(Updated: 10:35 a.m.)
Urban Meyer just went from savior to Satan in Gainesville. Sorry, but did Florida fans really expect he was going to spend the rest of his life sitting in a climate-controlled studio and planting pansies?
Welcome to reality, Gator fans. You’re apparently the last one to figure out that Meyer is no less disingenuous than any other college coach, and he might be worse.
The former Florida coach reportedly has taken the head coaching job at Ohio State, confirming the worst kept secret in sports. Kudos to the blog sites ElevenWarriors and SportsByBrooks, which were way ahead of this story on Nov. 18.
(For what it’s worth: Meyer’s agent denied to cbssports.com’s Dennis Dodd that Meyer has accepted the job. But at this point, we’re probably talking semantics.)
Gator fans are upset. They believe Meyer betrayed them, and, well, maybe he did just a little. They believe he was dishonest, and, well, maybe he was just a little.
But Meyer won two BCS and two SEC championships. He went 65-15 in six seasons, resuscitating a program that had slipped under Ron Zook following Steve Spurrier’s departure. Urban Meyer owes Florida fans nothing.
My pal, George Diaz, of the Orlando Sentinel had an excellent column on this and he was right on point when he wrote: “In Columbus and other Ohio outposts, Urban is a saint. In Gainesville and neighboring communities, he is a sinner. Labels are funny. If Meyer had quit on Ohio State and was returning to coach at Florida, the sentiments would be flip-flopped.”
Now, about Meyer: My belief is that the health scare he suffered nearly two years ago was legit. It probably freaked out his family more than him but that’s the way most coaches are wired. He resigned one day and un-resigned the next, saying he would take only a leave of absence.
The 2010 season was a mess. Meyer couldn’t be as driven (psychotic?) as he wanted to be. The fact Florida slipped (4-4 in the SEC after going 32-9 in the previous nine years) didn’t help. He was worn down. He wasn’t having fun. He needed a break. So he quit. That’s what I believe.
One popular conspiracy theory: Meyer left because he realized he had made some recruiting mistakes and the Gators would be mediocre this season. That could’ve played a role. But if Florida had been better in 2010, maybe he wouldn’t have seemed as worn down, either.
Regardless, the “I just want to spend more time with my family” excuse never washed with anybody. That’s not to say Meyer doesn’t love his wife and children but that never seemed the No. 1 motivating factor in him quitting.
If he really felt that, he wouldn’t be back now. What, after 12 months, he got all of the hugs out of his system?
Meyer just needed a break. Now he returns to Ohio State, where he was a grad assistant for two years. He is a Ohio native. This is as close to a dream job as he will get. (My guess is “dream job” will be mentioned at his introductory news conference.)
None of this means he is making the right decision. If he starts suffering from chest pains again, you will have your answer.
As far as how this affects his family, that’s between them. But nobody should be stunned that Meyer is going to be back on a sideline next season. And if any Florida fans have hard feelings about it, maybe they should take a walk past the trophy case.
By Jeff Schultz