KEEP AN EYE ON…
- Florida’s 2009 senior class…the winningest group in Southeastern Conference history with a 47-7 overall record. The seniors will be playing in their third BCS game and fourth January bowl in four years.
- Seniors quarterback Tim Tebow and linebacker Brandon Spikes…two of the best players in school history who do not wish for their last memories in the Orange and Blue to be back-to-back losses.
- Junior defensive end Carlos Dunlap…who is returning from suspension for a DUI and, according to coaches, is raring to make up for his mistake to his teammates, coaches and Gator Nation. It is undecided if Dunlap will start.
- Junior cornerback Joe Haden and wide receiver Mardy Gilyard…who will face-off in what could potentially be the match-up of the game between one of the best CBs and one of the best WRs in the nation. Haden has already been a menace to Alabama Crimson Tide WR Julio Jones and Georgia Bulldogs WR A.J. Green this season.
- Head coach Urban Meyer…who is 3-0 in BCS bowls and a combined 5-1 in his career in bowl games. Meyer and his wife Shelley both attended the University of Cincinnati. As a player for the Bearcats, Meyer faced the Gators in the teams’ only previous meeting, a 48-17 Florida victory on Oct. 20, 1984.
- Experienced players…the Gators feature 19 starters and 44 players who saw action in the 2009 BCS National Championship.
- The Gators are appearing in a bowl game for the 19th straight season, the second-longest active streak in the nation. Friday’s game is Florida’s sixth appearance in a BCS bowl game and eighth appearance in the Sugar Bowl.
- Though the Gators are 5-1 against teams from the state of Ohio (1-1 in bowl games), they are only 7-3-2 all-time against the Big East.
- Florida has allowed 15 touchdowns this season, tied for fewest in the nation; the 11.5 points per game it allows ranks No. 3 in the country.
- The Gators are the only team in the country that has posted over 2,800 rushing and passing yards and are only one of four teams in the nation to score at least 25 rushing and passing touchdowns.
- Florida’s defense has recorded interceptions in 11 of 13 games and 23 of 25 games.
- The Gators have not lost back-to-back games since Sept. 29 and Oct. 6, 2007.
Speaking at press conference for the 2010 Sugar Bowl Thursday, Florida Gators head coach Urban Meyer admitted he and the University of Florida attempted to cover up the reason for his hospital visit after the 2009 Southeastern Conference Championship in order to protect his family and players.
“I have three children [11, 16, 19] that mean more to me than anything. I have a football team that means more to me than anything. […] I didn’t want it to get out at all. And then we were very careful. I didn’t want anybody alarmed” Meyer said. “You do what you’ve got to do to protect them. I think at some point, whether you’re a football coach, whether you’re a lawyer or whatever, you think at some point there would be a lot of respect for families involved. If that means not coming clean with full details about something very personal, if you can’t understand that, then, first of all, I think you’ve got to recheck yourself.”
Avoiding additional questions about his health, Meyer tried to focus the media on the upcoming game. “I love my players. I’m not ashamed to say that. I love Florida. And I want to win this game in the worst possible way,” Meyer said. “Not for myself, not for our staff, not for Steve, not for whomever, but for our players. And so has there been a little bit of a good push, I think there’s been a good push.”
Five-star safety recruit Matt Elam (West Palm Beach, FL), formerly the prize of the Florida Gators 2010 recruiting class, has decommitted and pledged to play for the Florida State Seminoles. Elam, who appeared to waiver about his commitment throughout the entire recruiting process, reaffirmed his decision to play for the Gators numerous times over the last few months, most recently sporting a Florida jersey and declaring that he could not wait to enroll early in January. Now his jersey is garnet and gold.
“I just see better opportunity to come in and play and to have an impact as a freshman,” Elam told Warchant.com. “They have two of the best cornerbacks in the country and I just feel like I can go in there and help make that secondary even better. They got three two of the best players in the country and I see along of things changing. It was on my mind, but today I really made the decision. I was sitting down thinking like I can make a difference, if I go to Florida I really can’t make a difference at Florida I can just jump on the bandwagon. I want to make a difference and I see a lot of good things there.”
