University of Florida-Notre Dame: Urban Meyer Has a Change of Heart

Gabriel TaylorAnalyst IJuly 14, 2009

MIAMI - JANUARY 08:  A fan holds up a sign in reference to an ongoing rumor that the Notre Dame Fighting Irish have been interested in hiring Urban Meyer, head coach of the Florida Gators, during the FedEx BCS National Championship game against the Oklahoma Sooners at Dolphin Stadium on January 8, 2009 in Miami, Florida.  (Photo by Marc Serota/Getty Images)

He loves me. He loves me not. He loves me. He loves me not.

Sorry Notre Dame. Your usefulness as leverage may have come to an end.

According to the Gainesville Sun’s Pat Dooley, Urban Meyer has decided he doesn’t want to go to Notre Dame—ever.

With only a month remaining before the season begins, Meyer couldn't be expected to say anything different to Gatorland.

The University of Florida won its second national title in three years last season and Meyer was still unable to crack the top five in coaching salaries, despite an incredible 45-9 record with the Gators.

Rumors were rightfully ignited considering Notre Dame's horrible 2008 season. When UF didn’t publicly announce that Meyer would receive a contract extension or a bigger deal, the flames became larger.

Now with the season about to begin, and SEC media days quickly approaching, Meyer is singing a different tune in regard to the Fighting Irish.


Meyer Helped Start Rumors with His Own Statements

Meyer is ultimately linked to Notre Dame, not because of writers that rushed to conclusions or opposing coaches who want to hamper Meyer’s recruiting efforts. He’s naturally connected to South Bend because of his history with the team and his own statements.

He spent five seasons as an assistant coach for the Fighting Irish and declared that Notre Dame was his dream job and that he would consider going there in the future.

He told that a Miami radio station that Notre Dame was “still my dream job; that hasn’t changed.” He went on to tell 560 WQAM, “Once my kids are done, maybe someday I’ll go coach there...That’s way down the road.”

Meyer made these statements in December, when coaching changes are rampant.

His current contract pays him less than LSU's Les Miles (LSU) and Alabama's Nick Saban, who he beat in the 2008 SEC championship game, Ohio State's Jim Tressel who he beat in the BCS title game in January of 2007, and less than Oklahoma's Bob Stoops, who he defeated in the BCS title game in January.

Meyer's two BCS titles are more than any other coach in the country.

He recanted his Notre Dame comments this weekend, with the season opener right around the corner and UF desperately seeking to avoid the drama of a season-long recruitment of Meyer. 

When Meyer declared that Notre Dame was his dream job, he sent a clear message to University of Florida officials. A reminder that he still has options. Very lucrative options.

According to USA Today, Meyer’s contract notes that, “The parties acknowledge that Coach’s skill, success and experience create a demand for his services at other universities and by professional football franchises.”

Maybe his tactic worked and the University of Florida will shortly announce that he has agreed to a deal that will make him the highest-paid coach in the country.


Tim Tebow is entering his senior season

In three seasons UF quarterback Tim Tebow has already cemented his legacy as one of the greatest players in college football history.

But next year, Meyer will have to operate without his best player and while it’s possible he can find a player as good or better than Tebow, it’s highly unlikely he’ll find an identical superstar who can run, pass, and will his team to victory.

Tebow is as close to irreplaceable as a player can be, and he’s been a key part of Meyer’s success.

When Tebow departs, along with many of Florida’s top-notch players on the 2009 team, Meyer will be forced to try to reproduce the best run in Florida football history, an almost unattainable task. Meyer knows when to get out, and what better time than when Tebow departs.


Meyer has a history of moving

Meyer has been the head coach at three different schools this decade: Bowling Green(2001-02), Utah (2003-2004), and Florida (2005-present). For prognosticators to assume he might leave is not totally irrational, especially by Meyer’s own standards.

Meyer is entering his fifth season at the University of Florida, the longest he’s stayed at one school as a head coach. He was at Notre Dame as an assistant for five seasons.

The Ohio native played at Cincinnati and has also been an assistant at Ohio State and Illinois State.

After the 2004 season, Meyer didn’t take the Notre Dame job, even though he was riding high from an undefeated season at Utah.

Although Charlie Weis has a winning record at Notre Dame, his 29-21 mark hasn’t been enough to impress fans of one of college football’s most popular teams.

Certainly, Meyer is not looking forward to having to answer questions about coaching the Fighting Irish all season long. If Notre Dame starts off slowly the rumors will only build. Meyer’s value as a coach is at an all-time high and another national championship season from Florida won’t quell any rumors about his future.

Great coaches will always be hounded by rumors and offers; it comes with the territory, especially when the coach is undervalued at his current institution.

Florida State’s Bobby Bowden, another two-time national championship winner, has had to endure criticism and calls for his job most of this decade after several years of success. Meyer could easily enjoy a similarly, longtime successful career at UF.

But don’t take my word for it—feelings often change.


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