I have no expectations that upon completion of reading this post that I will sway your opinion one way or the other. At this point, you have likely decided how you feel about the Coach and you’ve made your stand on whether you’ll hate him and treat him as a liar, a coward, and a scoundrel. Or you’ve decided that a grown man is allowed to enter and exit the workforce at will and that his taking a job somewhere else is just like you or I taking a job somewhere else because we wanted to. There are likely several levels in between. My only hope in this post is to lay out the situation as I see it and stand up for my Coach.
While we’re being honest here, I must let you know of a couple things that drive my thoughts.
I am an Urban Meyer guy. I would run through a wall for him. I trusted his judgment blindly in his 6 years at Florida. My work life and the experience of my colleagues that worked with football players in the Meyer Era were OUTSTANDING. Despite the contrary information you’d get from the “arrest records” on his watch, working with football players from 2006-2010 was a very positive experience. And obviously, there is a reason our website is named what it is.
I am also a proud alumna of The Richard Stockton College of New Jersey and Western Illinois University. My diplomas from each of those schools hang on my walls. Both schools occasionally get some money from me, and I would recommend those schools to anyone. All of that is true, yet I still bleed Orange and Blue from the better part of the last 12 years living and working in Gainesville for the University of Florida (aside from a 3 year stint in the DC Area). I tell you this as my disclaimer that I am a believer that you can be a Gator despite not completing 120+ hours worth of credits.
Now that that’s out of the way, let’s get the other disclaimer taken care of:
If you are going to FEEL hurt, upset, disappointed, betrayed, or otherwise verklempt by Urban Meyer leaving the Gators after the 2010 season and possibly returning to coaching beginning in 2012, then you are right. It is perfectly understandable and fine for you to FEEL that way. They are YOUR feelings and nobody can tell you how you are supposed to feel. So there.
If you are not at all upset or offended by that same decision, you are also right. Nobody can make you FEEL upset about this if you aren’t. So there’s that too.
The actual truth lies all the way to the left, all the way to the right, and Everything in Between (haha see what I just did there…?). I am writing this post partially as a rebuttal to my boy Shawn’s post earlier this week, but also because in the Twitterverse I’ve seen various responses, and I can’t sum it up in 140 characters or less.
For the record, the “Are you mad if Urban takes the OSU job?” has the potential to be just as polarizing as the, “Can Tim Tebow be an NFL quarterback?” debate. The data, the facts and what we see with our eyes aren’t matching how we feel about the whole thing and we don’t know how to come to grips with that. It’s an unreal anomaly in that both sides of the argument are pretty much right.
As for Meyer, let’s start with some Q&A. For all of you who are very upset by the possibility of Meyer taking a job elsewhere, and of course your particular reason(s) for being upset may vary, but ask yourself the following questions:
- Do you REALLY think that Meyer would quit/retire/leave the program because he didn’t think the team was any good? Think about that a little bit. I’ve heard this out there. Do you honestly think he would retire because he thought our O-line wasn’t very good?
(Remember: When Florida dumped an 8-5 on the coach who appeared to be Urban Meyer in 2010, we lost to Miss. St. by fumbling twice in red zone and having a punter as our place kicker. We lost to LSU because a forward pass bounced directly into a dudes breadbasket as he ran for a first down, followed by the pass of Jarrett Lee’s life with :08 left. We were 2 fumbles and a bounce pass away from 10-3… who runs from that?)
- When Urban left in 2010, did you expect a lifelong coach with over 100 wins in Division I Football, 4 BCS Bowl game wins, a Heisman winner and 2 First round QB picks to NEVER coach again? Did we really think this was it for sure? Health issues were cited for his leaving, but is there anyone who really thought at 46 years old, Urban Meyer would never coach again. Did you really?
- Tied into that question… If not, what is the acceptable amount of time to sit out before he is “allowed” to come back in your mind? 1 year… just like a player would have to? 2 years? Until Florida wins the SEC East? Until his health improves? Until Nate is in college? What would have been a sufficient amount of time that he could be gone where you would say, “OK. That’s cool. Good for him.”
- Or is the issue that he might be going to OSU? They never did anything to us… Did they? Their fans were complete jack-holes at the 2006 title game, but 41-14 settled them down and Coach Donovan gave them a fresh one to the tune of 84-75. Sounds to me like they were no big deal… Would you be upset if he was considering the Penn State job (if you can remove the current awfulness from your thinking)? How about if he was looking at UNC (Where I think he’s be a GREAT fit)? How about Florida A&M? Would that bother you?
I ask these questions based on some of the stuff I’ve heard from people out there.
His loyalty and honesty has also come into question from fans. This is actually hurtful to me. Have you all heard or said this one yet: “Urban was never really a Gator. This was just a job for him. We knew this was just another stop before he went somewhere else”. Stop right there.
