I really can’t think of a coaching departure more shocking than Urban Meyer’s announcement tonight that he will leave the University of Florida at the end of his fifth season. His last game will be the Sugar Bowl contest against Cincinnati next week.
Read the news story here.
Meyer, in a roundabout way, cited health reasons for his departure. But no further explanation either was given by the coach, who will hold a news conference Sunday.
One phrase that keeps sticking in my mind is Meyer saying that he wants to “reevaluate my priorities of faith and family.” That really isn’t your typical “health problem” language, but we’ll just have to see.
Regardless, it’s a mystery for a coach who is still relatively young to bow out while clearly still at the top of his game.
I felt for ESPN’s Mark May and Lou Holtz for having to try to analyze the situation live when nobody really knows what led to this.
So I won’t try to duplicate that effort. Who knows why Meyer is leaving?
Let’s talk about the impact it could have closer to Louisville. Namely, what is the situation with new U of L coach Charlie Strong, who just left a position as associate head coach at Florida to take his first head coaching job with U of L.
We haven’t been in contact with Strong yet, though I know we’re working on it. My first thought is that it’s pretty unlikely that Strong would have left Florida if he’d thought it was possible to step into the head coaching job at Florida. That’s not a knock on U of L, but let’s be realistic.
I don’t know how sudden this development has been in Gainesville, but I have to believe that Strong would’ve known which way the wind was blowing.
And secondly, while Florida might have some interest in Strong, and might even want to talk to him about the job, you wonder how serious they might be about a guy with no head-coaching experience. The last time Jeremy Foley hired such a candidate, it was Ron Zook.
Still, my former C-J colleague and current ESPN senior writer Pat Forde, whose sources in Gainesville are good ones, says Strong to Gainesville “is possible.”
Another name mentioned by ESPN’s May is former U of L coach Bobby Petrino, who now is head coach at Arkansas.
Petrino lobbied hard for the Florida job five years ago when Urban Meyer was the eventual choice, and in fact might’ve gotten the job had Meyer gone to Notre Dame instead. In fact, there were some ruffled feathers in the U of L athletic office when some calls were made on behalf of Paul Petrino for the head coaching job of UNLV, only to have Paul pull his name out of the running for that job suddenly. It was generally believed at U of L that the Petrinos thought they had a good chance of heading to Gainesville.
Petrino’s contract at Arkansas forbids him from leaving for another SEC West school, but contains no such prohibition for the SEC East.
At any rate, it’s a stunning development. It’s still too soon to have much clarity, but stay tuned . . .
UPDATE: U of L football sports information director Rocco Gasparro says Charlie Strong signed an offer sheet from U of L, but has yet to sign a formal contract. Such documents can have the force of a contract, as shown in Billy Gillispie’s recent lawsuit settled by UK, but this one would probably be but a minor sticking point if Florida wanted to pursue Strong. Still, I should keep pointing out, that’s yet to be confirmed as a possibility at this point. It’s all still speculation out there.
One other thing to think about, where U of L’s situation is concerned. While Strong has said he would not pursue players who Florida is in on, he also noted that he would recruit players that he knew the Gators were not going to offer. If a new staff moves into Gainesville, would that not open a wider potential recruiting pool for Strong? I’m not saying large numbers of Florida recruits would just up and give up a chance to play in the Swamp to come play for Strong. But there might be one or two who liked Strong to begin with.