Meyer's way impresses those around him


Florida head football coach Urban Meyer visits with senior linebacker Travis Harris during the University of Florida NFL Combine on March 9. At left is UF freshman defensive lineman Mike Brown.

DOUG FINGER/The Gainesville Sun
Published: Tuesday, March 15, 2005 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, March 15, 2005 at 5:33 a.m.
Florida football coach Urban Meyer is already leaving his mark on the Gator program.
He was window dressing for a worthy cause, a golf tournament that started two coaches ago to benefit children in the area. And as corporate sponsors lined up for photo ops, Urban Meyer kept smiling.
He was introduced at dinner to the giddy crowd and received a standing ovation.
"The good thing," Meyer said, "will be if I get a standing ovation next year."
The Florida football coach has an 0-0 record in his new job but already he has won over the Gator Nation even though his twice-a-week Gator Club speaking tour doesn't begin until next month.
Monday marked the 100th day since Meyer got up from his dining room table and shook hands with Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley to accept the job. In those 100 days, he has taken one off. The other 99 have been filled with a myriad of details.
"I have spent some time with the family but it has been difficult," he said. "That's just the nature of the beast. I love the time I am able to spend with them."
It's never easy taking over as the CEO of something as big as Florida football, but the surprises have been pleasant ones since he moved across the country from Utah. Unless we're talking about the tailback and linebacker positions.
But for the most part, the transition has been smooth.
"I think we've had a little less resistance than I thought we'd have," Meyer said. "I'm very pleased with the attitude of the players.
"Our supporting staff has been the biggest surprise. The academic support and the training table, I thought they'd be good but they're great. Everyone has such high expectations."
Meyer has displayed the kind of attributes Foley saw during the interview process and heard from those he talked to about America's hottest young football coach.
Meyer has been candid, brutally honest at times. Some Gator fans were taken aback when Meyer was critical of some of his players during a news conference last week, saying that several of them "haven't done anything yet."
Get used to it. He's not going to mince words. Meyer wears his expectations for his players and his coaches on his sleeve. He's even demanded that the student body learn the words to the fight song, even if they are slurring it from the stands.
He has come in with a plan and has the confidence to stick to it.
"There's not one minute of the day that he's not thinking about Florida football," Foley said. "I'm becoming more and more impressed with his work ethic and organizational skills."
Still, his is not the micro-management technique that doomed the previous coach. Meyer is a delegator, assigning tasks to his assistant coaches and knowing he has hired the kind of staff that will carry those tasks to fruition.
The first 100 days have included:
  • Hiring that staff, which included retaining co-defensive coordinator Charlie Strong and having to replace running backs coach Mike Locksley when he left for Illinois.
  • Putting together a top 10 recruiting class that surprised most of the recruiting experts.
  • Lining up Gator Club meetings, two a week from April 12 to July 23.
  • Introducing his new team to a new way of life. Meyer hasn't so much tried to change the culture as restore it. He has instilled discipline with his Leadership Committee and set up Champions Dinners for players who do the right things.
  • Meeting with the school's Greek Nation to create a kinder, gentler relationship between the students and student-athletes.
  • Sitting down with members of the media one-on-one so that both coach and sportswriter can get to know each other better.
  • Introducing himself to the state's high school coaches, a job that still is not completed.
  • Getting his family settled in Gainesville.
  • Spending time with the academic support staff. "He has spent a ton of time on academics," Foley said.
  • Huddling with his assistants to put together offensive and defensive playbooks and preparing for spring practice.
    That spring practice begins Wednesday, when Meyer will finally get a look at his new team running around on the UF practice fields.
    During an interview for this column, I asked Meyer if there had been any disappointments in the first 100 days.
    "I can't say I've had one," he said. "I guess it would be that I still don't know our players very well. I haven't been able to spend as much time with them as I want to."
    That changes this week. You can reach sports columnist Pat Dooley by e-mail at dooleyp@gvillesun.com or by calling 374-5053. You can hear The Pat Dooley Hour each weekday from 11 a.m. to noon on The Star 99.5-FM.
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