In Tampa, FL, alongside athletic director Jeremy Foley, Penn State Nittany Lions head coach Joe Paterno and ESPN/ABC color commentator Jon Gruden for a 2011 Outback Bowl press event on Thursday was Florida Gators head coach Urban Meyer. Though the event was aimed at promotion for the bowl game and its sponsors, Meyer spent a good portion of his time there answering questions about his recent decision to step down from his position at Florida.
“I’M HERE TO HELP IN ANY WAY”
Though Meyer will not be the head coach of the Gators next year, he is hopeful that he will be able to remain with the program – or the athletic department – in come capacity. How he will do that is currently not known and may be up to his eventual replacement.
“I want to be a part of college football. I don’t know [how]. I’m still working on that. I want to help,’’ Meyer said. “I’ve been asked and requested to remain at Florida for as long as they’ll have me. They’ve been very gracious, and I’m here to help in any way. I’ve got an idea, but we’ll have to wait until the new coach gets here. I still want to help the University of Florida. [...] It’s all up to [the new coach]. There will be no ego. For people who know me, it’s all about Florida, helping out. If that’s minimal, it’s minimal.”
Foley was sure to make it clear that Meyer would help in any way – if wanted – but would not impede the Gators from hiring someone who does not want his assistance. “It’s all as good as can be and I think that helps us going forward. I’ll bring that up [to coaching candidates]. He will not do anything around the program where he’s not welcome. He’s smarter than that,” Foley said.
Meyer added that he plans to keep his family in Gainesville, FL, and hopes to stay in the area for “a long time” even though he definitively added, “I’m not coaching next year.”
IT WAS A “YEAR-TO-YEAR” DECISION
With Meyer coming back so suddenly after resigning last season, the general understanding by the public was that he would be back at Florida for good as long as his health held up. However it seemed to be a dirty little secret throughout the entire program that Meyer could very well end his career (at least temporarily) after the 2010 season and that an understanding of that arrangement had been reached previously.
“I wanted to stretch as much as I could because I have an obligation to this program and our coaching staff,” Meyer said. “I couldn’t think for a minute about my secretary, about the video people. That’s all I could think about last year at this time. It’s still hard this year, but at least I think there’s some preparation now that went into it.”
Meyer claims to be “at ease” with his decision “because my boss is at ease and he’s got a plan and I’m doing the best I can to assist with the plan.” He said he would be happy and willing to assist Foley in a search for a head coach, but noted that he would provide his help at request of his boss.
DECISION WAS EASIER THIS TIME AROUND
With the full support of his family and a realization that he could now be the father he always wanted to be in the back of his head, Meyer noted that deciding to step down after this season was easier – but still not easy – on this occasion.
“[Shelley] was great. She was not great last year. That was a really tough deal last year,” he said. “That had a lot to do with this year. I just hope you guys never have to go through what I had to. And if you do, it comes out the other end positive. For me, it came out real positive. I’ve never been closer with my family, stronger in my faith. That was an eye-opener. The relationship I’ve got with my wife and my children, if it’s 1-10, it’s 11.”
Meyer on the recruits: “They’ve been good. Everybody’s waiting. I’ll let them know when I know something.”
Foley on hiring a new head coach: “This is the third time I’ve been through this process, and I understand the intense interest it generates. It’s good. It says a lot about Florida. We’ll be getting into developing candidates. We know the expectations here. We have the same expectations. We know the type of job it is, we know the challenge. We look forward to moving ahead very quickly.”
Gruden joking about Meyer’s future: “I’d like to thank Jim McVay and the Outback Bowl for giving me a ticket back to this stadium. Let me be the first to start the rumor of Urban Meyer to the Denver Broncos. I can say that now because I’m a broadcaster.’’
Gruden serious on Meyer’s future: “I think eventually maybe when his kids grow up, maybe he gets the itch again. But right now, I think he needs to catch his breath. The guy might be really tired, you know. He really might be tired. He won two national titles. The SEC is not for everybody now. It’s tough to win.”