With the shock of the resignation of Florida Gators head coach Urban Meyer still ringing through the ears of Gator Nation, one of the major questions arising is a simple one: “Who will replace him?” OGGOA has complied a list of the most likely and most rumored candidates that could replace Meyer:
University of Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley announced Saturday afternoon that Florida Gators head coach Urban Meyer will be stepping down after coaching the team in the 2010 Sugar Bowl against the Cincinnati Bearcats. Meyer, 45, who was hospitalized with chest pains after the 2009 SEC Championship, has had concerns about his health for years. A school source has told ESPN that “Meyer has been to the hospital at least twice since suffering chest pains after the SEC title game” and that “the heart problems are stress related, not congenital.” Numerous rumors state Meyer may have had a heart attack.
In 1998, while he was an assistant with the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, Meyer experienced head pains that led doctors to discover a non-life-threatening arachnoid cyst on his brain. Though it did not put him in immediate danger, the cyst could flare up because of stress – something that happened while he was head coach of the Utah Utes. If stress is the key component at work with Meyer’s health problems, his decision to retire becomes even more clear.
“I have given my heart and soul to coaching college football and mentoring young men for the last 24-plus years and I have dedicated most of my waking moments the last five years to the Gator football program,” Meyer said in statement released to the press. “I have ignored my health for years, but recent developments have forced me to re-evaluate my priorities of faith and family. After consulting with my family, [university president] Dr. [Bernie] Machen, Jeremy Foley and my doctors, I believe it is in my best interest to step aside and focus on my health and family.
“I’m proud to be a part of the Gainesville community and the Gator Nation and I plan to remain in Gainesville and involved with the University of Florida. I’m very appreciative for the opportunity I’ve had to be a part of a tremendous institution – from Dr. Machen to Jeremy Foley and the entire administrative staff at UF. I’m also very thankful for the chance to work with some of the best assistants in college football and coach some of the best college football players and watch them grow both on and off the field as people. I will cherish the relationships with them the most.”
According to Pete Thamel of the New York Times, Meyer suffered severe chest pains while sleeping after the Alabama game. He was rushed to the hospital in an ambulance, “underwent more than nine hours of testing” and was scared for his life after losing consciousness. Though he has “suffered from severe chest pains the past two years,” these were particularly frightening. Meyer continued testing after returning to Gainesville.
On Christmas Eve, Meyer told his family that he would be resigning. “I saw it as a sign from God that this was the right thing to do,” is how Meyer said he felt when his 18-year-old daughter Nicki was overjoyed to find out he was returning home. “I was worried about letting people down. I was feeling so awful and concerned about my health. That was among several other signs that said it’s time to back away.”
For now, Meyer’s focus is solely on the Sugar Bowl. “I just want to win this game for these players and make sure that the University of Florida is in good shape,” Meyer said. “I haven’t even thought about anything after that, other than I’m a Gator and I’ll always be a Gator.” Meyer also told the Times that the team cried but took the news well. “I was very concerned about that. They were awesome. They stayed 45 minutes afterward.”
Foley and Machen also made statements about Meyer’s resignation.
“Coach Meyer and I have talked this through and I realize how hard this was for him to reach this decision,” Foley said. “But, the bottom line is that Coach Meyer needed to make a choice that is in the best interest of his well being and his family. I certainly appreciate what he has meant to the University of Florida, our football program and the Gator Nation. I have never seen anyone more committed to his players, his family and his program. Above all, I appreciate our friendship.”
“Urban Meyer’s integrity, work ethic and commitment to his players are some of the reasons we asked him to become head football coach at the University of Florida,” Machen said. “As a Gator, Urban has done everything we asked of him and more. He leaves a lasting legacy on the field, in the classroom and in the Gainesville community. I am saddened that Urban is stepping down but I have deep respect for his decision.”
