Saturday evening I was having dinner at a restaurant in Tampa with my grandmother. We were at a place where you aren't allowed to talk on the phone in the dining room. At 6:50, I looked down at my vibrating phone's caller ID and saw a call from AP Radio in New York. Seemed unusual, but maybe they needed something from the bowl game? As soon as that went to voicemail, another call from someone else. After the fifth time that happened in four minutes, my keen reporter instincts told me I might want to step outside and check those voicemails. AP was trying to confirm the Urban Meyer resignation, and so much for me being on Christmas vacation.
I've been genuinely puzzled by the reaction to Urban's announcement and then revision of his stepping down to a leave of absence the next day. It seems to me that a lot of people felt sorry for him Saturday, and then felt taken when he backed away from an immediate absolute ending. What these folks don't seem to get is that there is no guaruntee Urban Meyer ever coaches the Florida football team again. Maybe he will - it's certainly his nature to want to do so - but all Meyer's said is that he's going to give this some time rather than potentially be regretful if he feels reenergized in July and someone else is coaching his team. There is a health issue involving his heart. Whether surgery is needed isn't clear, and I'm not going to speculate blindly about that. Again though, it's his HEART. Some commentators like the loathsome Paul Finebaum are acting like the man quit his job because he had a bad case of gas and then came back the next day and said "Never mind!"
Lots of people have tried to draw the parallel between Meyer and Billy Donovan's Orlando Magic weekend. That's a poor analogy. Donovan was looking for a new challenge while also making mega money to do it. Urban Meyer is burned out emotionally, dealing with health concerns and feeling guilty about family issues. Donovan came back ASAP, while Meyer postponed making any final choice indefinitely. To me the much better comparison situation is when Jimmy Johnson was with the Miami Dolphins. Johnson was ready to retire in January 1999 after three seasons with the team, burned out and apparently significantly impacted by his mother's death. Wayne Huizenga talked him out of it, in large part by bringing in Dave Wannstedt as assistant head coach to take some of the pressure off Johnson to do everything. Johnson went one more season and then did quit, this time for good. Can Florida and Urban Meyer find their "Wannstedt" idea that will supposedly relieve stress on him? The Dolphins could have as many coaches as they wanted - UF can only have nine besides the head man, no matter how they're assigned.
One thing that has to be noted is that Jeremy Foley was proactive about dealing with Meyer's workaholic ways. When the word came down that Meyer would no longer do a radio coaches show every week and was greatly reducing his Gator Club speaking appearances, there was major grumbling from some people. Foley made clear that the idea was to reduce the demands on Meyer's time in hopes of slowing his burnout rate. There's no way to know how much that helped, but the message it sent that the school cared about such things is likely a part of the reason Meyer's willing to try this leave of absence in the first place. If 2010 winds up being a limbo season and Meyer can't return, it will still give Foley time to make a considered, well researched choice to replace him as opposed to a rush job hire now. That can't be undervalued. Back to general topics tomorrow.