Urban Meyer reminds us there are bigger things than games

Urban Meyer near the end of the SEC championship game. (AJC photo by Brant Sanderlin)

Urban Meyer near the end of the SEC championship game. (AJC photo by Brant Sanderlin)

The funniest thing Vince Dooley ever said wasn’t funny at the time. It was as serious as a coronary. Because that’s what Dooley thought he was having.

Oct. 17, 1987: Georgia had contrived to fall two touchdowns behind in Nashville, and the head coach began having chest pains. And Dooley said to himself: “I’m having a heart attack, and we’re losing to Vanderbilt.”

The next day he was at Emory, where he would undergo angioplasty. He was back on the sideline the next Saturday, when the Bulldogs — who had rallied to beat the Commodores one week after losing narrowly to Tommy Hodson and LSU — would need a late touchdown to subdue Kentucky. Some life, huh?

“We won one for the ticker,” a merry Loran Smith said afterward, but it must be noted that Vincent Joseph Dooley coached his last game not 15 months later. At age 56. And he’s still alive today.

The best coach in the country is stepping aside not to coach somewhere else but simply not to coach. Urban Meyer is 45. He’s a high-energy guy. Big-name college coaches have to be. A big-name college coach gets home late and leaves early. He recruits and he coaches and he schmoozes with alums and he briefs the media and he answers the 2 a.m. calls that inform him one of his players has done something silly.

Yeah, the big-name coaches make a ton of money, but they live a life of stress beyond measure. As skilled as Urban Meyer is, would we view him quite the same today if his Gators hadn’t blocked that South Carolina field goal back in 2006? (He’d have been 0-2 against Spurrier and the 2006 Gators wouldn’t have won the BCS title and if they don’t win the first one maybe there’s not a second one.)

The point being: Big-name coaches are all control freaks, and yet they exist in a realm where so much cannot be controlled. The wonder isn’t that one of them has been suffering health problems. The wonder is that they all don’t.

Being human, Georgia fans will view Meyer’s leaving as the sound of a window opening. And it well may be. But before we get excited about what might (or might not) happen on the field, we need to pause to consider these sobering circumstances: Here’s a man at the peak of his profession, a man with two BCS titles, a man not yet 50 … and he’s walking away because he felt to keep coaching was to die young.

It was reported that Meyer had checked into a Gainesville hospital the day after Florida lost the SEC title game to Alabama for what was called “dehydration.” We now know that he’d been having chest pains. We now know those chest pains were dire enough to drive him away from the best job in the country, and that’s about as dire as it gets.

All coaches are strivers — striving for the next big win, the next big job, the next big trophy. Urban Meyer had won everything there was to win, but when the doctor shows you the cardiogram, all that striving and winning becomes a secondary concern. Job 1 is to stay alive.

Because this is a sports column, we need pay some attention to sports. Who’ll be next as the head Gator? Well, Charlie Strong just left for Louisville and Dan Mullen is coming off his first year in Starkville. Would they be interested in turning around so soon? Would Bob Stoops’ interest be piqued this time? Would Chris Petersen leave Boise for Gainesville? Is Gary Patterson of TCU an option?

I don’t know the answers. Ninety minutes ago, I didn’t know Florida would be looking for a coach. And to be honest, I’m not really thinking about the next coach just yet. I’m thinking about Urban Meyer.

We’ve had some fun with him in this space over time, but there was never a doubt he was a talent and a force.  (His game-planning for Ohio State in the desert in January 2007 was coaching at its finest.) And now he’s leaving the job of jobs at age 45. If that doesn’t make you think, you don’t have a heart.

657 comments Add your comment

Cuz

December 26th, 2009
8:33 pm

I wish him well.

Williebitc%slappedPaul

December 26th, 2009
8:36 pm

Do you think the Gators will call Paul Johnson?

Mark Bradley

December 26th, 2009
8:37 pm

No, I don’t think Johnson will be on Foley’s list.

Doug

December 26th, 2009
8:38 pm

Best wishes to Urban from a Vol fan. And yes, Mark, Mullen and Strong would leave MSU and Louisville in a heartbeat for one of the 3 best jobs in America.

Mark Bradley

December 26th, 2009
8:38 pm

But let me say it again: This is such a shock I don’t think anybody knows anything just yet. Maybe not even Jeremy Foley.

Tim Tebow

December 26th, 2009
8:39 pm

Daddy said he was going to quit his job to come watch me not play in the pros. I wub him so much. :) :) :)

Lowcountry Dawg

December 26th, 2009
8:39 pm

Obviously, it’s not just a little dehydration that’s force Urban to step down…

Bob in SF

December 26th, 2009
8:39 pm

Great coach who did an amazing job and made the SEC better for it. He will be mentioned with names like Dooley, Spurrier and Bryant as SEC legends.

Cuz

December 26th, 2009
8:41 pm

I cannot imagine Foley being okay with Strong leaving if he knew Urban’s condition was this bad. I think Foley has been as blindsided as the rest of us.

Karma

December 26th, 2009
8:42 pm

I just paid Mr. Meyer a visit. Maybe he’ll think twice about all of those cheap shots and classless acts he and his team have displayed throughout his career.

Mark Bradley

December 26th, 2009
8:42 pm

I’d agree with that, Cuz. I think somebody would have said, “Charlie, you might want to hang around for a couple of weeks.”

Ron902

December 26th, 2009
8:43 pm

I HERE THAT ONE OF THE STOOP’S BROTHER MAY BE A EARLY FAVORITE?

Dodaddy

December 26th, 2009
8:44 pm

Maybe he’s just taking a time-out.