Meyer leaves Florida with a 56-10 record (32-8 SEC), a school-record 22-game winning streak, two BCS National Championships and two SEC Championships. His .841 career winning percentage (95-18) is the highest among active coaches with at least five years experience, and he is the only current coach to win two BCS titles.
“I love Coach Meyer,” senior quarterback Tim Tebow said in a statement released Saturday evening. “The past four years he has been my dad away from home. We will always have a father-son relationship for the rest of our lives. Coach loves the university, his players and the fans. I believe he has made the right decision for him and his family. He will always be loved by me and the Gator faithful.”
Meyer will host a press conference in New Orleans, LA, at 4:30 p.m. on Sunday. Florida sports information director Steve McClain has said that Meyer will not only stay on in a non-coaching role for the Gators, but that he will also be heavily involved in the hiring of his successor.
– McClain also said that reports of Meyer having a defective heart muscle and an unreported heart attack are incorrect.
– ESPN’s Chris Mortensen reports that Foley was aware of Meyer’s thoughts about resigning for a week.
– Jeremy Fowler of the Orlando Sentinel reports that the Gators tried to keep Meyer by offering him time off.
– ESPN’s Kirk Herbstreit says Meyer sounded “devastated” when the two spoke earlier.
– In a completely unconfirmed report, WKMG television in Orlando, FL, is reporting that Meyer suffered a heart attack during the season. Station sports director David Pingalore also is also reporting that Meyer did not inform anyone about the issue.
– OGGOA source: Meyer may have had a heart attack upon his return to Gainesville after the SEC Championship.
– A source has told Pat Dooley of The Gainesville Sun that Meyer “just doesn’t have anything left in the tank” and “had been considering leaving coaching for more than a week, going back and forth on the decision.”
– Dooley said players were brought to tears when Meyer gathered the team.
– ESPN’s Pat Forde: Former defensive coordinator Charlie Strong, who was just recently hired as the Louisville Cardinals head coach, has only signed a term sheet with the University of Louisville and not yet a contract. The school’s media relations director, Rocco Gasparro, has confirmed this fact.
OGGOA will update this breaking news story as more is made available.
Monday will mark the 19th day since former Florida Gators defensive coordinator Charlie Strong was hired away to be the head coach of the Louisville Cardinals, and head coach Urban Meyer has yet to name his replacement. When then-offensive coordinator Dan Mullen split town for the Mississippi State Bulldogs head coaching gig in 2008, Meyer had his substitute (Steve Addazio) named in just over two weeks.
Whether it is because the Gators are playing their bowl game a week earlier this season or Meyer’s has a desire to prevent another distraction from hindering his team’s performance prior to the 2010 Sugar Bowl, some fans are finding the absence of an announcement about Strong’s replacement troubling.
Earlier this month, OGGOA profiled assistant head coach, defense/defensive line coach Dan McCarney and assistant defensive coordinator, safeties coach Chuck Heater – the two men on the current staff most likely to replace Strong. As time is winding down and assistants are being snatched up by programs across the country, it is looking more and more likely that one of these two will lead the Florida defense in 2010. And though Meyer was believed to be looking outside the program at first (presumably for a big-time name), recent reports and rumors indicate that Heater may very will end up earning the promotion.
SPECULATION: In addition to a tweet by Gainesville Sun beat writer Pat Dooley claiming that Heater “wants [to be defensive coordinator] bad,” rumors are circulating that Meyer has interviewed former Georgia Bulldogs defensive coordinator Willie Martinez for a position coach job. Should Martinez be hired, he would likely coach safeties, alleviating Heater of the duty. Strong’s departure also opens up the linebackers coach job, a position that could theoretically be filled by Martinez or cornerbacks coach Vance Bedford with the other taking over the entire secondary. Martinez, who is from Coral Gables, FL, and considered to be a terrific recruiter, would form a dynamic duo with Bedford when recruiting defensive players in South Florida.
