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By now, you've probably heard that Urban Meyer is stepping down as the head coach of the Florida Gators, and that the Allstate Sugar Bowl will be his last as the Gators head coach. While the radio waves, television newsrooms and world wide web suffers an onslaught of Meyer talk and speculation, let's take a minute to reflect on the five years that Meyer spent in Gainesville, and admire what he did to bring the program back.
When Meyer was hired after the 2004 season, Florida was suffering through a major downturn – at least, by Florida standards. The Gators amassed a 23-14 record in the three previous season under former coach Ron Zook. That may be good enough for some schools, but not for Florida.
Florida took a chance when they hired Urban Meyer. The young coach has been wildly successful with his spread offense in Bowling Green and Utah. But the general consensus among SEC zealots was that the spread option offense that Meyer employed wouldn't work in the SEC because, among other things, the defenses were too fast.
Boy were they wrong.
Meyer is the only coach in the nation to win the BCS National Championship twice, is a three-time National Coach of the Year, and took home two SEC Championships during his five-year tenure with the Gators.
But all of that aside, Meyer brought SEC football into a new age. Just five years after his arrival in Gainesville, virtually every SEC team runs out of the spread exclusively, or has significant spread elements in their repertoire. Meyer haters will probably come back with the standard "if Meyer didn't do it, someone else would have" response. And there may be some truth to that. But that's all speculation. Meyer is the one that blazed the trail for coaches like Dan Mullen, Charlie Strong, Gus Malzahn and many others. Had he not been so successful, they might not have ever got a shot.
Barrett Sallee covers the SEC for www.CollegeFootballNews.com. He can be reached at email@example.com, or on Twitter at http://twitter.com/BSallee_CFN
Off-Season Column Archive:
Urban Meyer's SEC Legacy – December 26, 2009
End Of The Season Accountability – December 26, 2009
Ranking The SEC Bowl Games – December 18, 2009
2009 SEC Superlatives – December 13, 2009
Click here for the 2009 Regular Season Three & Out archive