Yesterday, the college football world was hit with completely unexpected news. Urban Meyer resigned from his head coaching position at Florida. When asked about the sudden timing of his decision, he said that there were no immediate life-threatening health concerns, but said “I have ignored my health for years, but recent developments have forced me to reevaluate my priorities of faith and family.” Also, he said that many of his coaching practices were becoming “self-destructive.” But it was stressed that none of these health developments were “immediate.” Meyer said that there is no timetable for his return, but will stay coaching through the Sugar Bowl against Cincinnati.
What should fans think about this sudden resignation? Even though Meyer said that it wasn’t an immediate health condition, I believe he could very likely have a impacting health issue facing him. First, he made this declaration before the bowl game January 1st, and only 1 week before the game. If it wasn’t an immediate health concern, he could have waited a week to make such a startling and probably unnerving declaration to his players. To give an example, when coaches are considering taking another job, they wait and bide their time, avoiding questions from the media and players until it is almost obvious that they are taking the job. Meyer, if the problem wasn’t immediate and health threatening, would have done the same. Meyer would have waited until after the Sugar Bowl to tell his players and the media, in order that Florida plays its best and does not worry about its coach’s resignation. Since he did feel the need to make the statement of his resignation 1 week before the game, it is probable that there is something more that he and the Florida athletic department are not saying.
Also, to those that argue that the decision was stated now because of the impact on recruiting, I just have one question. Would Florida have any trouble finding a coach? It is arguably the most desirable coaching job in the country, and many big name coaches would drop everything to coach at Florida. In addition, since Meyer is coaching through the Sugar Bowl, Florida can not hire a coach until after the Sugar Bowl anyway. Therefore, the timing actually has a negative impact on Florida, as recruits now have at least 1-2 weeks without knowing who their coach is, meaning they have more of a reason to choose a different school. There would be no reason for Meyer to make this decision now unless it was due to an extremely threatening health concern.
In addition, this decision had to be fairly recent and unexpected, and could not have been a methodical decision like it was made out to be. Former Florida defensive coordinator Charlie Strong left Florida for the head coaching job at Louisville just two weeks earlier. However, Strong would have been a top choice to replace Meyer if he were to resign. In fact, it has been reported that Florida is now trying to bring Strong back to Florida to become the head coach. So why would Strong have gone to Louisville if Urban Meyer’s health issues were known, and not immediate and unexpected? Why would Strong leave if Meyer’s decision was a “methodical” one? The development with Charlie Strong gives convincing evidence that Urban Meyer and Florida are not delving all the details about Meyer’s resignation, and that the decision was prompted by a recent health development.
What would the recent and threatening health developments be? While I have no direct knowledge of Urban Meyer’s health, I do know that Meyer has suffered from persistent headaches caused by an arachnoid cyst that becomes inflamed by stress, rage and excitement (Sports Illustrated). However, in the past these headaches have never been enough for him to miss any games or cut back on coaching. His life has never been threatened by these headaches. Therefore, it is difficult to believe that these headaches were the sole reason that he is leaving. There almost has to be something more from this to make sense. He is the most beloved and renowned coach currently in college football and makes $4m per year. There needs to be a hidden reason for his sudden and untimely departure.
The future for Florida and the rest of college football will be impacted greatly by Meyer’s sudden departure. How will the power within the SEC be shifted. Will Alabama become the Florida of the last 5 years with no true competitors? Will Lane Kiffin bring Tennessee to the top of the SEC by landing recruits that may have otherwise gone to Florida? Will coaches like Bobby Petrino have more opportunities to grow their program within the SEC without the Florida cloud drafting over the rest of the SEC? Or will a coach like Dan Mullen or Charlie Strong return to Florida, and with their familiarity with the Florida program return it to the top of college football without any rebuilding years? I can not wait to see how the SEC specifically is affected in the coming years by this change, because it provides opportunities for so many teams to rise up and reestablish themselves within the conference.
The other big question is about the replacement. Florida has the option of either bringing back Dan Mullen, former offensive coordinator, or Charlie Strong, former defensive coordinator. Both men know the Florida system very well and would most likely provide a seamless transition into next season. The other option is to go after a big name head coach, regardless of affiliation with the university. In this case Florida could attempt to bring in Chris Peterson of Boise State, Bob Stoops of Oklahoma, or even Pete Carroll of USC. The next few months at Florida will redefine the balance of power within the SEC and within college football.