It sure seems like Urban Meyer is trying to get back in the good graces of Florida Gators fans

By Adam Silverstein
September 3, 2019
It sure seems like Urban Meyer is trying to get back in the good graces of Florida Gators fans
Football

Image Credit: UAA Communications

No longer coaching at Ohio State (and not yet coaching at USC), former Florida Gators head coach Urban Meyer finds himself in an interesting spot. As a college football analyst for Fox Sports, he has been put in a position to comment on his former teams. But even beyond that role, it appears as if he is making a concerted effort to get back in the good graces of Florida fans.

It’s not that Meyer has much to atone for on the field from his UF tenure. He led the Gators to two national championships in his first four seasons, recruited some of the best players in the history of the program and saw his quarterback, Tim Tebow, become the third Florida signal caller to win a Heisman Trophy.

The success Meyer brought to the Gators also helped to bring improvements to Ben Hill Griffin Stadium and Florida’s training facilities, though UF was quickly surpassed in those areas by many of their competitors.

But since Meyer’s departure, his six seasons with the Gators are looked upon through a different lens with criticisms abound. There’s the numerous off-the-field incidents involving his players that tarnished the reputation university and the football program, the lengths he went to in order to keep some of those players eligible and active, and of course, his about-face-and-back-again departure that left the team in a tough spot from which it is still recovering.

Despite all of this, Meyer is that two-time national championship-winning coach who brought Florida more success in such a short period of time than anyone else in program history, Steve Spurrier included. And with that comes the question about how the Gators will remember — and potentially honor — Meyer in the longer term.

In the eight years since Meyer left, Florida has frequently looked back on the success of his teams — just not so much on Meyer himself. And for good reasons. Just one year after leaving due to health concerns, he irked fans by immediately coming back to coach a major competitor (at least as far as recruiting is concerned) in Ohio State. One of his former star players became a convicted murder and later died by suicide in prison while on trial for a double murder. And the program, despite some positive seasons, has largely floundered, hiring three different coaches in an eight-year period.

But Meyer is no longer coaching — at least for now — and anyone who knows him well understands that legacy is exceedingly important to someone of his ilk.

Meyer will never get a portion of the stadium named after him like Spurrier, and his ties to the university will never be the same as they were when he led its football program, but the Gators just so happen to have a way to recognize someone who has accomplished as much as Meyer did at Florida: the Ring of Honor.

And Meyer just so happens to be the only man who is qualified to be inducted into the Florida Ring of Honor based on its strict criteria but is not yet a member.

In order to be inducted into the Ring of Honor, one must either be a Heisman Trophy winner (Spurrier, Tebow, Danny Wuerffel), a former All-American inducted into the Pro Fooball Hall of Fame as a player (Emmit Smith, Jack Youngblood), a former All-American who leads an NFL career statistical category (Smith), a college football career category leader (Tebow), a player with two or more consensus All-America honors who also has a national player of the year honor (Marshall, Tebow), a coach with three or more SEC championships (Spurrier) or a coach with one or more national championships (Spurrier … and Meyer).

Oh, and you must also be five years removed from the program … and in “good standing” with the university. The definition of that latter qualification is purposely ambiguous.

Tebow (who graduated in 2009) became eligible for induction in 2015, but Florida held off both due to his schedule and because it wanted to induct Tebow while also honoring the 10-year anniversary of the 2008 national championship team. Meyer (who left in 2010) has been eligible since 2016 but had been coaching Ohio State and had a game the same day as UF’s induction of Tebow on Oct. 6, 2018.

So Meyer is eligible but not yet honored. He’s still involved in college football but no longer coaching. And while he’s still been offering plenty of praise and insight on his most recent program in Ohio State — after all, he still technically works there and draws a paycheck from the university — he also appears to be seriously ramping up his attempts to get back in the good graces of the Florida football fan.

As I was reminded by colleague Andrew Olsen, it actually started back in January innocently enough when Meyer — moments after his last game on the sidelines at Ohio State — and his wife Shelley did the Gator Chomp to a couple fans at the Rose Bowl.

Meyer then attended the Week 0 game between Florida and Miami … wearing a Gators polo in the press box while standing alongside SEC commissioner Greg Sankey. (A number of Meyer’s former players were also at the game, including Brandon Spikes, Ahmad Black and others.) If memory serves, this is the first Florida game Meyer has attended since 2010.

Meyer is also tweeting about Florida …

… praising The Swamp as the best atmosphere in college football …

… and calling Tebow the best college quarterback of all-time (OK, no surprise there).

That’s just a selection of Meyer’s recent comments about Florida.

It may all be a coincidence. It may be Fox asking him to ensure his praise does not focus on Ohio State or Big Ten teams. (But there’s not really much being said by him about Utah or Bowling Green.)

It may also be Meyer — especially now with his former offensive coordinator in Dan Mullen leading the Gators — attempting to extend an olive branch to the program where he had the most success in his career.

Whether the motives are completely genuine, a bit selfish or somewhere in between, some fans are coming around. Others remain offended at the mere sound of his name.

The truth is that Meyer and Florida (for better on the field, for worse off of it) will always be linked. He may never be Spurrier in the lore of Gators football, but his accomplishments in a much shorter window of time stand up to the greatest to ever do it in Gainesville.

And sooner or later — maybe sooner than later — Meyer will be honored inside The Swamp.

20 Comments

  1. Johnny Gill says:

    How he left

  2. Johnnie Murrah says:

    Love haveing Urban as our coach 2 Nattys as the Gator in his short tenure and his name should be in the Ring Of Honor in my opinion because we were OK with him until he left,we didn’t fire him because of anything he did,some fans are pissed because he left ! We have had three great coaches in order( Spurrier no. 1). Urban no. 2 and my no. 3 Charlie Pell and Ray Graves tied!

