Urban Meyer's "Leave Of Absence"
You can't do this. Not in today's day and age. Not in the SEC. Not if
you want to be a national title superpower.
No pun intended, but Urban Meyer has had a chance of heart after
announcing he's be resigning his post as the head coach of Florida on
Saturday night. Now he's going to take an indefinite leave of absence,
and now the wolves are going to pounce.
While Florida certainly doesn't want to lose a coach of Meyer's caliber,
this little 24-hour drama might turn out to be the worst of all possible
worlds because now the program is in limbo. Not that Meyer isn't
special, but Florida could go out and get another special head coach if
it wanted to and the music would keep on playing. After all, the Gators
eventually found a replacement for Steve Spurrier.
Everyone was on Meyer's side when he chose to resign, since all coaches
know the stress and strain involved with the job, but now that he's just
taking a break, the gloves come off, recruiting against Florida will be
a piece of cake, and Steve Addazio has to now show he's up to the task.
It'll also mean a daily Urban Watch on when he's able to return. You
can't just keep an elite college football program in a holding pattern,
even a monster like Florida, and expect to come out stronger. By the
time Meyer comes back, the rest of the SEC might be that much stronger.
It's not like Gator fans were enamored with Addazio in the first place
after the offense sputtered and struggled this year, and now he's going
to be the leader of the program for the immediate future. With any new
coach coming in Addazio would almost certainly have been gone had Meyer
stuck to his original resignation, but instead the offensive coordinator
gets to be the leader of a team that should still be in everyone's 2010
preseason top five on name recognition and returning talent. But the
test now will be to see if Meyer's little moment of flakiness is enough
to swing a few key star recruits over to Alabama, Tennessee, Georgia and
LSU. The margin between being national title good and a
New Year's Day bowl in Florida is paper thin, and this might have tipped
This also shows just how insane coaches are. They all have ridiculous
stress and strain to deal with and it's a shock that they don't drop
like flies from various blood pressure and heart issues, but if you're
Meyer and this is what you do and who you are, you don't walk away from
it. Ever. Superpower college football head coaches get to control almost
everything about their world and they get to be the gods of their
campuses; good luck getting them to take out the garbage and hitting
Wal-Mart to pick up some paper towels and dog food. They're just not
built to assume normal, every day lives if they're still breathing and
Much is being made about Meyer's daughter saying that she had her dad
back after the resignation was announced. Her dad is a football coach
and he wants to continue to be a football coach. This sabbatical isn't
going to change that, but it will delay his life a bit. Meyer will turn
out to be fine, but don't be shocked if Florida suffers the aftereffects
for a few years.
1) Let me get this straight, Urban Meyer. Your family is the most important element of your life. Taking care of your health is the first and most foundational priority in your "plan to win." Your players are your "second family," but they're the reason you revoked your resignation and chose this "leave of absence"? Seems as though your players are your first and most important family, and that Shelley and the kids come second.
And let me get this straight, too: You know in your gut that you'll be coaching in the fall, yet you know you "have to get it (your health) fixed." But wait: It's "full speed ahead" for the bowl game. Then again, your silence was deafening when some of the pool reporters asked the kinds of questions that dealt with your mortality and the emotional security of your wife and children.
You refused to answer – within your rights, sure, but still in a very revealing display of insecurity – some of the specific queries about the precise nature of your medical condition over the past three weeks. Maybe you felt uncomfortable getting into details in front of your spouse and your offspring, but then again, shouldn't you be able to be candid to the world in front of your family? Shouldn't you be an open book and feel liberated enough to proclaim yourself healthy enough to coach the Florida Gators? After all, you were adamant in saying that you have to keep this program going, and that "laying around" is not how you were going to handle this leave of absence. A break at this point on the college football calendar – while involving recruiting – is still very much akin to Tiger Woods taking off the deadest months on the golf calendar but then returning just in time for the March tournaments leading into The Masters.
And let me get this straight as well: If God told you to resign… and if your daughter felt that she had her daddy back when you resigned… and if Shelley Meyer said Sunday morning that there was "no chance" you would change your mind, just how refreshed and healthy are you? Best wishes for your health, but in the meantime, this decision reeks…
On a professional level, this move isn't nearly as bad as the flip-flops done by Billy Donovan and Bobby Cremins in the world of college basketball, but on a personal level – and in terms of setting an example for other brain-fried, soul-seared football lifers – your move will only keep more coaches trapped in the go-getter mindset that you've established better than anyone else in the college game.
2) And another thing, Mr. Meyer: Lane Kiffin really got to you, didn't he? It was Kiffin who sucked you into an impossible expectations game which set a terrible tone and tenor for the whole season. It was Kiffin who made you (and equally gullible/dumb Florida fans) get angry at ugly wins, which are never anything to apologize for. It was Kiffin who made you angry and testy. It was Kiffin who got under your skin. It was Kiffin who made you feel that going 12-1 wasn't acceptable. It was Kiffin who baited you into sinking to a lower common denominator (much as Rick Neuheisel sucked Pete Carroll into doing the same thing). And it was Kiffin who – while having accomplished precious little at this point in his coaching career – made you act and feel like the smaller guy in the room, even when you had the big-boy results to show for your labors. As you take time off, Urban (well, do we really know that, actually?), reflect on this point with your brother coaches: While football necessarily features physical strength and demands virile athletic prowess, the truest form of strength is most deeply and spiritually found in acts of gentle restraint, quiet dignity, and other deeds which reflect an ability to walk away from unwise or unnecessary fights that imperil both your values and your health.
First, you didn't keep Tim Tebow out of the LSU game. The decision dealt with another player, but the insane culture of competition that fried your circuits is precisely what prevented you from setting a better example. Second, you didn't suspend Brandon Spikes for the full Vanderbilt game (at the very least). The crushing pressures of college football coaching – the very forces that ground you down and put you in a hospital bed with conditions you acknowledged today as "alarming" – somehow didn't allow you to put your faith and values first. And third, Mr. Meyer, you were just about to set a great example by stepping away from the madness and healing your life the way Dick Vermeil and John Madden (among others) managed to do when the Beast got hold of their lives, but then – as was the case with the Tebow-LSU situation – you ultimately couldn't resist the siren song of getting right back into the arena, in a move that – according to your own statements from Saturday night – went against God's plan, your daughter's wishes, and your wife's knowledge of your innermost intentions.
This is said with love and sincerity as a fellow human being, but it's also said with the candor and levelheaded honesty you need to bring into your life: This decision, combined with the way you carried yourself at a very uneasy press conference on Sunday afternoon in New Orleans, shows that your mind is even less serene, your emotions less settled, than ever before. Your wife and children just might need to stage an intervention before very long. One hopes your body won't send you a loud, abrupt and very devastating message in the interim.