Urban Meyer Resigns; What Happens Next?


We woke up this morning and it was still true.  Hanging on to the hope it was all just a bad dream wasn’t enough.  Nothing changed what we all found out yesterday.

Urban Meyer

will be the


head coach for only one more game.  The Sugar Bowl and then no more.  The man that lead the Gators to two National Championships, two SEC Titles, and another SEC Championship Game appearance has 60 minutes left to roam the sidelines in orange and blue.  If you’re still shocked, you’re having the right reaction.  No one saw this coming from a mile away.

At first glance, the basics of this are eerily similar to January 4, 2002.  On that day, most college football fans were going about their day when they turned on the television, checked the latest sports reports online, or got a call from a friend with the news Steve Spurrier had resigned.  It was a stomach punch to Gator fans.  Like Meyer, they didn’t see it coming.  Unlike Meyer, Spurrier wanted to take a shot at the NFL.  He wanted to see if he could succeed at the next level.  Not long after, we would find out Spurrier would be the next head coach of the Washington Redskins.

With Meyer, the situation is different.  It’s one that has many Florida fans not nearly as concerned about the future of the program, but more about the future of their, now former, field general.  Health concerns are being cited as the reason for Meyer’s resignation.  In only a few short hours, we heard everything from serious heart problems, to stress-related issues that aren’t life threatening, to different brain problems that could be present.  We now know Meyer experienced chest pains as well as dehydration when he was taken to a hospital following the SEC Championship Game.  Beyond that, we’re still not all that sure.  At the very least, we can keep Meyer in our thoughts and hope he is able to get through whatever health issues there are.

On that note, Meyer is doing the right thing.  As much as we never wanted him to leave Florida, he had to.  There are more important things in life.  The stress and pressure put on the head coach at a major university is something none of us can really comprehend.  We all have jobs where stress is present and some of us may even have more than Meyer depending on what we do, but you never really know how anything affects another person.  The pressure on Meyer had obviously gotten to him over the years and when stress goes from emotional to physical, it’s time to make a change.

So for Meyer, next appears to still be at Florida.  He won’t have a coaching role, but early reports are saying he will remain with the program in some capacity.  We can imagine some sort of advisory or operational position.  It’s hard to say at this point, but Meyer appears to want to remain involved.  Good news for those not wanting to see Meyer leave completely, although there should be hope he doesn’t overdo it.  Meyer’s health and his family need to be his number one concern and if he can keep it that way with reduced responsibilities, great.  If he can’t, then he needs to step aside completely.

Although hard to think about the football side of this, the program will move on.  It has to.  The unfortunate side effect of jolting news such as this is that business must go on.  Florida needs a head coach.  They need someone to continue recruiting.  They need to immediately start thinking about 2010.  Who is on the short list?  How will Jeremy Foley and company proceed?  What are recruits thinking?  Could any current players leave?  Does this impact the decision a number of juniors have to make?  There are no answers yet.  Thoughts, yes.  Answers, no.

Starting with potential replacement candidates, you’ve already heard a number of names and will probably continue to hear the following: former Meyer coordinators Dan Mullen and Charlie Strong, former Florida assistant and current Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops, Arkansas head man Bobby Petrino, Boise State leader Chris Petersen, and Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham.  You don’t have to be happy about any of them, but at the same time, don’t be surprised if one of them is the next Gator head coach.

Mullen and Strong are up there for obvious reasons.  They both have coached under Meyer and the past few years have been two of the hotter names among assistants across the nation.  Mullen had some success in his first season at Mississippi State and appears to be building something there.  Strong is headed to Louisville, but reports state he has only signed an offer sheet at this point, not a contract.  Although unlikely he won’t end up in red and white, it’s not out of the question his Louisville stint could be very short-lived.

Stoops may be the gold standard.  He has the most experience and has had the most success of any of the names being mentioned.  Stoops has been on the short list each of the last two times Florida needed a head coach.  Rumors even had him saying he would like to coach the Gators someday, but the timing just wasn’t right.  He would bring a 116-29 career record with him.  Of the other names, Petrino would seem the most unlikely, and the one Florida fans would want the least.  Offensive genius has been said in the same sentence as Petrino, but he isn’t exactly the sought after name he was a few years ago.  However, his name will be mentioned because it was the last time the Gators needed a head coach.  As for the other two, Petersen will be brought up with any opening at a major program (a 48-4 record over four years will do that) and Whittingham coached under Meyer at Utah and followed him as the head coach there.  Whoever it is, rest easy Florida, there are some very good candidates out there.  None of them are Meyer, but this isn’t a Ron Zook situation either (you know his name had to be mentioned sooner or later).

As for recruits and players, well, who really knows?  A number of recruits have come out and said they are still Gators.  A number have also said they have to see what happens next.  And even more aren’t saying anything yet.  We could see some current players look into transferring, although it’s hard to imagine the Florida program falling off the map.  The Gators were already preparing for a transition year in 2010.  This could definitely amplify that, but those that think Florida is done need a reality check.  And if Meyer is still involved with the program, recruits and players will both know that and be aware that his mark will still be felt.  Those considering leaving early for the NFL, we have to think their decision was just made for them.  Why go through the transition to a new coach, and possibly new philosophy, if you have a chance at being a relatively decent draft pick now?  You don’t.  You say thank you to Meyer, the rest of the staff, the university, and the fans and move on.

So there it is.  It wasn’t a bad dream.  It’s very real.  On January 1, 2010, we will see Urban Meyer coach his last game with the Florida Gators.  We’ll wonder what happens next, but at the same time we’ll keep Meyer and his family in our thoughts and hope all is well with him and know he made the right decision.