Urban Meyer, Florida 'At Peace' With Decision to Resign
That's Jeremy Foley's story, and he's sticking to it. Foley, the respected and veteran director of athletics at the University of Florida, stood behind a podium Wednesday evening and wanted to assure the Gator Nation that its football program will be fine. The UF job is one of the best in the country, and Foley will no doubt have a deep pool of worthy candidates from which to choose.
Of course, Foley spent most of his face time with the media here at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium explaining the reasons he believed were behind Urban Meyer's decision to resign after six years. And Foley's reasons echoed the ones given a few moments earlier by his coach, friend and subdivision neighbor.
A relaxed and healthy Meyer smiled and stressed he wanted to focus on being a husband and father after 25 years on college sidelines, the last 10 in charge and the last six at UF.
"He said it's the right time in his life, as he said, he's at peace with the decision," Foley explained.
"And that's what makes it good. Was it an easy one? No. His heart is breaking a little bit because he loves this place. But it's also the right time."
Is Meyer, 46, bailing on the Gators as some longtime and frustrated fans think is the case? Or is it true, and he's simply burnt to a crisp by the coaching grind, its pressures and expectations, and he honestly wants to retreat to family time? Is he a drama queen who will quickly reappear on a college or NFL sideline? Or is he a man in control of his emotions who has come to grips with reality? Meyer's two daughters (one college, one high school) play volleyball and his son plays Little League baseball. Meyer wants to coach -- balls and strikes, not toss sweeps and play-action.
Meyer, of course, led Florida to two national titles but briefly resigned last December, citing health concerns, before returning the next day. He had been hospitalized with chest pains after the Gators lost to Alabama in last season's Southeastern Conference Championship Game.
"Last year was a knee-jerk reaction," Meyer said. "This year was just completely different."
Yes it was, according to Foley.
For those crossing your fingers and toes, don't. Urban has left the building (almost). Foley says he doesn't believe Meyer will change his mind a second time.
Meyer called Foley on Saturday to tell him he was contemplating retirement. They met Tuesday to finalize his intentions. Meyer called assistant coaches, many of whom were on the road recruiting, earlier this week to relay the news. Meyer met with his players Wednesday afternoon, saying "most" understood his decision.
Foley said, deep down, he wasn't surprised by Meyer's decision or reasoning.
"I am at peace with his decision because he's at peace," Foley said.
"And last year was not the case. This is a totally different situation. His life was in a different place a year ago. The turmoil was evident. I didn't try to talk him out of it. I didn't put that pressure on him. He's at peace and I shared that peace with him."
What about the pieces to UF's season?
The Gators finished 7-5. They looked lost on offense, playing three quarterbacks in their regular-season finale and defeat at FSU. They were sound on defense this season, but still not as good as advertised.
There were whispers of team dissension, prompting an emotional post-game speech following the Georgia victory that Meyer, according to sources, stressed he only wanted players fully committed to the program. And there were the off-the-field problems that have thrown a wet blanket on this proud program.
"Florida deserves the best and I am not sure we gave them the best last year," Meyer said.
Meyer will coach his last game for Florida in the Jan. 1 Outback Bowl against Penn State in Tampa. Meyer was the first coach in the nation to win two BCS national titles and is one of only two coaches in the SEC to win two outright national crowns.
"We have one more game left and we are going to make this one a good experience for him," said senior center Mike Pouncey.
Foley said the coaching search will begin immediately and hopes to have a new coach in the next 2 1/2 weeks. He admitted to the turmoil connected with coaching changes, from players to fans to recruiting to assistant coaches. However, Foley has a plan and promised to follow it. Meyer said he will also be involved in the search.
"It's Florida and we'll be back strong with strong weapons and stronger than ever," Meyer said. "This is going to be a great young team."
Despite this season's struggles, Meyer's resumé is one of the most impressive in college football. He is 103-23 (.817) overall, the best winning percentage among active major college coaches with at least 10 seasons, and 64-15 (.810) at UF.
Meyer and the Gators certainly had the nation by the tail at one time.
"I made the comment when (UF men's basketball coach) Billy Donovan left for just a brief time," Foley said, referring to Donovan's decision to accept the job with the Orlando Magic in 2007, only to quickly change his mind.
"It was a sad day because something good was ending. That's kind of how I feel today. Yet, also for me personally, it's an OK day because I know Urban's OK. I know he's at peace with his decision and I know the University of Florida is going to be fine. Good things come to an end sometimes and that's what happens in this world."
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