Urban Meyer's Resignation Has Numerous Ramifications
It's been barely an hour since news broke that Urban Meyer was resigning for health reasons as head coach of the University of Florida. Immediately Meyer's resignation became the second biggest story of the college football bowl season -- second only to the Alabama-Texas BCS title game, and maybe not even second to that. Meyer's resignation sets off the kind of coaching dominoes collapse that means only the most shrewd of coaching prognosticators can predict where it will all end.
Immediately, my e-mail flooded with gloating fans of rival SEC programs who have perished under the harsh beat downs administered during Meyer's 56-10 tenure at Florida.
"Christmas came late, but oh so perfectly!!!!" gushed one Bulldog fan.
A Tennessee fan wrote as follows, "Christmas has never been more joyous in my household."
If you ever doubted how much college football turns on the men at the top of the coaching pyramid, Meyer's resignation should erase all doubt. He single-handedly turned what was on pace to be the slowest sports news day of the year into a Twitter explosion. But now it's time to consider the ramifications of Meyer's departure.Here are 11 immediate questions worth pondering as the college football universe spins out of control.
1. What becomes of the power structure in the SEC east?
Suddenly, the world looks entirely different in what is typically the most competitive division in major college football. Georgia's Mark Richt, rebounding from the worst year of his tenure and bound for a bowl game in Shreveport, is on shaky footing and without a defensive coaching staff. Tennessee's Lane Kiffin, just completing his first season, is a wild card, Kentucky and Vandy are still Kentucky and Vandy. Meanwhile, Florida has not just lost their head man,they've also lost Charlie Strong and Dan Mullen in the past year or so.
So who's the big winner in the SEC east as 2010 looms?
Here's one vote for South Carolina and Steve Spurrier.
Because amazingly South Carolina might be the favorite in the SEC east.
That's how quickly things can change in the SEC.
But in the longer term?
Man, it's completely wide open.
2. Is the war for Florida's football fate wide open as well?
Suddenly Randy Shannon at Miami, Jimbo Fisher at Florida State and whomever replaces Meyer at Florida are in a dead heat to be the next Florida power.
How unbelievable is that?
Much has been written about Meyer's domination of the country, but equally as important was Meyer's complete domination of the state. Simply put, the collapse of the other Florida football powers during Meyer's tenure went a long way towards permitting the national domination that led to two Gator national titles in five years. Florida State under Bobby Bowden waddled toward the finish line of his tenure, the caretaker reign of Larry Coker at Miami imploded and Meyer lapped his foes by stealing the best prospects in the Sunshine State.
In fact, at no time since the early 1980s had both Florida State and Miami ever been this weak. It doesn't look like either program is going to stay weak.
It's important to look at Meyer's domination within that context. Namely, Meyer arrived at the most fertile possible time for Gator football to flourish. Now, Meyer also beat these teams on the recruiting trail, but his timing was perfect.
The rest of the country needs the Florida powers to replicate our nation's political system, i.e. the power needs to be balanced. Just as we can't allow the White House or Congress or the Supreme Court to run roughshod across our Constitution, we can't allow one Florida school to dominate the other two. The teams can be individually strong, but they need to counteract one another and keep any one team from emerging dominant.
Suddenly, in the wake of Meyer's blockbuster announcement that's much more likely to happen.
3. Where is the floor when it comes to Florida's coaching search?
We'll spend a decent amount of time on this in the coming weeks, but in these situations I think it's always instructive to establish a floor before you start reaching for the stars. So I'll give you two names that represent different perspectives on where the floor should be. That is, do you want an interregnum hire, a guy designed to last for five or six years, or a program hire, someone who could be there for a decade or more?
If you want interregnum:
a. Tommy Tuberville
Tuberville, Auburn's erstwhile coach, would leap at the chance to coach at Florida. He has South Florida connections, SEC bona fides and a reputation as a hell of a recruiter at a school without Florida's natural recruiting benefits.
And, oh by the way, he's handled Florida and Urban Meyer better on the field than anyone else in the SEC.