Head coach Urban Meyer was the main reason Elam planned to attend the University of Florida, as he has been close with the coach ever since Meyer recruited his brother Abram Elam (now with the Cleveland Browns) to the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. When Meyer briefly resigned on Saturday before deciding to take a leave of absence from the Gators instead, Elam became very upset.
“I feel like he knew before Saturday that he wanted to step down,” Elam Orlando Sentinel. Dorsey will visit the Tennessee Volunteers on Jan. 14, a trip scheduled before Meyer’s announcement. He has long been considered one of the most likely Gators commitments to decommit.
The 2000s were quite a decade for University of Florida athletics. Florida Gators football and basketball were especially exceptional, combining for four National Championships (five appearances) and five Southeastern Conference Championships (six appearances) while earning five BCS bowl game and eight NCAA Tournament berths, respectively, over the last ten years. To end this decade of champions, OGGOA has compiled our own Gators All-Decade Team for each sport.
1 » Reinstated by University of Florida administrators and Florida Gators head coach Urban Meyer, junior defensive end Carlos Dunlap has rejoined the team with a spring in his step and a heavy feeling of guilt. “He knows he let himself down, let his teammates down, let his coaches down,” defensive line coach Dan McCarney said. “He hasn’t had one issue since the day he got here, until that one problem. I don’t know anybody that goes unblemished without a problem in their lives. It was a serious one, a major one and he paid a heck of a price, but he’s ready to go. I’ll be real surprised if he doesn’t play real well Friday night.” Even so, defensive coordinator Charlie Strong said he is not sure if Dunlap will start the game.
2 » Florida head basketball coach Billy Donovan is friends and contemporaries with Meyer, leading him to have a good understanding of the head football coach. The fact that Donovan also pulled an about-face after deciding to step down as coach of the Gators puts him in a unique position to empathize with Meyer’s recent decision to return to the team after a leave of absence. “I don’t think people really understand what happens and what goes on, and I think at least hearing some of Urban’s comments when he initially was going to step away, I can certainly relate and understand,” Donovan said. “It’s very hard to balance — it’s nearly impossible to balance — because you are living with yourself knowing there is more you can be doing. And when you get put into situations every single day, every minute of every day, to make a decision between your wife, your kids and your job, and then when you spend time with one of them you worry about neglecting the other one, it is an incredible emotional drain.”
3 » Though he has often been rumored to be one of the top candidates for the vacant Central Michigan Chippewas head coaching position, Gators quarterbacks coach Scot Loeffler contends that he has yet to be contacted by the school. “I have not spoken to them none whatsoever,” he said according to Florida Today. “I am coaching the quarterbacks at the University of Florida, enjoying every second. It’s been great with Tim [Tebow]. It’s been a special week for him being his last football game, and Johnny Brantley, we’re trying to get him better for the future. All I am worrying about is just concentrating and doing everything in my power to help this team win another bowl.”
4 » Charlie Molnar, the Cincinnati Bearcats passing game coordinator and wide receivers coach, told The Cincinnati Enquirer on Tuesday that Florida’s defense is the best in the country. “We have not faced a defense of that caliber,” Molnar said. “The problems they present are so many. They can get pressure on the quarterback with just a four-man rush. They don’t have to blitz in order to get pressure on you. It certainly changes the way the game is played. It will take a very, very concentrated and focused effort on our part to have our success on offense.”
In what can only be described as a somber yet hope-filled press conference, Florida Gators head coach Urban Meyer told reporters he believes deep down inside that he will return to the sidelines in 2010. “I do, in my gut, believe that will happen,” Meyer said.
Though Meyer shied away from answering any questions about his health, he did admit that his chest pains have been a worry for the last four years and gotten progressively worse over time. “It’s chest pains – they became rather significant two years ago,” Meyer explained. “I was advised that I have to get this right or it could lead to damage.” Asked if his personality or job was leading to the issues, Meyer responded “yes” as those in attendance laughed. He added that he was not sure whether or not he would need a procedure. “That’s something I am going to find out as well,” Meyer said.
Offensive coordinator Steve Addazio will be named interim coach of the team after Meyer takes a leave following the 2010 Sugar Bowl against the Cincinnati Bearcats, Meyer confirmed during the press conference. “It’s full speed ahead,” he said. “We are going to do everything possible to win this game.”
Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley sat next to Meyer on the stage and had plenty to say about his coach’s personality and future. “Our primary concern is coach Meyer and his health, getting him fixed,” Foley said. “He will have the opportunity to do that.” Pressed about Meyer’s contractual status and imminent future, Foley looked a bit puzzled at the question. “He is the head coach of the University of Florida,” Foley quipped. “The head coach of the University of Florida is taking a leave of absence.”
Though Foley offered Meyer the “leave of absence” solution a week to 10 days ago when the subject was first broached, it was not considered an option until Meyer got on the practice field early Sunday and saw how hard his staff and players were working. “I’ve accepted this offer to improve my health,” he said. “I want to make sure I do right by my family. My second family is my players and my staff.” Meyer said the main reason for his change of heart is simply “the love that I have for these players.”
Meyer also noted that the way he coaches could have much to do with how he has been feeling recently, seeing as he blames himself when a player flunks a class or gets in trouble or when the team loses a big game. “I have to learn to delegate and function,” he said. “I [have] lived a 30-year coaching career in nine years. I cannot do that. I’m not very smart.” Foley agreed with some of Meyer’s comments. “Urban Meyer is very very successful because of how he has done things. Part of this process is evaluating how he has been doing things.” The Gators’ AD added that he wants Meyer to keep his style and edge but figure out a way to continue coaching with less stress and anxiety.
Seniors quarterback Tim Tebow and linebacker Ryan Stamper sat besides Meyer up on the podium. Both recounted Meyer telling them he loved them during Saturday practice, noting that something did not seem well. “I knew something wasn’t right,” Tebow said. “We just want what’s best for our dad – coach Meyer.” Stamper told a similar story. “I could see it in coach Meyer’s face that something was wrong,” he said. “He told me he loved me, I told him I loved him back.”
Tebow commended Meyer for both his initial choice and change of mind. “I admire him for the decisions he’s made,” Tebow said. “As a team we support him, as Gator Nation we support him. I think he’s making the best decision.”
While the last few weeks have been tough for him, Meyer reiterated his dedication to UF and the Gators. Asked if he thought about leaving, getting healthy and then returning to coach at another school, Meyer scoffed. “It would be a travesty – it would be ridiculous to feel good again, throw on some other colors and go coach. I will always be a Gator and represent the Gators.”
Florida Gators head coach Urban Meyer, who announced Saturday night that he was stepping down from his position, has changed his mind and decided to take an indefinite leave of absence instead, according to numerous sources. Meyer will coach the Gators in the 2010 Sugar Bowl against the Cincinnati Bearcats before ceding the job to offensive coordinator Steve Addazio, who will be named interim coach in his stead. Adazzio confirmed this arrangement in a telephone interview with The New York Times.
Meyer’s change of heart began Sunday morning, when he was at an early practice on campus at the University of Florida watching his players. He spoke with the team before their plane departed for New Orleans, LA, and informed them of the news, which was greeted with relief and excitement sources say. Even with this decision, Meyer returning to Florida is not imminent – he could still decide to step away at any time if he feels coming back is not in the best interest of his health and well-being.
“There’s no guarantees here,” a source told the Associated Press. “He could still walk away. He’s got some significant concerns about his health and his tank and his family. But instead of cutting the cord, he’s going to take a step back and see how he feels.”
The Independent Florida Alligator is reporting that “there has been no timetable set on his return, though [a] source said it could be as early as next season.” Mark Schlabach of ESPN made a similar report, stating that “Meyer [...] would take a leave of absence and return to the team before the 2010 season” in a proposed situation. However, a source close to the program told ESPN‘s Chris Mortensen that “Meyer would take a leave of absence for the entirety of the 2010 season.”
Athletic director Jeremy Foley gave Meyer an option to take a leave of absence approximately a week to 10 days ago when the two first spoke about the possibility of Meyer stepping down. Though he did not consider it an option then, apparently he has changed his mind since.
OGGOA will continue updating this story as more information is made available. Meyer is set to hold a press conference in New Orleans Sunday at 4:30 p.m. (EST). It will also air live online here.
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.