Urban Meyer Leaving Florida: Where Does This Leave the Gator Program?

Dave WalkerCorrespondent IDecember 8, 2010

JACKSONVILLE, FL - OCTOBER 30:  Head coach Urban Meyer of the Florida Gators watches the action during the game against the Georgia Bulldogs at EverBank Field on October 30, 2010 in Jacksonville, Florida.  (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)
Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

Last season Urban Meyer took a leave of absence due to stress-related health issues that surfaced following the Gators' SEC title game loss to eventual national champion Alabama.

Today Meyer is once again stepping away from the program, but this time it appears to be for good.

A press conference this afternoon will confirm everything, and he has already informed his players of the decision. Meyer will get one last hurrah, as he will coach the Gators in their Outback Bowl game against Penn State.

So where does this leave the Gator program, and who will take the reins?

Well, the program has struggled since Tim Tebow moved on after last season, going just 4-4 in the SEC and struggling to find its rhythm on offense behind new QB John Brantley.

During the Meyer era the Florida recruiting classes were consistently among the best in the nation, as Meyer seemingly was able to pluck the best of the best from within the state and in the Southern region of the U.S.

Also during the Meyer era, there were many off-the-field issues with players being arrested, including star end Carlos Dunlap just before the SEC title game a year ago.

So will the program continue its dominance in the SEC?

Only time will tell, but the stability of the program has been hurt, and that will only hurt the recruiting and overall image that Florida has created over the last decade.

The question now will be who does AD Jeremy Foley bring in to fill the big shoes left behind?

Could Charlie Strong be lured back after his Big East coach of the year season in 2010?

Does Steve Addazio get a chance to take over?

Or do the Gators look for that big name free agent guy like a Jimmy Johnson, Jon Gruden or Mike Leach?

Today's announcement has certainly sent shock waves through the entire world of college football, especially in Gainesville. The Gators were not the same powerhouse team in 2010 as they were in the past, and they may not be that for quite some time as change sets in.

The final question that needs to be answered now is whether Urban Meyer is destined to stay off the sidelines, or if he is planning a move to the next level to reunite with his buddy Tim Tebow in Denver, who will be looking for a new coach come 2011...