Urban Meyer embraced the University of Florida in one of the finest ways I’ve seen a coach embrace a school they never played for or regularly against. He is born and bred a Mid-Westerner and specifically, an Ohio guy. This means a lot to people from Ohio. Here’s some things that didn’t exist here prior to Meyer’s arrival:
- The Gator Walk: Giving fans a chance to see their team without helmets on and in some cases shake a hand or high five them.
- The fight song and alma mater post game: Sure, he took this concept from Notre Dame, but guess what I’ve noticed? In the years prior to 2005, maybe 3% of the student body knew the words to the fight song and even less knew more than, “…neath the Orange and Blue VICTORIOUS…” in the alma mater. Now probably 60% know it. Again, changing the culture around football. (On a sidenote: I dare you to quiz Coach Muschamp on the fight song and alma mater… I would be my next paycheck he doesn’t know it and just mouths the words or doesn’t even bother to do that. Not a knock on him really, I’d rather he spend his time figuring out how to get us off the field on third down and how to throw a TD pass inside of 64 yards. Just a thought.)
- The Gator Charity Challenge: Initiated prior to the 2008 season. Fans come to the Swamp to cheer on teams of players competing in strength events for charity.
- The Heavener Football Complex: The football offices were sorely lacking and with the team’s success, Coach Meyer lobbied for getting this upgrade and now there is the pseudo-museum of football success in the modern era. If you’ve ever taken this area for granted, take a child there and watch them marvel at the place.
- The RIDICULOUS All-Sports Weight Room: It’s a sight to behold. If you had seen the weight room before the upgrade, it’s a must see now. It’s huge and has everything an athlete needs. Coach Meyer also lobbied for this addition. The bonus is that ALL of the UF Athletes have access to this space and it’s made an improvement to the entire sports program.
- The term, “The Gator Nation”: I don’t think anyone will ever give him the sole credit for this, however, I’m not certain how often, if ever, this term was used prior to around 05-06.
- The simultaneously smug and dismissive term: “The School Out West” referring to Florida State.
Outside of that, his record against our rivals was impeccable. Undefeated against Tennessee. 5-1 vs. Georgia. Undefeated against Bobby Bowden and 5-1 vs. the School Out West. Urban understood the importance of those rivalries and coached accordingly. He gave his time and excessive amounts of energy into the Alumni Association and Gator Boosters, and most of all… he gave us time away from his family. While Urban was our coach, he and Shelley were also raising two teenage daughters. For any of you in that situation, try doing that with Dad out of the house for 16-18 hours a day and have the girls become well rounded, socially adept, smart women over those 6 years. It’s not easy and you don’t get that time back.
I know… we paid him handsomely in his 6 years and I’m sure he’s not crying about it. My point is, to say that he “wasn’t one of us” or insinuating that he never embraced the University is just flat out not true. Urban understood UF and our fan base and our student body.
Every coach that comes to Florida to coach football will have the specter of Steve Spurrier hanging over their head. And for good reason. Believe me, Spurrier EARNED every bit of praise that he gets here. He brought this program into the National Spotlight… did it his way… was entertaining as hell along the way… and, oh yeah… he’s an alumnus and a Heisman Trophy winner here. Those are some big shoes to fill and yet Meyer won 2 National Titles, going 2-0 in title games in his 6 seasons as Head Coach, and upon departure, it doesn’t seem that was enough to really win the fan base over. “He was never really a Gator. He was never really ‘one of us’”. Personally, I think that’s unfair and it’s the kind of statement I would expect from people in Texas and at the University of Texas… not Florida.
It’s funny that just now, as the Penn State and OSU rumors are starting to trickle out, that we start to point the finger at the team’s talent and recruiting issues. Now what DK Thompson posted on our site the other day is damning evidence of Meyer leaving the program in “poor shape” as he says. This is difficult for me to lay that blood on his hands. The classes he recruited were “ranked” pretty highly and they were brought in for the type of style of play that Meyer was running. We are running something totally different now and there is going to be some transition. Do you remember Chris Leak trying to run the spread with DeShawn Wynn in the backfield and Chad Jackson and Dallas Baker at wideout? Yikes. But somehow, they made it work. (By the way, I’d die to have DeShawn Wynn in our current offense… but then again, he’d probably get 3 carries a game and have a sprained ankle, so…)
Anyway, I can’t really debunk Mr. Thompson’s evidence. It’s strong. I just wonder if this comes up at all if; a.) Courtney Upshaw doesn’t break John Brantley indefinitely, b.) if John and Caleb Sturgis are healthy against Auburn, c.) Jaylen Watkins finds the ball just once in the month of October. Preferably against Georgia, or d.) Chris Rainey catches the slant that hit him in the hands vs. Georgia. I know… it’s a lot of “what if’s”. Big time players, make big time plays, in big games. And we haven’t done that. Not even a little bit. Like I said, it’s the “Tebow” argument. Damn the facts and evidence, it doesn’t feel that way to me.
