Florida Gators head football coach Urban Meyer announced his retirement from college football on Wednesday and a press conference will be held by the University of Florida including athletic director Jeremy Foley and school president Bernie Machen at 6 p.m.
“I have been a Division I football coach for the last 25 years and, during that time, my primary focus has been helping my teams win titles,” Meyer said in an official statement released by the school. “I have thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it, and I am a fierce competitor to my core. At this time in my life, however, I appreciate the sacrifices my 24/7 profession has demanded of me, and I know it is time to put my focus on my family and life away from the field. The decision to step down was a difficult one.
“But after spending more than two decades motivating and celebrating the young men I’ve been so proud to coach, I relish the opportunity to cheer for my three terrific kids as they compete in their own respective sports. I know how fortunate I am to be in a position to make this choice and to have a family that is as loving and supportive as my amazing wife and children have always been.”
Meyer, who will coach his final game with the Gators in the 2011 Outback Bowl on Jan. 1, 2011, reportedly informed Foley of his decision over the weekend. The duo finalized the resignation on Tuesday.
“I am enormously grateful to the University of Florida and our tremendous fans for giving me the incredible opportunity to lead the football program,’’ Meyer said. “The support provided by school president Bernie Machen and athletic director Jeremy Foley has been an invaluable part of all that we have been able to accomplish over the last six years I have exceptional regard for my coaching staff who have always shared my passionate commitment to winning and to guiding the development of the young men of Florida football.
“Most important, I will be forever grateful to the student-athletes I have had the honor to coach and from whom I have learned so much. I will profoundly miss coming to campus every day to coach this team, but I will always be a Gator at heart, and I am confident that the program will continue to reflect the highest ideals of the University of Florida and collegiate sports.”
He is coming off his least productive year at Florida, finishing the regular season with a 7-5 (4-4 SEC) record even though the Gators brought in arguably the nation’s top recruiting class in the offseason.
Meyer leaves Florida having complied a 64-15 (36-12 SEC) record, two BCS National Championships, three BCS bowl game appearances, two SEC Championships in three appearances, and – at one point – a school-record 22-game winning streak. His .810 winning percentage is the best in UF history, he became the first coach in FBS history to post consecutive 13-win seasons, and he is the only coach to post three 13-win seasons in a four-year span.
Named “Coach of the Decade” by Sports Illustrated and the Sporting News, Meyer is the first coach ever to win two BCS National Championships and is one of five coaches to win a pair of national titles in his first four years at a school.
Meyer coached a Heisman Trophy winner in Gators quarterback Tim Tebow, a No. 1 overall pick in the NFL Draft in QB Alex Smith (at Utah) and has had 26 Gators selected to the NFL Draft since taking over the team. Seven Florida players have been first-round picks under Meyer including a school-record-tying three in 2010.
Foley also shared his early thoughts on Meyer’s retirement.
“When I first came to Florida in 1976, all anybody wanted to do here was win one Southeastern Conference championship,’’ Foley said. “As good of a coach as he is, he’s a better person. He’s given Gator fans and this program memories of a lifetime. When you win 22 games in a row and have back-to-back 13-win seasons, two national championships, it’s hard to quantify.
“People just need to understand what he did. Winning two national championships is really hard. He fell in love with the Florida Gators, he loves this place, and he’ll always be a part of our history. It was our privilege to have him as our football coach.’’
After falling to Florida State on Nov. 27, Meyer gave no indication that he would be leaving the program anytime soon.
“I can assure you we are going to rebuild this thing and build it up the right way and do it right. Obviously we are down a little bit. I didn’t believe we would be that far down – but we are,” he said. “How do you build up a program? I’ve done it a few times. You build it up with tough players, tough coaches, and you got to play better. You have to have a plan to win. […] With that said, we’re going to be rebuild it right though, not wrong. We’re going to rebuild it right.”
Asked on Nov. 18 to clarify his status for next year, Meyer assured the media that he would be returning to the sidelines for the 2011 season. “Oh yeah. One hundred percent. Absolutely,” he said.
OGGOA will continue updating this story. Stay tuned.
Photo Credit: Stephen Morton/Associated Press