It’s quite an accomplishment to shock the world once; it’s another to do it twice.
Urban Meyer shocked the college football world Saturday night, announcing that, at age 45, he was resigning as head coach at the University of Florida, citing undisclosed health conditions.
Following what must have been the most chaotic night of his life, he experienced a change of heart midway through the Gators’ practice Sunday morning. Within 24 hours of deciding to leave Florida forever, he accepted an offer from Athletic Director Jeremy Foley to take a leave of absence instead.
After seeing the way his players reacted to his announcement to leave, which consisted of an emotional team meeting and inspired practice session, Meyer realized his attachment to the program was worth more than a flat-out resignation.
When asked what factored in to his new decision, he responded with a simple answer: “My players,” Meyer said.
What Meyer displayed in his press conference Sunday afternoon was a new outlook on the important aspects of his life.
“Many coaches can sometimes put their priorities in the wrong order, and Urban is not doing that,” Foley said.
Meyer showed the deepest affection for what he called his ‘two families’ – the one with which he shares blood, and his players at Florida.
Many coaches tend to use their players as pawns, treating them as objects to gain glory for the program, the team, and the coach himself.
Tim Tebow, the Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback of the Gators, whose tight-knit relationship is well publicized, proved that was not the case with his coach by sharing a story from Sunday’s practice.
“During practice, I ran up to coach Meyer after a play, and he just looked at me, and told me that he loved me,” Tebow said.
Bingo. Meyer’s words, both to his players in practice and to reporters at the press conference, were as sincere as possible. Too often do coaches and athletes seemingly manufacture statements that seem to be the right thing to say.
Meyer was honest and expressive, but he was still able to have discretion when necessary, keeping the details of his health issues private.
To all the cynics and pundits out there who take amusement to poking fun at Tebow’s passion for the game, and more specifically his coach, get a clue. The entire purpose of coaching any sport is to develop players as people first, then as athletes.
Meyer has clearly accomplished that, and Tebow’s commitment to his coach is simply a representation of the rest of the team.
“After coach Meyer told us the news (that he was resigning) last night, many players cried,” Tebow said.
That’s impressive. There are plenty of coaches across the country that jump from jobs every few years, using success at one place to land a more lucrative deal somewhere else.
Most of those coaches, if placed in Meyer’s situation, would stay resigned from the program, and simply look for new work elsewhere if the health problems were resolved.
But not the Gators’ coach.
“I want to coach at one place: the University of Florida. It would be a travesty…to throw other colors on my shirt,” Meyers said, “I have too much love for this university, for these players, and what we’ve built.”
It was obviously difficult enough for Meyer to walk away from football, albeit for about 12 hours. It was apparent that leaving Florida was something he couldn’t do.
After taking time off to attend to more important matters, returning to football won’t be too far in his future.
“I have a gut feeling I’ll be back next year,” Meyer said.
To be honest, if he’s not back - headset in tow, scowl fixated upon his face – for the Gators’ season-opening game next season, that is simply all right.
If one offseason is not enough time for Meyer to adequately attend to the top of his priority list, he’s earned enough respect from the administration and fan base at Florida to be allowed the time he needs.
That said, it sounds like Meyer is a man determined to be back on the sidelines as soon as the time is right.
When talking about his family’s reaction to the emotional whirlwind this news has created, Meyer’s message was clear.
“We’re an extremely close family… that’s the most important aspect of my life. To put them in jeopardy, I won’t do that,” Meyer said.
Immediately following that statement, he sent a wink towards his wife, Shelley, and their three children, sitting just off-stage. The press conference lasted almost 37 minutes. That wink lasted about one one-hundredth of a second. He could have spared everyone the time with just the wink, because the message it sent was clear.
Urban Meyer is going to be all right.