Go Gators!!!!!! UGA Sucks!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Bama Slammer

June 2nd, 2010
1:41 pm

Hey Bama fan…..yeah it will be a good game…especially when Florida’s new top recruit out of Califorinia runs wild all over your Quarterback…….

DP

June 2nd, 2010
1:44 pm

G8R Grad, when comparing road schedules you must have missed Alabama’s road game against LSU. I’d rate that one tougher than at FSU.

Coach Urbane Cryer

June 2nd, 2010
1:54 pm

Hey Thug-dawgs…

Don’t forget to pack those cute little black pants and helmets…

See at the beat-down by the St. Johns.

SOOHSO

June 2nd, 2010
1:54 pm

ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

If that was my kid we'd be going at it right now

June 2nd, 2010
2:01 pm

I’ve never met him personally either but he sure seems like a jerk to me.

U guys is stoopid!

June 2nd, 2010
2:04 pm

“especially when Florida’s new top recruit out of Califorinia runs wild all over your Quarterback”

Bama has a bigger and fast defense. Just ask Urban and Timmy.

I wish Auburn was playing Florida

June 2nd, 2010
2:05 pm

I really do. Auburn loves to run all over Florida and Urban Meyer.

TommyP

June 2nd, 2010
2:05 pm

Tony Barnhart: Answer this, please. (hold on…you hardly ever answer anyone’s questions on here)

If Tim Tebow was one of the greatest college football players of all time (some say he is) and Charlie Strong was a great, great defensive coordinator, how is Florida this clear-cut favorite in the East? You can’t have it both ways. If they are the clear-cut favorite, it seems Tebow was vastly overrated as well as Strong.

If Tebow and Strong were that great, Florida will not be at the level that they were. I happen to feel this is the situation.

I wish Auburn was playing Florida

June 2nd, 2010
2:06 pm

“Gators will crush bama!!!!!! That is all.”

Yeah, that didn’t work out well for the crybabies in Florida last year……..

I wish Auburn was playing Florida

June 2nd, 2010
2:08 pm

TommyP

The fact that the SEC East is very weak this year proves that Florida will win. I don’t see UGA, SC or TN putting up much of a fight.

The SEC West has Bama, LSU, AU and Arkansas all competing and all will have very good teams. Florida will struggle hard against tough teams…..

Do they play any this year?

I wish Auburn was playing Florida

June 2nd, 2010
2:10 pm

Ok, Florida will play LSU and Bama back to back. There is no way Florida will come out of there with two wins.

All in all, Florida has an easy schedule.

The General Feeling

June 2nd, 2010
2:21 pm

Gen Neyland, you saw ET leave for home but you didn’t see him make it home. Same for Urban Meyer. He told us he was retiring but we never saw him retire. Or, did we?

When people make a diffciult decision, like to retire, they have already checked-out emotionally and mentally. Just see Billy Donovan if you need an example. Meyer will be a shell of his once self. But they’ll still beat UGa.

Reptiles Rule

June 2nd, 2010
2:23 pm

TO: “I wish Auburn was playing Florida”…You probably just wish you were Auburn. Period. At least then you could boast of a winning record vs Meyer. But alas, you’re just a mangy mutt. And BTW, way to fight your own battles!! But you can’t hide forever behind that skirt!! See you in Oct….

Me

June 2nd, 2010
2:25 pm

The truth…you exemplify bulldawg class.

Ashamed Gator

June 2nd, 2010
2:25 pm

Wow, being a Gator fan has never made me more sad. You people have no idea what being humble means do you? Go Gators, but our fans are completely classless.

kgator79

June 2nd, 2010
2:28 pm

I made out with Tim Tebow too! You’re right, BEST DAY EVER!

kgator79

June 2nd, 2010
2:32 pm

TommyP….

Because Florida is still Florida under Meyer and talent wise there isnt anybody in the SEC East who compares to Florida. Yes Florida lost Tebow and replace him with Brantley can you sit there and say that there is an SEC East team that clearly has a better QB than Florida? All losing Tebow and Strong means is that its more questionable to win the national title or contend for it and its not like anyone is picking them to win the SEC. But saying they are the clear favorite to win the division is not something outragous.

