Urban Meyer signs up for on-air gig with ESPN

Less than a month after he officially ceased being the head coach of the Florida Gators, Urban Meyer has agreed to begin a new form of employment. He will start working as an on-air college football analyst with ESPN beginning Wednesday, the company announced on a conference call Monday.

“Football has played an extremely important role in my life for the past 25 years and ESPN has given me an incredible opportunity to join its world-class team and share my passion, knowledge, and enthusiasm for the game with fans across the country,” said Meyer in a press release.

Meyer, who joined ESPN‘s coverage of the 2010 Las Vegas Bowl and 2011 BCS National Championship and did on-air work for FOX during the 2008 BCS National Championship, has never been a prominently featured television personality before.

“Coach Meyer brings a fresh voice and a contemporary knowledge of the game,” ESPN executive vice president of production Norby Williamson said. “As he showed during BCS coverage, his ability to communicate the strategic aspects of the game and his incredible track record for success will serve college football fans everywhere.”

From ESPN’s press release:

Former University of Florida head football coach Urban Meyer, who won two BCS National Championships in six years, will join ESPN as a college football game and studio analyst. He will make his debut Wednesday, Feb. 2 as a studio analyst during ESPNU’s 10-hour ESPNU National Signing Day Special.

As part of the agreement, Meyer will work a weekly regular-season game (specific assignment to be determined) and select post-season bowl games. He will also provide studio analysis throughout the year on ESPN’s daily College Football Live program; NFL Draft, spring games; and bowl games, including during the network’s on-site BCS coverage.

In addition, Meyer will contribute to ESPN’s popular Saturday morning College GameDay Built by The Home Depot series (from his game site), make weekly appearances on ESPN Radio, and provide analysis on SportsCenter and additional ESPN outlets.

Meyer cited spending time with his family as the main reason he stepped away from his job with Florida. He explained Monday that his duties, though they might sound broad, will only keep him away from home for short periods of time each week.

“In the offseason it’s going to be minimal. During the season it’s going to be the weekend – Friday and Saturday,” he said. “It’s going to be different than what I’m used to the past 25 years.”

Even though he resigned from his job as the Gators head coach, Meyer was given an office inside Ben Hill Griffin Stadium by athletic director Jeremy Foley and is expected to continue working with Florida while holding this television job. He shed a bit of light on those responsibilities Monday.

“I’m going to work directly with Jeremy in the foundation and help in that aspect,” he said. “The depth I will assist Florida has not been finalized yet. It will have no impact on what I do with ESPN.”

When it all comes down to it, Meyer will have to analyze the Gators at times on television. However, his new responsibilities will not change his passion for the program.

“I will be very respectful of Florida, very respectful of the game,” he said when asked how it will feel to comment on his old school. “I think we have a great coach. I’m a Florida fan. And I’m not going to be ashamed of that.”

CONFERENCE CALL QUOTES (After the break…)
Continue Reading » Urban Meyer signs up for on-air gig with ESPN

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TWO BITS: Tebow set to speak at Winged Foot

1 » Former Florida Gators quarterback Tim Tebow will be the keynote speaker at the 21st Winged Foot Scholar Athlete awards banquet dinner on May 27 at the Naples Grande. The organization awards scholarships to deserving student-athletes from Collier County (like former Miami Dolphins punter Ray “The Mule” Finkle**). Big-name speakers preceding Tebow at this event include head coaches Urban Meyer (2009), Lou Holtz (2008), Tony Dungy (2001) and Steve Spurrier (1994).

**Finkle: soccer style kicker who graduated from Collier High June 1976; Stetson University honors graduate class of 1980; holds two NCAA Division I records – one for most points in a season, one for distance; former nickname “The Mule;” the first and only pro-athlete ever to come out of Collier County…and one hell of a model American.

2 » Two weeks later, the Tebow family’s Focus on the Family Super Bowl XLIV advertisement is still drawing attention. While, for the most part, viewers found the commercial to be harmless and not worthy of the controversy surrounding it, FotF believes it was a success for their organization. However, a Christian research firm named Barna Group disagrees, saying the spot did nothing to convey a particular message and was neither as memorable nor as clear as the group hoped it would be.

Photo Credit: Getty Images

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TWO BITS: Urban Meyer health update

1 » Speaking with Florida Gators interim head coach, offensive coordinator and offensive line coach Steve Addazio, Peter Kerasotis of Florida Today picked his brain about his new role with the team and the time frame for a potential return by head coach Urban Meyer. “He will be back,” Addazio said when asked if Meyer will be able to return. “Definitely. He’s made that clear. He’s doing great. There’s no timetable, but I’m guessing he’ll be back sooner rather than later. I see him all the time, and he just looks great.”

2 » While in attendance at the American Football Coaches Association Convention in Orlando, FL, Jeremy Fowler of the Orlando Sentinel caught up with ESPN college football analyst and former head coach Lou Holtz about Meyer’s health. (The two are close friends.) “[Meyer is] pretty good, and he’s feeling good,” Holtz said. “I think as long as his health is OK – that’s the whole concern he has. As long as that’s under control, I think he’ll be absolutely fine [in 2010]. He’s a great person and a great football coach, and he’s done a marvelous job everywhere he’s been.”

