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So what's the appropriate reaction to the Sugar Bowl press conference Sunday afternoon in which Florida head coach Urban Meyer announced that he was taking an indefinite "leave of absence" as head coach of the Gators?
Relieved, confused, curious, concerned and skeptical all seem to be applicable.
First and foremost, I think everyone hopes that Urban Meyer fully recovers from – well – whatever he is suffering from. It's no secret that the college coaching profession is a 24/7/365 grind unlike anyone can imagine. When practice is over, there's recruiting, booster functions, fund-raising, off-season training, etc. It's an entirely different lifestyle than even NFL coaches aren't completely comfortable with.
Secondly, while some people will probably take exception to Meyer not disclosing his specific medical problem, I will not. That's his personal business and he can choose to do whatever he wants with that information.
With that said, what exactly is going on with Urban Meyer? Obviously a report regarding his health spooked him to the point where the resignation wheels were fully in motion. This wasn't a report that started out slow and gained momentum. The University sent out a very lengthy and well-prepared press release announcing that Meyer is stepping down.
This weekend soap opera is very poorly timed. Considering that Meyer was planning on coaching in the Sugar Bowl all along, it certainly seems that this announcement could have waited a week.
It's apparent that Meyer and Florida athletics director Jeremy Foley haven't discussed the specifics on how this "leave of absence" would work. When asked on Sunday who would have the power to hire a new defensive coordinator, Meyer or interim head coach Steve Addazio, Meyer looked stumped. That decision obviously hasn't been made. So if Meyer's plan is to coach the Sugar Bowl, keep it internal and develop a plan before coming clean.
It's not like this was an announcement that people saw coming. There had been some grumblings about Meyer's health issues, especially after the SEC Championship Game loss, but nothing more than a rumor that might make you raise an eyebrow. The press release from Florida Saturday evening announcing that he was stepping down came seemingly out-of-the-blue, and spread like wildfire in the 10 minutes before it was announced on ESPN's broadcast of the Meineke Car Care Bowl.
This wavering back and forth, with no solid plan, date, time and reason has put the Gator program in limbo – and you better believe that the coaching staffs at Tennessee, Florida State, Alabama, Miami, Auburn, LSU and every other school that fights the recruiting wars with the Gators will capitalize. Above all else, this saga has brought uncertainty to the Florida program for the first time since the Ron Zook era.
With Florida already having to break in John Brantley at quarterback in 2010 and likely replacing many early departures for the NFL, the Gators were already going to be a bit of a question mark in the SEC East in 2010. Now that there's an off-season and potential regular season with a 24/7 Meyer-watch, it might make the SEC East the most intriguing division in college football.
Barrett Sallee covers the SEC for www.CollegeFootballNews.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter at http://twitter.com/BSallee_CFN
Off-Season Column Archive:
Meyer Calls A Reverse – December 27 2009
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