Meyer ride at UF fun while it lasted
Published: Thursday, December 9, 2010 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, December 8, 2010 at 10:33 p.m.
So many things flash through your mind when a man is walking away.
The special nights with confetti rain. The afternoons spent in his office talking about family. The way he treated mine. The text messages that were answered with breaking news.
But mostly, when Urban Meyer was standing at the podium with a smile on his face Wednesday night, I thought about a night several years ago at Napolatano's. Our "annual beer," he called it, a yearly ritual before two-a-days when we'd get together and just talk.
And I remember him saying this, "I've got 10 years and I'm out."
The 10 years as a head coach has expired. And Meyer has escaped.
He tried a year ago, but they pulled him back in like Michael Corleone. Meyer wanted to walk away from the profession and the big salary then, but he was convinced to take a leave of absence, delegate more and stay on as Florida's coach.
Meyer doesn't regret the decision.
Neither does Jeremy Foley.
But in hindsight, maybe it was a mistake.
Meyer said he came back because he loves Florida and because the timing was closer to Steve Spurrier's resignation than to Ron Zook's firing.
"Timing is never perfect," he said, "but that was a knee-jerk reaction. This is different."
Foley said he didn't regret what happened last December for the same reason he didn't that day in New Orleans when he addressed the media. He has seen Meyer's work. He and Bernie Machen didn't want him to get away.
But now we wonder if he shouldn't have. Clearly, he wanted out because of health reasons. And if he had walked away, he wouldn't have had this 7-5 blemish on his legacy.
That's not why he left behind these players and this football program now. He said it is because of family, but isn't that what he said a year ago only to dive right back into it again?
I have no doubt that family is the biggest reason he's walking away, but I do believe he's walking away now for another reason.
He tried to do it with the leave of absence and the delegating and the time away from the office, and it didn't work.
"I'm not sure we gave them our best effort," he said of the 2010 season.
And the other way, the way he had always done it before, landed him in the hospital and took him away from his family.
There was a third choice.
Leave it all behind.
Leave behind the greatest four-year run in Florida football history (48-7 from 2006-09). Leave behind the Gator Walk that he started. Leave behind the traditions, like singing the alma mater and the fight song nobody knew the words to before he arrived. Leave behind the office cluttered with memories on every wall. Leave behind the coaches and secretaries and trainers who will be looking for jobs and the players who came here to play for him.
For as much as it may have been a mistake to come back for another year, there is something positive that came from it.
"I do think it worked," Foley said, "because Urban is at peace now."
He sure looked like it Wednesday night.
Maybe it's because he can't wait to be an assistant coach at Nate's baseball games or travel to Atlanta and Fort Myers to see his daughters' volleyball games. And watch football on Saturdays and not feel any pressure.
And maybe he's at peace because he knows this — Florida survived Steve Spurrier's departure. It will survive Urban Meyer's.
But it was fun while it lasted. Even if it lasted a year too long.
Contact Pat Dooley at 352-374-5053 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can listen to The Pat Dooley Show weekdays from 4-6 p.m. on 104.9 FM. And follow at http://Twitter.com/Pat_Dooley.
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