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Who will replace Strong as defensive coordinator?

Now that Charlie Strong is officially the head coach of the Louisville Cardinals, Florida Gators head coach Urban Meyer must find someone to replace him as the team’s defensive coordinator. Strong, who said Wednesday that he will stay on to coach the Gators defense in the 2010 Sugar Bowl, will likely work with his future successor in preparation for the game, similar to how former offensive coordinator Dan Mullen worked with his replacement Steve Addazio before the 2009 BCS National Championship. Assistant head coach, defense/defensive line coach Dan McCarney and assistant defensive coordinator/safeties coach Chuck Heater are currently Meyer’s leading candidates to replace Strong, though he could hire someone from the outside.

Dan McCarney
Assistant head coach, defense/defensive line coach

A 32-year coaching veteran, McCarney remains the longest tenured head coach in Big 12 history, leading the Iowa State Cyclones to five bowl games from 1995-2006. He was named Big 12 Coach of the Year in 2004 and was responsible for the rebirth of Iowa State’s defense, which ranked among the Big 12 leaders in total defense in 2001, 2002, 2004 and 2005. Prior to his tenure with the Cyclones, McCarney, 56, was the Wisconsin Badgers defensive coordinator. In 1993, his defense ranked 19th nationally against the run and allowed only 16.3 points per game. Wisconsin recorded a nation’s-best 23 interceptions as well as 34 turnovers that season.

Chuck Heater
Assistant defensive coordinator, safeties coach

A 33-year coaching veteran, Heater has worked with Meyer at four different programs including the Ohio State Buckeyes, Colorado State Rams and Utah Utes. He has worked with six National Coaches of the Year (Barry Alvarez, Earle Bruce, Lou Holtz, Meyer, Bill McCartney, Bo Schembechler) and coached in 22 bowl games including six on New Year’s Day and two BCS National Championship games. Heater, 57, was the Gators’ recruiting coordinator in 2006 and 2007 for two of the team’s best recruiting classes to date. His cornerback units helped Florida lead the SEC in interceptions with 16 (2005, T-Georgia) and 21 (2006), respectively.

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Charlie Strong hired as Louisville head coach

Florida Gators defensive coordinator Charlie Strong has been announced as the 21st head coach of the Louisville Cardinals. Strong was named the front-runner to replace former head coach Steve Kragthrope by Louisville athletic director Tom Jurich after the regular season concluded, though Jurich waited to speak to Strong and Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley until after the Gators competed in the 2009 SEC Championship. The two first met Sunday evening in Gainesville, FL, and spoke about the job throughout the week as Jurich waited for the University of Louisville‘s Athletic Association Board of Directors to approve the hiring of Strong. That endorsement came Wednesday afternoon, and a school press conference scheduled for 4 p.m. confirmed Strong’s future with the Cardinals.

“I’ve done a lot of homework with this hire, and I was amazed how well-respected and revered Charlie Strong is throughout the country ,” Jurich said at the press conference. “He commands a lot of respect from people within the game, including ex-players and coaches around college football. However, after meeting him in person, I was even more impressed. Tony Dungy had a huge impact on me with this hire. He was passionate about Charlie as a coach and as person. I respect the opinions of Urban Meyer, who was part of our staff at Colorado State, and Jeremy Foley, who is one of the most respected athletic directors in the country. They both raved about Charlie as a football coach and his great character.”

During his first address to the Louisville faithful, Strong first paused and then cried when asked by a reporter if he thought he would ever get the chance to be a head coach. “Because you just never knew if it would happen,” he said. Strong also described the meeting when Jurich offered him the job as “very emotional” for his family. “Coaching is taking young men and making an impact and influence on their lives to make them better people,” Strong said. “I want them to know that their sole purpose here is to get a degree and to go win football games.”

Strong got his start as a graduate assistant at Florida from 1983-84 and has spent the majority of his 27-year coaching career with the Gators. He returned to the team in 1988 as outside linebackers coach for two seasons before leaving and coming back in 1991 under head coach Steve Spurrier as assistant head coach/defensive tackles coach. In 1999, he became the first African-American coordinator in Southeastern Conference history when he was hired by Lou Holtz of the South Carolina Gamecocks to coach the defense. His most recent stint with Florida began in 2002 as defensive coordinator under then-head coach Ron Zook. Strong survived the transition of the team to current head coach Urban Meyer, who eventually gave him complete control of the defense and the additional title of assistant head coach. He also served as the Gators’ interim coach (effectively the second African-American head coach in SEC history) in Florida’s 2004 Peach Bowl loss to the Miami Hurricanes.

