The passion to be on the sideline wasn’t there anymore. That’s what brought Urban Meyer back as Florida’s head coach after a one-day resignation when the 2009 season ended. On Wednesday, it was more about his family. As they sat in the front row of Meyer’s resignation press conference at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, Meyer knew he was making the right decision.
He couldn’t say the same about the choice he made last year. It was rushed, even referred to as “knee-jerk.”
This one came with certainty. Urban Meyer spoke with athletic director Jeremy Foley earlier in the week about the thoughts of resignation before the final decision was made Tuesday.
“I have great love for the University of Florida,” Meyer said. “I’m stepping down as head coach of the University of Florida to focus on family and my other interests away from the sidelines.”
The reasoning for the resignation was heavily questioned at his press conference. His health scare last December after the loss to Alabama in the SEC Championship Game forced Meyer to take a step back and examine his routine.
He preached to players and coaches about the importance of family relationships. However, Meyer realized he wasn’t backing up that talk in his own life.
“Sometimes we make it far too complex,” Meyer said. “At the end of the day, I’m convinced that you’re going to be judged on how you are as a husband and a father, not how many bowl games we’ve won.”
The 7-5 season didn’t help relieve any stressors. The frustration of five losses, with three coming at home in The Swamp, would be enough to send any head coach into an offseason of searching for the fix.
Meyer was prepared to do just that.
“You can fix struggles,” Meyer said. “If it was a different timing in my family’s life, it might be different. I’ll make it clear, that’s the reason. My daughter Gigi signed a national letter of intent to go to Florida Gulf Coast, and I have not seen the school yet. I guarantee I’m going to see it.”
Meyer was adamant following the Florida State loss that the program needed to be rebuilt. He cited the loss of key players from the 2009 team, as well as execution and injuries for the reason the team fell to a five-loss season in 2010.
“It has to be fixed,” Meyer said. “It’s broken a little bit now. The way you fix it is hard work. It’s broke because the constant attrition of coaches who have gone on to be great head coaches. I’ve been very fortunate to have the greatest coaches in America, and they’ve proven it on their own.”
There wouldn’t be an ideal time for Meyer to decide to resign. Regardless of the time he spoke to Foley about the decision, there wouldn’t be a time to make it happen with zero damage.
However, this might be the best timing. It’s around two months from National Signing Day, meaning that if a head coach is hired within the two-week timeframe that Foley suggested, the new coach will still have a month and a half to recruit players and encourage currently committed players to honor their verbal commitments.
“That’s a tough part,” Meyer said. “I talked to a handful of them, and I’m going to make a bunch of calls tonight and tomorrow. Florida is Florida. Florida will always be Florida. I’m sure the coaching candidates will be fantastic. We’ve just got to get moving.”
Meyer held a team meeting at 2 p.m. Wednesday to inform the team of his decision. He said they were “very gracious” about the decision, but being away from them will be one of the toughest parts of stepping away.
Even though this year’s team struggled, Meyer always enjoyed spending time with his players. The leadership from the senior class was always highlighted, and that message stood out in his mind Wednesday.
Meyer guessed that he received 175 text messages Wednesday sending well wishes.
“A chuck of them are from Ryan Stamper and some of the great players I’ve had the fortune of coaching here. To think what they have built…”
For most Florida fans, the image they’ll have of Meyer will come from either Glendale or Miami, where he won the two national championships. Holding the crystal ball up over his head twice in three seasons went well above the expectation Foley had when he hired Meyer.
Just as those images will remain with fans, they’ll stick with Meyer, too. But it won’t just be standing on that stage after winning a national championship. He’ll think back to the sun-baked fall camps where they prepared for those seasons and the adversity after a loss during each year.
“The ’06 team will go down as one of the most overachieving, hardworking teams we’ve ever had,” Meyer said. “The ’08 team will probably go down in my opinion, and I’m a little biased, as one of the best teams in college football history. When you look at the statistics of that team, it’s hard to say that’s not one of the top three or four teams of all time.”
So Meyer will sit on the bleachers at Bucholz High School, watching his daughter, Gigi, continue volleyball workouts. He’ll roam the dugout of Gainesville baseball fields as his son, Nate, plays this spring.
It’s where he wanted to be all along. It just took him a little longer to realize it.
“I’m going to put a resume together, and I’m going to try to be an assistant Gatorball Baseball coach this spring,” Meyer said. “I’ve not put a resume together in a long time, so I’ll need some help with the interview process, too.”
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