Though he is in Gainesville, FL, through the new year helping the Florida Gators prepare for the 2010 Sugar Bowl in what will be his last game as the team’s defensive coordinator, new Louisville Cardinals head coach Charlie Strong has made a big splash hiring. On Tuesday, Strong tabbed former UNLV Rebels head coach Mike Sanford as his offensive coordinator.
Sanford, who was Florida head coach Urban Meyer’s offensive coordinator with the Utah Utes from 2003-04, helped lead that team to back-to-back Mountain West Conference Championships and a victory over the Pittsburgh Panthers in the 2005 Fiesta Bowl. Under Sanford, quarterback Alex Smith won MWC Player of the Year, was a finalist for the Heisman Trophy and became the No. 1 overall pick in the 2005 NFL Draft.
Hiring Sanford lends credence to the belief that Strong wishes to feature an offense similar to that of the Gators’ in recent years. Now all the first-time head coach must do is recruit the talent needed to fill the necessary roles.
1 » According to Florida Gators strength and conditioning coach Mickey Marotti, the team’s liaison with the NFL, 8-10 juniors have submitted their paperwork for evaluation by the league’s Draft Advisory Board. One can assume those names include cornerback Joe Haden, defensive end Carlos Dunlap, tight end Aaron Hernandez, center Maurkice Pouncey and guard Mike Pouncey. Others who may have submitted their information include safeties Ahmad Black and Major Wright, defensive tackle Lawrence Marsh and offensive linemen Carl Johnson and Marcus Gilbert.
2 » Five-star offensive tackle Seantrel Henderson (St. Paul, MN), considered by many recruiting services to be the No. 1 overall recruit in the country, will be taking his official visit Gainesville, FL, this weekend. Henderson is also seriously considering the USC Trojans, Ohio State Buckeyes and Notre Dame Fighting Irish.
3 » Florida quarterbacks coach Scot Loeffler, who has only been on the job one year in Gainesville, is considered a top candidate for the Central Michigan Chippewas and Buffalo Bulls head coaching jobs vacated by Butch Jones and Turner Gill, respectively. Some believe a year with next season’s starting quarterback John Brantley could earn Loeffler a much better gig just 12 months from now.
4 » Another name being thrown around the CMU job is brand new Gators wide receivers coach Zach Azzanni, who joined the program one week ago after the departure of Billy Gonzales to the LSU Tigers. Suffice to say that Florida head coach Urban Meyer would be none to pleased to be forced to replace a second WR coach in a matter of days.
5 » Former Gators QB and current Jacksonville Dolphins head coach Kerwin Bell met with Louisville Cardinals head coach Charlie Strong on Wednesday about the Cardinals’ vacant offensive coordinator position. Though working with Strong could be considered a promotion of sorts, Bell may prefer being his own boss at Jacksonville. “Kerwin really likes running his own program and calling the shots,” his athletic director Alan Verlander told The Florida Times-Union. “Unless they throw a lot of money at him, I’m about 95 percent certain that he will be at JU next year.”
6 » ESPN analyst Mel Kiper’s latest NFL Draft Big Board has been published and little has changed for Florida’s players. Dunlap crept up one spot from his season-low of No. 17 to No. 16, with Kiper saying his “physical tools are off the charts” and that he “has unlimited upside.” Also on the list are Haden, a “polished cover corner with tackling ability to match,” who held strong at No. 7, and Hernandez, who also popped up a spot to No. 18.. Kiper says Hernandez has “great hands and excellent run-after-catch skills for a TE.” Noticeably absent from the board for a third-straight week is senior middle linebacker Brandon Spikes, who last appeared at No. 25 on Nov. 18.
1 » A common thought among Florida Gators players returning for their first practice since UF’s devastating loss in the 2009 SEC Championship game was expressed quite well by senior quarterback Tim Tebow on Tuesday. “I don’t think you’re over a loss,” he said. “It’s probably going to hurt a while. I guess we’re over the point where we’re feeling sorry for ourselves.” Tebow also spoke to the media about the elation that his crying brought to non-Gators fans. “I don’t think I’ve really been irritated by it too much, except for when people give my family a hard time or when they’re saying stuff to my mom,” he said. “I’m used to hearing everything from fans, and so you know what, if they enjoy seeing me cry, I have bigger things to worry about.”