Dayman

December 26th, 2009
8:45 pm

The SEC East just got alot closer next year. I would say UF is still the favorite, but followed closly by UT and UGA. I wish no ill will on Meyer, but it will but nice to see no Tebow, Meyer and Strong in Gator blue on Saturdays, as a UGA fan.

Mark Bradley

December 26th, 2009
8:46 pm

You youngsters won’t remember this, but Mike Shanahan was Florida’s offensive coordinator in the early ’80s.

Bobby Bowden

December 26th, 2009
8:47 pm

I need a job.

Cuz

December 26th, 2009
8:47 pm

Thanks for making me feel my age Mark.

Bobby Bowden

December 26th, 2009
8:48 pm

Hey, I’m available!

Cuz

December 26th, 2009
8:48 pm

Any chance they can get Galen Hall back?

DawgDMD

December 26th, 2009
8:48 pm

I’ll pray for the man. I also look forward to Jacksonville next year. I really hate UF. And UT and GT. I really do. I do pray for Urban and his family. I hope he takes care of himself and gives UGA a chance to beat him one day. To be the best, you must beat the best……..

how2fish

December 26th, 2009
8:48 pm

Mark, I wish him and his family the best, would have loved to beat him as a coach , but he is doing what he needs to.. I lost my father to a heart attack at 50 so I understand his stance…and I hope his last game is a win. Oh and Karma and Tim Tebow please STFU this is a matter much more important than being a “fan” please show some class.

Bobby Bowden

December 26th, 2009
8:48 pm

Oops! I’m so old I forgot I posted two minutes earlier.

Did I mention I’m available?

Mr Charlie

December 26th, 2009
8:48 pm

They can’t pay Shannahon enough, he stands to make 6-8 mil for the Cowboys.

Cuz

December 26th, 2009
8:49 pm

Coon Dawg that is just crass. You must be a Techie.

The Truth

December 26th, 2009
8:49 pm

Are we just going to throw away the possibility that he was caught with several mistresses?

Job Posting

December 26th, 2009
8:50 pm

Help Wanted: Big Fat Coach.

YearoftheDawg

December 26th, 2009
8:50 pm

Best wishes, coach. I can’t beleive I’m saying this, but I’ll be cheering for Florida so you can leave with a win, as it should be.

Williebitc%slappedPaul

December 26th, 2009
8:51 pm

I don’t either MB. GT is the only school in the BCS that has to resort to the Organ Grinder’s Monkey for 15 minutes of fame.

SweatDawg

December 26th, 2009
8:51 pm

Cant wait to hear Kiffin call him a quitter

TMZ

December 26th, 2009
8:51 pm

We actually have been offered some Urban/Tebow pics.

The Dogfather

December 26th, 2009
8:51 pm

Much respect Coach Meyer. I almost disliked you as much as Spurrier. I wish you well in your pusuit of hapiness. Take care of your mind body soul,

Cuz

December 26th, 2009
8:51 pm

Well, year they are an SEC team facing a bunch of Yankees.

Mark Bradley

December 26th, 2009
8:52 pm

I’m 54, how2fish. My dad had a heart attack at 54. I’ve been thinking about that a lot lately.

FartsALotDawg

December 26th, 2009
8:52 pm

Wal-Mart CEO farted in Ga.

Frank Wren

December 26th, 2009
8:53 pm

ACC looking real good so far in bowl games.

Cuz

December 26th, 2009
8:53 pm

Yeah Mark, aint we all.

Mr Charlie

December 26th, 2009
8:54 pm

My dad have one at 48, In 6 months, in 6 months, I will have outlived him, talk about a weird feeling.

uberVU - social comments

December 26th, 2009
8:54 pm

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This post was mentioned on Twitter by MarkBradleyAJC: Urban Meyer reminds us there are bigger things than ballgames. http://bit.ly/7edvLH…

11-2 GEORGIA TECH in ORANGE BOWL

December 26th, 2009
8:54 pm

Tim Tebow

December 26th, 2009
8:55 pm

Jack Del Rio is out in Jacksonville. I’ll let you figure out how that story ends. God Bless!

Cuz

December 26th, 2009
8:55 pm

How come Tubbs is not mentioned as a replacement? Has he given up on coaching?

john '90

December 26th, 2009
8:55 pm

Stunning announcement. As much of a rival UF and thorn Urban Meyer has been in Bulldog Nation, this is a time to pray for this man and his family. What a shocker.

Braves Fan

December 26th, 2009
8:56 pm

I see Stoops going back to Florida, I think he is at a stage now where he wants a new challenge and go to the best conference in the country.

Mark Bradley

December 26th, 2009
8:57 pm

There are those in the industry who believe Stoops will leave OU only for the NFL.

Mark Bradley

December 26th, 2009
8:57 pm

Tuberville is an interesting name. I mean, there are still 10 SEC programs he hasn’t coached.

Buckhead Bulldog

December 26th, 2009
8:58 pm

Sad day for the Gators. Urban and the Gators were/are a force to be reckoned with. I wish Urban and his family the best!

Tommy Tuberville?

Mr Charlie

December 26th, 2009
8:58 pm

Yea, I don’t see Stoops going sideways.

BnB

December 26th, 2009
8:59 pm

May sound crazy but I’d like to see what June Jones could do with big time talent like FLA.

Mr Charlie

December 26th, 2009
8:59 pm

Del Rio sound possible, but I don’t see him as a college type of guy.

Braves Fan

December 26th, 2009
8:59 pm

well if Stoops is a no go, i think Mullen would be a good choice/especially if Urban stays in the Athletic Dept, they have been together for 15 years