GAINESVILLE -- No one will ever accuse Mobile Press-Register hack Paul Finebaum of being original.
Never the contrarian, always the follower, Finebaum is the most recent opinionista to lash out at Florida coach Urban Meyer for, what I like to call, not being Southern enough. Here's a link to Finebaum's column, which postulated today that Meyer will leave Florida after this season for Notre Dame. (Who is Finebaum anyway, you ask? A radio personality in Alabama. Always consider the audience when you read something, including this.)
I have to admit, I've thought about this very same thing a few times over the past month. Will Meyer leave for Notre Dame after Tebow leaves? Admit it, Gators fans. Every single one of you has thought about this scenario. While most believe that Meyer will eventually coach at Notre Dame, I don't think it's going to be next year ... if ever. Here's why:
1. Meyer will be at the height of his powers come January after he has taken yet another team to a national championship game. Meyer's current contract, about $3.5 million per, runs through 2013. Given the current economic climate, there is no hurry to renegotiate that contract, according to people in the know, and the timeline for a new deal likely points to after this season. While nothing is guaranteed in the world of college football, UF's 2009 season is the next best thing. Meyer will have plenty of leverage come the second week of January 2010 (the one-week window Meyer and his agent can talk to other schools, assuming UF plays in the title game). UF might not win the national title, but the Gators will get to Pasadena. What does that mean? A hefty raise for Meyer and iconic job security.
2. Sure, Meyer will lose Tebow and the Gators' cached stockpile of defensive weapons after this season but UF isn't going away and neither is Meyer. The cupboard isn't bare, folks. Far from it. Back-up quarterback John Brantley might be the third best quarterback in the SEC this season. (An idea I first tossed out while watching Brantley this spring.) On defense, there will not be much of a drop off at middle linebacker when Brandon Spikes leaves. Jon Bostic is that good. And, oh yeah, UF might sign one of the best recruiting classes on record in February.
3. Back to job security. From a purely pragmatic perspective, Meyer would be wise to stick around in Gainesville for at least the next four years. Let's pick a number out of the hat. If Meyer receives a $1 million raise after this season, giving him a contract worth about $4.5 million per year (a low estimate, if you ask me), he could stick around in Gainesville for a few more years and then negotiate an enormous college contract with whomever he likes.
4. Meyer and his family like Gainesville and like living in Florida, where recruiting is a regional business. Meyer is a family man. Coaching at Notre Dame, and having to recruit nationally, would limit Meyer's time with his family dramatically.
5. People assume Meyer will eventually coach at Notre Dame. Why? Because Meyer called it his "dream job." Big deal. In observing Meyer for the past three years, I know one thing for sure about the man. He is anything but a dreamer. And, sure, he's got a hefty ego, but what football coach -- from the local Pop Warner league to the NFL -- doesn't? What are the odds of Meyer turning Notre Dame into a national champion? I don't know, but I know the odds are better of Meyer winning future national titles if he sticks around at Florida. That's why he came to UF in the first place, remember? He already turned down Notre Dame once.
6. All this conjecture assumes that Notre Dame wants to fire Charlie Weis. Notre Dame doesn't want to fire Charlie Weis. Not yet, anyway. Weis returns a talented team this season, including a veteran quarterback and a veteran offensive line. The schedule sets up well for the Irish to make a run at the BCS.