Florida head coach Urban Meyer resigned today, shocking the college football world. Meyer shared the troubling news that an undisclosed health problem would interfere with his ability to be a good husband and father as well as coach. My prayers go out to him (and I don't say that lightly).
Now, the speculation begins. We get to find out if Florida was great because of Urban Meyer, or if Meyer was Gainesville's head man long enough to build Florida into an elite program with the momentum and the consistency to remain that way well into the next decade.
That could come down to whom the Florida administration decides to hire as Meyer's replacement.
Who will succeed Urban Meyer as head coach in Gainesville? Here are 10 of the candidates I found most compelling.
Hiring OC Steve Addazio would seem to make sense given Florida's lack of a defensive coordinator, and therefore, lack of internal competition nearest the top job.
Yet among the Florida faithful, Addazio is roundly blamed for overseeing a massive regression on offense this year, and the rumors were flying that he would be demoted back to his offensive line coach duties once the season was over.
That's a far cry from a promotion. In spite of his close friendship with Meyer, there's little chance Addazio keeps the job in the long term.
Chuck Heater is Florida's safeties coach and assistant DC, and was the likely replacement for DC Charlie Strong if the hire was to be internal.
Either he or defensive line coach/assistant head coach Dan McCarney might be considered, but they both lack head coaching experience.
I could see one of them being a one-year-and-done hire, but I don't think these men promise a lot for Florida's identity as a program in the long run.
Loeffler has an impressive pedigree as an assistant. He was Michigan's quarterbacks coach through the Brian Griese/Tom Brady/John Navarre/Chad Henne years before spending a year with the Detroit Lions.
Florida hired him over the summer, conceivably to tutor John Brantley for the starting job once Tebow left.
Based on that decision, he is at least a significant part of the coaching future at Florida. I'd say he's probably the leading candidate for the head job within the UF coaching ranks, but not outside of it.
He's already been hired by Louisville, but maybe the Gators pay his buyout clause and bring him back?
He's still got connections to Florida's defensive recruits, and he oversaw one of the most successful periods of defense in Gators' history.
Maybe the UF administration ponies up, considering he's well worth it. Depends on how well he's settled in Louisville so far. I bet they at least reach out to him.
It's well known that Florida is Charlie Weis' dream job...oh wait, I have this backwards, don't I?
The hot name getting bandied about for head coaching vacancies this year was East Carolina's Skip Holtz.
Holtz coached at South Carolina under his father, Lou, and has built the East Carolina Pirates into perennial contenders in Conference USA.
Lacking a direct link to the UF program, he might be totally off the radar, but I felt it necessary to mention him as the best coach the unrelated mid-majors had to offer.
Florida went to the Utah well once in grabbing Meyer after his extremely successful run with the Utes. Whittingham, who was Meyer's defensive coordinator at the time, is a less successful offensive mind, but he boasts an outstanding defensive pedigree that will assist immediately in the loss of Charlie Strong.
Whittingham also showed he can beat Alabama with lesser players in last year's Sugar Bowl. This year, the Utes' beat Cal for another ten-win season after losing a lot of talent to the draft.
He could be in the running.
Muschamp was defensive coordinator for the Auburn Tigers from 2005-2007, before being hired away by Mack Brown's Longhorns.
He's got the outstanding pedigree and a rare but intriguing relationship with recruits in Texas.
Though he's coach-in-waiting at Texas, Brown doesn't look like he's going anywhere any time soon, what with the enormous contract boost he just received.
He could be a dark-horse candidate to move back to the SEC after the national championship game.
Similar to the Strong hire, except that Dan Mullen has proven his success as a head coach at MSU, taking LSU and Florida to the wire in only his first year.
His departure from Florida was amicable and his relationship with Mississippi recruits is already paying dividends for the team in Starkville; they've snatched a lot of talent from Ole Miss in a down year for the Rebels.
With Addazio's struggles as OC, it's clear Mullen was the brains behind the Tebow operation.
His fit with Brantley might not be ideal, but he could have the blessing of Meyer himself. A possibility.
I know, I know, you're tired of hearing about "Stoops to anywhere" from me. But this time, it makes a little more sense.
Stoops is an ex-defensive coordinator at Florida, and was hired away in 1998 after an extremely successful run, including the 1996 national championship, to coach in Norman.
He can bring along his outstanding defensive coordinator, Bret Venables, to fill Florida's other major coaching vacancy.
He can also woo some recruits from that outstanding class he was building for the Sooners to join the Gators, many of whom were considering Gainesville anyway.
It might be his dream job, for what it's worth.
He's my pick for the job. The conditions are right. We'll see if, like he promised, he's still in Norman next year.