Throughout his career, Strong has been known as a terrific recruiter who is able to connect on a personal level with his players. He has coached in 19 bowl games, including 12 in January, due in part to his installation of an aggressive, attacking scheme that puts pressure on the quarterback and forces turnovers. Strong has developed six first-round NFL Draft picks and 15 players who were drafted in the third round or higher (prior to the 2010 draft). Since 2003, Florida’s defense under Strong has intercepted 132 passes, good for No. 3 in the nation and best in the SEC. No SEC defense has forced more turnovers (139) or interceptions (95) than the Gators since 2005, and only one other school in the nation (Boston College) has picked off more passes. Florida’s defense has also paced the SEC in total rushing yards allowed and rushing yards per game allowed since 2005 while remaining at the top of the league in red zone scoring defense over the last two seasons (second in the nation – East Carolina).

Because of the recent success of the Gators under Meyer, the coach has lost a number of his assistants to promotions. Doc Holliday was with Florida from 2005-2007 as associate head coach/safeties coach/recruiting coordinator before leaving to become the West Virginia Mountaineers associate head coach while also coaching tight ends, fullbacks and running the team’s recruiting. Co-defensive coordinator/defensive line coach Greg Mattison left after the 2007 season to coach linebackers for the NFL’s Baltimore Ravens (he is now the team’s defensive coordinator). And most recently, former offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Dan Mullen was hired as the head coach of the Mississippi State Bulldogs before the 2009 BCS National Championship. Mullen took tight ends/assistant offensive line coach John Hevesy with him as his assistant coach/offensive line coach/running game coordinator.

Strong was bombarded by phone calls from assistants around the country looking to earn a spot on his Louisville staff before he was even officially interviewed for the position. Rumors are swirling that he may tap either Florida wide receivers coach/recruiting coordinator Billy Gonzales or running backs coach Kenny Carter to become his offensive coordinator. (Gonzales has since denied these rumors, though it is believed that Meyer has already spoken with Notre Dame Fighting Irish running backs coach Tony Alford about replacing Carter should Strong bring him along.) Some are also speculating that Strong could ask assistant head coach/defense/defensive line coach Dan McCarney or assistant defensive coordinator/safeties coach Chuck Heater to join him as his defensive coordinator. Either McCartney or Heater is expected to be named the Gators’ defensive coordinator in succession of Strong.

The Cardinals told Strong that he could stay with the Gators to coach in the 2010 Sugar Bowl, and according to a statement he gave the St. Petersburg Times, he will do so.

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There are Strong issues in college football

Originally written Jan. 30, 2009; edited Oct. 12, 2009

Racism, bigotry, oppression, hate and lack of acceptance are great for the football program at the University of Florida.

Calm down and hold your horses before you pass judgment – let me explain. The Florida Gators do not advocate or support these absurd ideologies – you can now take a breath – but its opponents certainly do.

Otherwise, how can you explain the fact that a man like Charlie Strong has yet to be offered a head coaching job in NCAA Division-IA football? (Sorry, I do not recognize this new B.S. “FBS” designation.)

How can you explain that a man who has been defensive coordinator at one of the best and most talented football programs in the country for eight straight years, finding success under three different head coaches, has not advanced from said position?

Because he buttons the top button of his polo shirts? Please.

How can you explain that one of the best defensive minds in college football – a man who held the “best offense in NCAA history” in the 2008 Oklahoma Sooners to 14 points, did the same in 2006 to the Ohio State Buckeyes, whose defense only gave up more than 21 points in one game in all of 2008 and is now averaging only 6.4 points per game in 2009 – has not been recognized as such?

Because he graduated from the University of Central Arkansas? No way.

How can you explain that one of the best college recruiters (Rivals top 25) to come around the state of Florida (arguably the most talent-rich state in the union) cannot land a head coaching job at a university looking to dive into the aforementioned talent pool?

Because he lost his only game as head coach, the 2004 Peach Bowl (six years ago), by 17 points? Come on…

How can you explain that a man: with 27 years of collegiate coaching experience at major universities (Florida, South Carolina, Notre Dame, Ole Miss, Southern Illinois, Texas A&M); who has coached in 19 bowl games (including 12 in January); who has coached under Lou Holtz, Steve Spurrier and Urban Meyer; whose defenses at UF have (a) scored points off turnovers in 41 of 64 games , (b) intercepted 85 passes in five years, (c) ranked first in the SEC and second in the nation in rushing defense the past three seasons [all numbers prior to 2009 season]; and who will soon be the longest tenured defensive coordinator in school history, still has not been given a chance to do for another school what he has done so well at Florida?

Because he is an African-American man.

Because he has a Caucasian wife.

And because he refuses to apologize for either.

Continue Reading » There are Strong issues in college football

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TWO BITS: Meyer sought advice; East-West Shrine

1 » Florida Gators head coach Urban Meyer sought the advice of his mentors and fellow coaches in making a decision regarding quarterback Tim Tebow. He spoke with current ESPN analyst Lou Holtz, former Ohio State Buckeyes coach Earle Bruce and two current coaches whose names he kept private. “I learned a lot these past two weeks,” Meyer said.

2 » Tebow, middle linebacker Brandon Spikes, wide receiver Riley Cooper, defensive end Jermaine Cunningham and kick returner Brandon James have been invited to play in the East-West Shrine Game on Jan. 23 at the Citrus Bowl in Orlando, FL.

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