I've heard Urban Meyer preach about what it means to be a man and the importance of family for the last four years, and while I took what he said to be a good lesson, it always lost some strength since he didn't seem to be following his own advice.
He almost did last year, but his resignation lasted just 24 hours. I'll never forget his daughter Nicki talking to reporters after the Sugar Bowl, and it was crystal clear how much she missed her dad and was worried about his health.
Her fears and Meyer's own worries weren't enough to pull him away from coaching, but that changed Wednesday, when he put family before football. He gave up his bigtime coaching job, giant salary and the spotlight for his children.
He's going to serve as an assistant coach for his son Nate's baseball team this spring, and he plans on seeing his daughters Nicki and Gigi play college volleyball next season.
This was the decision that fit the lines he always fed the media in press conferences and his players in the locker room, and he deserves a lot of respect for it.
To be honest, I never really liked Meyer as a person. Granted, the coach-reporter relationship doesn't provide enough insight to judge someone's character, but in my almost daily interactions with him from 2007-2009, he rarely provided any reason for me to like him. He was often condescending, terse and, well, an asshole.
That changed this season. Maybe it was because he relaxed a bit in light of his health scare. Maybe it was because he scaled back his media appearances by two days per week. Or maybe it was because the Gators weren't good. At any rate, he finally flashed a personality and let loose some of the dry wit that his players always talk about. A few of my favorite moments:
- Early in the season, when reporters were hounding him to find out what responsibilities he had dropped to reduce his stress, someone asked about a player changing numbers. Meyer said he didn't know because he doesn't coach the numbers, then paused and said, "I delegated that" and started laughing, which he doesn't do often.
- He left his shades in an interview room after the three-game losing streak, and when he came back to get them, a reporter told him he almost stole them and put them on eBay. Meyer: "You would have gotten more for them last year."
- When a reporter kept asking leading questions that basically insinuated the reporter felt he knew how to give a better pep talk than Meyer, he smiled, took off his whistle, tossed it to the reporter and said, "Here, you coach them."
None of these are going to put you on the floor rolling with laughter, but the fact that I remember them tells you how rare it was for him to crack jokes before this year. This was the first season I'd seen him say and do things for the sole purpose of being funny, and that signaled a major change in attitude to me.
All in all, he's going out a millionaire with plenty of life ahead of him. He said he wasn't ruling out coaching again, but he wouldn't think about that right away.
By virtue of his two national titles, he should be remembered as Florida's greatest coach (I know plenty of you will argue that, but two is more than one). He gave the Gators all he had for six years, and if he's truly going to put that same effort toward being a husband and father now, he deserves nothing but respect and admiration for the decision.
Of course, he could end up coaching again in the next three years and ruin all these nice things I just wrote about him, but I'm hoping he doesn't. I'm hoping he's really going to walk the walk.
What are your thoughts? Angry at Meyer for leaving or do you think he did the right thing? Is anyone happy he's gone? If you are, you're going to need to back that up pretty strongly. I'll be deleting the nonsense. You know who you are.