Meyer Won't Be Able to Avoid Irish Itch
The check is in the mail.
"I'm not going to Notre Dame. Ever."
Unless you believe something along the lines that the folks at Touchdown Jesus will spray paint the Golden Dome, Urban Meyer will become the next head football coach for the Fighting Irish. Sometime.
It's going to happen, all right. Meyer will end his brilliant stint with the Florida Gators for a return to South Bend, Ind., where he left his heart as a Notre Dame assistant coach from 1996 to 2000. It's going to happen, because unless you haven't been paying attention, Meyer keeps saying how much he covets the Notre Dame job. He said so emphatically during a radio show on a South Florida station in December 2008. He also wrote as much two summers ago in his authorized biography.
Meyer has yet to claim that he misquoted himself.
It's going to happen, because after NFL-bound Tim Tebow spends January giving Meyer either a third national championship in four years or something close, Meyer will be bigger than Steve Spurrier, the ol' ball coach who invented the Mighty Gators. So, at that point, with his Florida and national legacy intact for the ages, and as a devout Catholic named after a bunch of Popes, Meyer will be free to follow his heart to the most Catholic place this side of the Vatican.
It's going to happen, because now Meyer keeps saying in public that it won't happen. I mean, we've seen this before. As Nick Saban became Nick Satan around Miami, he said, "I'm not going to be the Alabama coach" before he bolted the Dolphins for the Crimson Tide. And remember Roy "I could give a [bleep] about North Carolina right now" Williams? After he claimed on national television that "I haven't thought about [North Carolina] one second" during an interview after a loss for his Kansas team in the NCAA Tournament, he bolted for North Carolina, his alma mater.
Meyer isn't a Notre Dame graduate, but while he grew up in northern Ohio saying Hail Marys, well, you know the rest.
Which brings us to Spurrier taking a break from his current role as South Carolina football coach during the spring to tell an Alabama radio station, "They still got that rumor going down there ... that if [Meyer] has one more big year, he might be the Notre Dame coach." Spurrier later compared Meyer's current plight to the one he faced when he decided to exchange a splendid career at Florida for an ill-fated stay with the Washington Redskins. "I'd be surprised if [Meyer] left, but who knows?" Spurrier said. "He's accomplished so much. I left after 12 years because I just said, 'Hey. I've done enough. Try something else.'
"He may get to the point where he needs to try something else. Who knows?"
Soon after Spurrier's remarks caused more than a little panic around Gainesville, Meyer responded with his "ever" statement about never going to Notre Dame. He still says he isn't Irish bound when asked, or he just ignores the question.
I mean, what else can Meyer say about his Irish intentions, especially with another loaded Florida team that needs no distractions? He also has a bunch of Gator folks who are so obsessed with trying to keep him in Gainesville that they recently made him the richest SEC coach at $4 million per year through 2014.
It's just that Meyer will be at Notre Dame by then.
The buyout clause in Meyer's Florida contract is a reported $500,000, a ridiculously low figure, which tells you that his bosses know the inevitable: No matter what the price to try to stop it, this courtship of at least five years between the Irish and Meyer will lead to a marriage within the next few seasons.
Actually, it could happen within months, because maybe you've heard: Charlie Weis just did something that historically gets Notre Dame coaches fired in a hurry. He couldn't beat Navy. Not only that, he couldn't do so for a second time in three years, and both losses were at Notre Dame.
Four of the previous six Notre Dame coaches who lost to Navy were gone within a year of that loss. And Notre Dame only has dropped 11 games overall to the traditionally sorry Midshipmen who have been part of this continuous series since 1927.
Weis has other issues, too. If Notre Dame does the expected by getting mauled on Saturday night at Pitt by the 8-1 Panthers, Notre Dame will drop to 6-4 this season and 35-25 in Weis' fifth year. That would be the same record that Bob Davie had when he was fired, and that also would be the same winning percentage (.583) that Tyrone Willingham had when he was fired.
And neither Davie nor Willingham ever lost to Navy.
Among other current horrors for the Irish under Weis, they've dropped seven straight times to teams in the top 10. Worse, they've been fighting for their lives against other foes much less than that. They've had seven games decided in the last minute, and they've had all of these struggles despite overwhelming talent.
For instance: with the possibility of quarterback Jimmy Clausen going from a Heisman Trophy to a first-round NFL pick, the Irish have ended four games with 500 or more yards in total offense. They have two future pros at wide receiver, another one at tight end, several gifted running backs and a decent offensive line.
Collectively, the defense is brutal (79th overall out of 120 teams), but individually, the defense has enough talent everywhere not to be the clueless bunch that it has been during most of the Weis era.
No wonder the speculation around the Irish Nation and beyond is rampant when it comes to possible Weis replacements.
Jon Gruden, Brian Kelly, Paul Johnson.
Definitely Meyer, and here's a thought: if Meyer wants to wait a while longer before joining the Irish, maybe 72-years-young Lou Holtz could return to bridge the gap between now and whenever Meyer is ready to make that move.
Remember that Meyer said the reason he didn't take the Notre Dame job before it was offered to Weis was due to timing.
To quote Meyer in his biography, "I wanted to go to Notre Dame, but my family wanted to talk about going to Florida." Meyer also said he didn't wish to spend time recruiting nationally away from his young family. But guess what? Meyer's family isn't so young anymore. The oldest daughter is an 18-year-old volleyball player at Georgia Tech, another daughter is 16 and his son is 10.
Consider what Meyer said during that radio interview with South Florida 's WQAM-AM 560 in December 2008: "Once my kids are done, maybe someday I'll go there [Notre Dame]. I don't know that. That's way down the road. Being a father and being able to recruit the best athletes in within a five-hour radius of my home, that's why I came to Florida. I thought we could have a great chance at success."
It's been there, done that for Meyer. As a result, he can "go there, do that" in South Bend, where he still gets blue-and-gold chills.
He just can't admit it -- although he already has.
Terence Moore is a national columnist and commentator for FanHouse. He is a frequent panelist on "Rome Is Burning," an ESPN show hosted by Jim Rome, that is seen Monday through Friday at 4:30 PM ET. Moore spent more than three decades working for major newspapers, including 26 years as an award-winning sports columnist for the San Francisco Examiner and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. He resides in Atlanta.