Did we take a hit in recruiting after his first “retirement”? Possibly? Did he leave the cupboard bare? I don’t think so. What would have happened with all the guys who transferred… would they have stayed in Meyer stayed and would they have mattered? We’ll never know. But the numbers tell a story, one way or the other.
The most frustrating for me is that people are now starting to call Urban Meyer a liar.
I retired from basketball in 2006 because it hurt my knees and feet too much. I started playing again in 2008 after I had lost a bunch of weight and resolved my plantar fasciitis. Does that make me a wishy washy liar? Granted, there was no fan base whatsoever clamoring for my return or mourning my departure from pick up basketball at Florida Gym and SW Rec, but I received new information and my situation changed.
It’s funny (and not in a “ha-ha” kind of way) how, the same guy we defended when others called him smug, and slimy and gave him the name, “Urban Crier” when he lobbied for Florida over Michigan to play in the ’06 Title game. The same argument he used then, is the one ALL SEC schools on the bubble now use… a 1 loss SEC team and their schedule is better than most anybody else’s undefeated schedule, and certainly a 1 loss B1G team. Now the same fan base is using his name in vein and calling him “Urban Liar”. Again, the irony of me being critical of using the man’s name as “something else” is not lost on me, but how quickly we change our stripes.
For your consideration… I ask, what if the following were true?
- Urban Meyer was tired
- Urban Meyer was unhealthy and needed some time away
- He intended to step away for 3-5 years
- He had a very short list of schools that he would consider coaching if he were to return
- Ohio State, Penn State and Notre Dame were on that short list
- He anticipated those jobs being unavailable for a few years
- The two of those jobs currently open don’t come around all the time. The tOSU job had been filled for 11 years by Jim Tressel and 12 years by John Cooper prior to that. Penn State’s job had been filled for 46 years.
- The window in which to return to coaching at the place he would like to return opened well before he planned on it opening
- He has a decision to make now
What if that’s all there is to it?
I’ve felt Urban has been as up front about it as he can be… Nobody ever says, “Heck yeah I’ve been contacted and I’m all for it if they get the money right!!” This time around when asked, Urban said he has not been contacted and has not been offered a job. This is probably true. But he’s also said that if they do call, and they do make an offer, he has a decision to make based on his health and family. He has never pulled a Nick Saban and said, “OK, you want me to say it. I am not the next head coach of the Alabama Crimson Tide”.
Remember Roy Williams interview with Bonnie Bernstein when everybody on earth knew that he was taking the UNC job… but he had last the NCAA Final about 90 seconds prior to her asking him about it. What was he supposed to say, “Yeah, I already packed my office”? Roy turned the job down to stay at Kansas when Bill Guthridge hung it up. They hired Matt Doherty instead. This must have been agonizing for Roy Williams, but he caught a break when Doherty was fired 3 years later. Williams couldn’t pass it up this time and took the Carolina job. To this day, he still gets razzed for supporting and cheering for Kansas from time to time. I guess I have to get comfortable with the idea that fan bases think they own the coach… even when they don’t like him. For goodness sakes, Tennessee fans rioted when Lane Kiffin left in the middle of the night, and he was only there one season… they won 7 games in that season. I’m shocked Penn State fans aren’t on a nationwide rampage just pillaging every town they come across.
I suppose that my point in the end is this… If you are choosing to be upset at Urban Meyer for taking a job because he left Florida under the pretenses of his failing health and wanting to spend time with his family and now he wants to come back, that’s your choice. I am not acting like it’s not an emotional situation.
As much as I seem to be supporting his decision to go to tOSU (if he goes), I don’t like it necessarily… but he’s a grown man. He gave us 6 years of VERY, VERY hard work. 3 SEC championship games, 1 Heisman trophy winner, and 2 National titles later, and an entire student body that if they attended UF from 2005-2009; are the most spoiled student body in the history of revenue generating college sports (Thanks to Urban and Coach Donovan). I loved our Coach and continue to hold him in the highest regard that I can hold another man that is not my father. But in the end, he is just that… a man. He’s also a coach and that’s what coaches do… they coach.
However, having said all that, I’ve only dealt with how WE, as a fan base feel, and I guess that’s part of the problem. I, personally, am also concerned with how HE (Urban) feels. None of us have any medical records or reports in front of us, but it is my sincere hope that he does what is right for him and his family, and what is healthy and good for him. Ohio State can be just as much of an organ grinder as Florida, plus it’s cold as hell up there. Chapel Hill is very nice this time of year and if you go 8-5 people will enjoy your bowl game. Some may even attend if there’s not a basketball game that day… i’m just saying.
Instead of calling him a liar, can we just agree that maybe he changed his mind. 3,000 words after telling you that I wouldn’t change yours… I hope that I have.
Go Gators. Beat School Out West.