Tim Tebow

June 2nd, 2010
2:34 pm

UF will no doubt be down this year without me running all the 4-5 yard touchdown plays. They will not make the SEC title game or even be 2 or 3 in their division. The Broncos, however, will win the Super Bowl and you will see more tears from me.

GATA!

June 2nd, 2010
2:36 pm

(G)ators in (AT)lanta (A)gain! GATA!

Reptiles Rule

June 2nd, 2010
2:38 pm

Stupid imitation? That’s the best you got??

I wish Auburn was playing Florida

June 2nd, 2010
2:43 pm

“And BTW, way to fight your own battles!!”

Not sure what that even means, ma’am.

Reptiles Rule

June 2nd, 2010
2:46 pm

And yes, “Cox” in your case is definitely plural.

Reptiles Rule 1

June 2nd, 2010
2:46 pm

Reptiles Rule

June 2nd, 2010
2:48 pm

“Not sure what that even means, Ma’am” Of course you don’t.

Reptiles Rule

June 2nd, 2010
2:49 pm

And BTW, I don’t hate you!

PTC DAWG

June 2nd, 2010
2:51 pm

IF someone thinks ONE road game in the SEC is the Ultimate Test for a Coach..that person is on crack. Meyer has proven to be a big time winner…and one game, whichever way it goes, won’t change that.

I wish Auburn was playing Florida

June 2nd, 2010
2:51 pm

““Not sure what that even means, Ma’am” Of course you don’t.”

Are you retarded?

The reason I ask is because an intelligent person would elaborate their comment when another person doesn’t know why the other person wrote what she did.

Now, you wrote “And BTW, way to fight your own battles!!”

What do you mean by “way to fight your own battles?”

I wish Auburn was playing Florida

June 2nd, 2010
2:52 pm

“Meyer has proven to be a big time winner”

Of course he has, he just can’t seem to go undefeated at UF.

Reptiles Rule

June 2nd, 2010
2:55 pm

Have someone who has actually been in a battle explain that to you one day. I dont have the time nor the coloring book to show you.

help, I live in Ga

June 2nd, 2010
2:56 pm

Urban is a good coach who has had some great players. Take Tebow out of the mix and he’s good–not great. Put Tebow in the mix and I still think he’s not great. I think he failed to coach Tebow up when he needed to. He has tons of talent around him for a few more years. If he doesn’t contend for titles then he’s not doing his job. We will see if that’s the case.

Reptiles Rule

June 2nd, 2010
2:57 pm

And isn’t there an age restriction of 13 to be commenting on these blogs anyway?? Guess schools out and you must be bored. Run along now…your mama’s calling. And your daddy’s right here.

I wish Auburn was playing Florida

June 2nd, 2010
3:00 pm

“Have someone who has actually been in a battle explain that to you one day.”

In other words, you’re a dumb a$$ who can’t explain their own rhetoric.

“And isn’t there an age restriction of 13 to be commenting on these blogs anyway??’

No, but there should be because it would restrict special ed kids such as yourself from coming on these blogs.

“Run along now…your mama’s calling. And your daddy’s right here.”

Again, retarded comeback from a retard.

Reptiles Rule

June 2nd, 2010
3:00 pm

My daddy used to touch me.

I wish Auburn was playing Florida

June 2nd, 2010
3:02 pm

“I dont have the time nor the coloring book to show you.”

Well, no kidding. You already colored and urinated all over your coloring books. Duh!

I wish Auburn was playing Florida

June 2nd, 2010
3:02 pm

“My daddy used to touch me.”

Well, you need to report to child services.

Reptiles Rule

June 2nd, 2010
3:05 pm

Oh my face is so red right now!!! Stop imitating me or I’m gonna cry. Its not fair he took my name.

I wish Auburn was playing Florida

June 2nd, 2010
3:06 pm

“Oh my face is so red right now!!! Stop imitating me or I’m gonna cry. Its not fair he took my name.”

Don’t point the finger at me, ma’am.

Reptiles Rule

June 2nd, 2010
3:06 pm

I’m telling my mom on you. She’ll be down here to give me a snack anytime now, and she is gonna let you have it.

kgator79

June 2nd, 2010
3:07 pm

Who is making fun of my baby. You better stop that or I’m gonna get the belt out. I came down here to give him a snack and he is in tears now.