2 » Running backs coach Kenny Carter shot down rumors that he has plans to join former defensive coordinator Charlie Strong’s staff at the Louisville Cardinals. “I’m not looking for anything and have not been approached with anything,” Carter said. He then pulled a line from cornerbacks coach Vance Bedford’s book, saying: “I’m a Gator.” He continued, “The good thing about it is if you’re doing your job, there are going to be rumors. If you didn’t have the rumors then you’d be worried.”
3 » Carter also denied any talk that redshirt sophomore running back Chris Rainey would be declaring for the 2010 NFL Draft, calling it a “non-issue.” Bruce Black, the father of junior strong safety Ahmad Black, speculated that his son, Rainey and the Pouncey twins would all declare after the 2010 Sugar Bowl. “When [Rainey] exhausts his eligibility, then he can think about it,” he said. “I know when he and I had that conversation, we weren’t thinking about anything else but playing and next year.”
4 » Head coach Urban Meyer missed his team’s first practice in more than a week as he is across the country doing recruiting work in the state of California. Likely visiting five-star defensive end Ronald Powell (Moreno Valley, CA) and four-star wide receiver Kenny Stills (Carlsbad, CA), Meyer hopes to return to Gainesville, FL, with their commitments or at least increased interest in the Gators.
From time to time, OGGOA will come across a plethora of news and notes that we wish to share with our readers. In those instances, we present a special post: Gator Bites. Enjoy.
» An article published Tuesday by the Gainesville Sun brings Florida Gators fans numerous clarifications from head coach Urban Meyer about some of the most recent incidents and rumors swirling around the football program. It is important to remember that just because Meyer says something does not make it true as coaches cannot always be honest with the media and public. OGGOA will tackle Meyer’s statements one-by-one based on their appearance in the article.
– (Did Billy Gonzales’ knowledge about a birthday party attended by Carlos Dunlap lead to his dismissal?) “That’s absolutely not true,” Meyer said. “In fact, that’s the first I’ve heard of that one. Billy left because he was passed up last year for the offensive coordinator’s job. It was about the title.”
– (Then why did they hire Zach Azzanni so quickly as his replacement?) “We had to act quickly on that because of recruiting and because we have a bowl game coming up,” Meyer said. “I knew the guy and we moved fast on that.”
– (Ole Miss Rebels defensive coordinator Tyrone Nix was offered the job at Florida and turned it down, right?) “I talked to Tyrone. I’ve known Tyrone for a long time,” Meyer said. “But we would have had to change our whole defense if we hired him. We would have had to change everything our players are doing, and we didn’t want to do that.”
– (Will Dunlap play in the 2010 Sugar Bowl?) “It’s close to being finalized,” he said. “It’ll be done pretty soon.” Meyer also indicated he will sit down with athletic director Jeremy Foley and UF president Bernie Machen before making the decision.
Speaking with Jeremy Fowler of The Orlando Sentinel on Monday, Florida Gators cornerbacks coach Vance Bedford said he was staying put in Gainesville, FL, and concentrating on recruiting the incoming 2010 class. “I’m a Gator,” Bedford said when asked if new Louisville Cardinals head coach Charlie Strong had contacted him to be a member of his new staff. “I’m trying to do everything I can to recruit well. I’m trying to get to Dade County.”
Bedford, a former defensive coordinator with the Oklahoma State Cowboys from 2005-06 and defensive backs coach with the Chicago Bears from 1999-2004, said he has neither been contacted by Strong nor any other coach about a promotion and has only been working on recruiting over the past two weeks. When asked if he was under consideration to replace Strong at Florida, Bedford said he “could be talking about [the job] in the near future” with head coach Urban Meyer, though he admitted the Gators’ No. 1 priority right now is recruiting.
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