  3. KB says:

    Look I get it that Urban Meyer left the UF program and some have a bitter taste about the circumstances in which he left. When he was HC at UF he gave the program his all and earned 2 Championships. If we Gator fans are really fans we appreciate the hell of a job he did when he was at UF and what he brought to UF during his tenure. All the talk about how he left the program in shambles was due to Muschamp not being capable enough to be half as good as Urban is as a coach. He left with the #1 recruiting class in tow which was a lot better than what Muschamp left the next coach. Urban is a great coach and the real fans realize that and respect everything he did when he was here. Coach Meyer will always have my respect and reverence and he should be honored at some point in time by the University of Florida because he earned it. I’m not dumping on Muschamp or McElwain because they both did some good but there are levels to this game and neither of them if you combine them are even close to half the coach Urban is and that’s a fact. Urban is so good he beat Saban with his 3rd string QB… let that sink in for a second. Regardless to how the last chapter was written what he left was some of the best memories that life long Gator fans will remember forever which far outweighs any bitterness in how he left.

    • Donnie says:

      Mad Respect to Urben myer Go Gatord

    • Dave Simmons says:

      As a life long Ohio State fan I hate losing Coach Meyer. As stated previously, with his 3rd string QB he ass whipped Alabama and Oregon in the 2014 Playoff and should have played in the 2015 Playoff. ESPN and Finebaum sabotaged that one. He also made the transaction to Coach Day seamless. I think any OSU fan would love to have him back and Gator fans need to get over it. National Championships are hard to come by.

      Regarding his leaving OSU, he got totally screwed by the OSU President and sports media. The punishment did not fit the crime. Why does a coach have to babysit his assistants? I don’t blame him one bit for leaving (health problem or not) and I hope he Coaches again. Just not in the Big 10 Conference.

    • TNGatorBrad says:

      KB… great response and perfect reply! I agree 100%. Go Gators!

    • Frank says:

      Urban Meyer is an elite coach, one of only a few in the conversation with Nick Saban. Check his record. His flaw is loving and caring for his team members to a fault.

    • Shaun McCook says:

      I couldn’t had said it better KB. That is exactly how I feel. I have been a Gator fan since 1983. I watched my 1st game that year in the swamp (before it was named the swamp. It was my 1st time seeing one of the best running backs in college and the NFL; Emmitt Smith! He rushed for over 300yrds in that game! Yes 300! I was hooked and have been a Gator fan every since. Back to the topic at hand. I have met Urban and his wife Shelly they are awesome people and really have a love for the university. Urban should no doubt be inducted into the ring of honer! Hopefully it is sooner rather than later. One day the Ole’ball coach came back for an interview for his 2nd time around as coach of the Florida Gators. They asked him for his resume’ and coach said “My resume is up there in the rafters of the Swamp” As he pointed up. So I truly believe Urban Meyer should be up the with the Ole’ ball coach in the ring of honor.

  4. Rob G. says:

    You’re no longer reliable, Urban. Can’t be trusted not to have another fake heart attack when your team starts losing. Mullen is doing just fine.

  5. John . Helms says:

    We don’t need him back. What if he disides to leave again bc of family or was it health issues or…..

  6. Bradley Hodson says:

    Integrity is like a rugged shoreline. Once you leave it, you can never come back. I have no problem with him leaving. It’s the way it was handled. He’s no longer a Gator. That name no longer is associated with us.

  7. Janet says:

    Send him packing. He did us an injustice in the end. I pray I will never see his name in th Ring of Honor, because he has no honor. He failed Aaron Hernandez and many others.

  8. Jason says:

    He should be in the ring at the end of the day he belongs there 2 natty’s an OMG at the players he brought in hopefully dan the man will follow suit but it seems like thank God he’s running a hell of a lot cleaner program with his players

  9. Jason says:

    He should be in the ring at the end of the day he belongs there 2 natty’s an OMG at the players he brought in hopefully dan the man will follow suit but it seems like thank God he’s running a hell of a lot cleaner program with his players

  10. Murdoch Shaw III says:

    Please don’t put Benedict Arnolds name on the ring of honor. He won 2 championships with a team that was handed to him. He recruited thugs and murderers that tarnished the school, and he left a horrible team that he recruited for the next coach to deal with. Which is what he is now doing to Ohio State.
    Not just no but Hell no!

  11. Rob says:

    Brought more on field success to UF football then any coach before or after him. Had us recruiting against, and beating the best of the best on an annual basis. Regardless of whether it was for selfish, career driven reasons rather than a true love for the university, can’t deny his success. I say we honor him, bring him back in to the fold, maybe get some of that luster that having him around would bring. He’ll never be held as high as the OBC in the hearts of Gator fans, but if he genuinely wants to be part of Gator nation again, we should let him.

  12. Melissa says:

    Meyer is not and never will be a Gator. He was and is an embarrassment. He slunk off like the Colts sneaking out of Baltimore.
    As an alumna, as a Gator fan for 60 yr, as someone who deeply cares about sportsmanship and integrity and about good faith with the university, the team, and the fans, I adamantly oppose rehiring or honoring that man. Our own honor is more important than winning, and should be so for any coach we hire or induct.

  13. Brad Klinger says:

    Does Urban Meyer have his faults? Yes. Did he leave our program for dubious reasons? Yes. But I’d be willing to bet us Gator fans are quick to bring up our 3 National Titles when discussing college football amongst ourselves or with other fans. Urban brought a lot of joy to Gator Nation. I say it’s time to bury the hatchet.

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