Do you want a program hire:
b. Dan Mullen at Mississippi State
Mullen knows Meyer's system, he's proven with the Gator fan base and he would doubtless ascend with Meyer's blessing.
But do you trust him to handle the job?
And if he does get the job, will Mississippi State football fans ever catch a break?
4. Where is the ceiling on the search?
Two more names.
a. Bob Stoops
If he thought the Notre Dame heat was intense, he ain't seen nothing yet. For those who aren't aware, Stoops was Spurrier's dominant defensive coordinator before he departed for Oklahoma.
b. Steve Spurrier
Would he do it as a couple-of-years farewell tour?
Would athletic director Jeremy Foley have him?
Would Gator fans want him back after his losing record in the SEC at South Carolina?
5. Why announce Meyer's resignation now?
The Sugar Bowl is less than a week away. Do you really gain anything by announcing this on the Saturday after Christmas?
Why not wait until after the Sugar Bowl and allow the announcement then?
As is, dropping it on a Saturday afternoon in the wake of our nation's biggest holiday makes it seem rushed, unplanned and as if the full story isn't being reported.
That's unnecessary and poorly planned.
6. How much does Florida wish that former defensive coordinator Charlie Strong was still on staff?
Did Strong have any idea this was coming? If he had, would it have changed his pursuit of the Louisville job? And if he didn't have any inclination this was coming, doesn't this tie in with the rapidity of the decision?
7. Fun coaching search possibility: Brian Kelly at Notre Dame.
Can you imagine what Fighting Irish fans would do if Florida swept in and hired their new coach before he even made it through a month?
I'm rooting for this to happen just so the absurdity of college football coaching contracts can once more play itself out.
8. What becomes of the Gator recruits?
Currently the Gators have the No. 3 recruiting class in the nation. Signing day is Feb. 3. By my count that means we are just five weeks away from the big finish.
Keep in mind that the Gators aren't just losing Meyer. They've also lost two other coordinators who were very involved with their 2010 commits, Charlie Strong and Dan Mullen.
No matter who they hire can they overcome the uncertainty factor?
Put cogently: Will the Gators be able to both a) hire a coach and b) keep a top 10 recruiting class in place in the next 35 days?
That seems highly unlikely.
Again, the timing couldn't be worse for the Gators.
9. Was Meyer ever enjoying this year?
I've been writing on this for the entire 2009 season, but Meyer's sideline persona, commentary and everything associated with the season suggested that 2009 was a colossal trudge, the time when coaching really stopped being fun for him.
In particular, his feud with Lane Kiffin seemed beneath him. Not because he was above the jabbering back and forth, but just because he seemed genuinely angry at Kiffin's antics. How much of this was health related? We may never know.
But Meyer's persona seemed much different, more prickly, in 2009 than it ever did before.
10. Hasn't Meyer earned the right to an indefinite leave of absence?
You'll recall that Coach K took one at Duke, returned and led his team back to dominance. If Meyer's health is truly at issue, hasn't he earned the right to take time off without losing his job?
If you're a Gator fan, wouldn't you prefer this over the uncertainty of a new man at the helm?
Sure, it would have been a bit unorthodox in the macho world of college football, but it also might have been really effective.
11. How involved will Meyer be in selecting his successor and how long will Meyer remain be in Gainesville?
In his statement, Meyer said that he planned to remain in Gainesville.
For how long?
And if it's an indefinite amount of time, how in the world could you ever be comfortable taking a job at Florida? You'd have the only man with two consensus BCS titles looking over your shoulder, he'd still only be 45 years old and you'd be expected to feel good about your job security?
Meyer is going to be involved in the hire of his successor which, to me, means that successor will have to be someone that is comfortable with Meyer and vice-versa.
In the end, that may be Urban Meyer's greatest legacy.
He was so good, people forgot all about Steve Spurrier.
Clay Travis is the author of three books. His latest, "On Rocky Top: A Front Row Seat to The End of an Era" chronicles the 2008 Tennessee football season and is on sale now and makes a great stocking stuffer. Assuming you have rectangular stockings.