Price: Meyer had no choice but to change his mind

By Adam Silverstein
December 29, 2009

In the Dec. 7, 2009, issue of Sports Illustrated, S.L. Price profiled Florida Gators head coach Urban Meyer in what OGGOA called a “must-read” article. Part of the reason why Price’s piece was so intriguing was the access Meyer gave him to his family and information he provided about his medical history. Now that the media is roundly criticizing Meyer for waffling on his decision to step down for his health and family, Price discusses the story from a different perspective, saying that in order “to understand Meyer’s flip-flop, one must first understand his past.”

Shelley Meyer, Urban’s wife, explained to Price in July how hard her husband takes a loss and the type of damage it does to his psyche. “He’s miserable,” Shelley said. “He can’t sleep, and he can’t eat: He’s in the tank. The 2004 Utah season was the best ever, because we didn’t lose a game. Last year we lost to Ole Miss, and he went into the depths as he always does. He sits alone, and the worst thing is if we have people over. He just wants to sit all by himself. He goes in the den, he doesn’t want to talk to anybody, doesn’t want to see anybody. He usually puts the TV on and he usually just wants me to come sit with him. He can’t sleep that night. Terrible, terrible. And he’s up by 5 a.m. the next morning and in (his office) watching that film: What went wrong? It’s the most distraught thing you’ve ever seen, because it’s all his fault — in his mind: It’s my fault. What did I do? I didn’t put the players in the position to win.

Most of all, Meyer’s change of heart came about not just because he loves the players and program at Florida (his “second family”) but also due to the fact that “he was as happy as he’d ever been,” Price writes. “In Gainesville, he had finally been at a school long enough to build a program his way, with his recruits, his system. For the first time, he had a built a machine capable of creating its own self-sustaining fuel.”

“He’s finally stayed somewhere long enough to where the team is where he wants it,” Shelley said. “I told him that: Bowling Green was two seasons, same thing at Utah. We’ve been here four seasons, he’s getting the guys he wants in here, everybody’s buying into the program, everybody knows the expectations and the rules: This is what you’ve been working for. Why would you want to leave it now?

And therein lies the paradox for Meyer going back on his initial decision. He has worked his entire life, putting all of this stress and anxiety literally on his heart, in order to land the job of his dreams. Yet everything he has done to reach the pinnacle of his profession is exactly what is endangering his life. How do you give up something you have worked your entire life for without at least trying to change and perform your job in a healthier manner? “Anyone who knows Meyer understands he had no choice but to change his mind,” Price concludes. “Whether he can solve his problem, whether he can coach without killing himself or his family, is the question of the season.”

7 Comments

  1. Aligator says:

    i read this article when i got my SI and when all this happened this past weekend, i was able to reference this and explain to a lot of people what kind of man he is, what drives him and how he takes things. I would take it that most of these yahoos snarling about the flip flop have not. great article to read and great article by you to bring it all full circle….

  2. Will The Real Gator Fan Please Stand Up says:

    It’s nice to hear from S.L. Price and Shelley Meyer but the real reason Urban had a change of heart is quite simple. If Urban threw in the towel and resigned at UF, and later became healthy, he would have had to start all over again at a new school. Of course, he would again be in high demand, get top dollar, and eventually top recruits, but he wouldn’t have had an opportunity to be rehired at Florida because they would have gone a different way. By stepping aside until he is healthy Urban leaves the door open for a return if doctors say he is capable, everything resigning wouldn’t allow.

  3. miamigator says:

    You’re right Will, but don’t forget the $4 million (that’s over $10,000 per day, every day). My question to Urban would be, “If you take everything so seriously, How could you sit back & watch a team of All Americans & future NFL stars play at such a mediocre level this season (at least offensively)”. Receivers couldn’t catch the ball, O Line couldn’t protect Tebow & in the end, RBs couldn’t be (or weren’t) relied upon vs Alabama. The offense sucked & Steve Addazio was in charge & you were not only resposible for his elevation to OC, but now you make him acting HC. I’ve lost confidence in you. Come back Mullen & Strong!

  4. You’ve lost confidence in a man who has won two national titles in the last four seasons and could lead the Gators to their 3rd 13-1 season in the last four because you don’t agree with his choice for offensive coordinator? Please. Besides, Addazio is probably better suited to be a HC than an OC where he has less input on the playcalling…ever think of that? Fact is, Addazio is the senior member on staff and the only one capable of being the interim HC in Meyer’s place.

  5. Gatorfan33 says:

    I have no choice but to trust those in charge of this situation but I don’t like it none at all. Simply due to the fact that we are in limbo waiting on Urban or his doctors to say he can come back and coach. Who knows how long that will be and that sucks. As to the article, yes it explains a lot but it also tells me that him taking losses so personal and taking on the majority of the work load is part of his makeup or management ways and it is going to be nearly impossible to change after doing it this way for so long. If he doesn’t change then this is nothing but a postponement of us having to hire a new coach.

  6. Legitimate concern, 33. My devil’s advocate position on that point, however, would be this: Let’s say Meyer takes 18 months off: Wouldn’t you rather have him coaching the team in 2011 as opposed to anyone else?

    I also don’t think Urban will change how he takes losses – but losing on its own is not causing his health issues. It is his anxiety about losing COMBINED with the extremely long hours, constant traveling (recruiting and fundraising), lack of delegation (this is key), etc. It is a change of lifestyle that Meyer is looking at – not a change of how he feels after his team loses a game – that will never change.

  7. O-town Gator says:

    Anther very well written article on Urban Meyer from S.L. Price; I also enjoyed the mini-bio he had written on Coach not that long ago.

    Hopefully this much-deserved time off will give Urban time to reflect as well as recuperate; his devotion and dedication to Florida football is something to be appreciated and admired by Gator Nation, but right now his physical and emotional health needs to take precedence.

    When Coach is ready to return, it’ll be at the time he, his family, his doctors and the UF administration feel is the right time. I’m just thankful that Dr. Machen and Jeremy Foley are giving Urban all the time he needs to get well and refocused.

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