The game that changed Urban’s life was the SEC Championship Game in 2009. Urban had his best of the best returning on the field and the mission statement was clear that anything less than a National Championship was unacceptable. Saban had only been at the Alabama program for three years and he carved up Urban’s future NFL draft picks.
The competition of the SEC is an around the clock job. Urban’s goal of spending more family time and laying back a little proved to be a huge failure this season. It’s difficult to provide more family time when there’s coaches like Nick Saban sitting in the lab into the late hours of the night dissecting defenses and putting together NFL offensive playsets. Now throw in the likes of the arrival of Gene Chizik putting together a regular-season undefeated streak.
Urban lost his coaches. Charlie Strong, who was the face of the Gators defense, had left to Louisville (had been with Florida since 2002). He had lost Dan Mullen, his offensive genius who had been around him for most of his coaching career (2001-2008). Dan Mullen would come back and beat him this year 10-7 in The Swamp.
The fans had given up on the team. Being around UF football and being an avid Gators fan myself, the fans in Gainesville had given up on the team after a last-second loss against LSU. The fan support in Gainesville is only good when the team is winning, but through all kinds of weather, the fans don’t stick together. After the loss last year in the SEC Championship game, the fans abandoned the team during the Sugar Bowl and the tickets were easy to obtain. They did a survey in the Alligator, the local newspaper in Gainesville, and over 60% of the respondents said they had no plans to attend the Outback Bowl in Tampa.
Finally, Gainesville is not a town where any coach spends their entire career. The transient environment, the way the town becomes a ghost town around Christmas and in the Summer, the mass number of people coming and going—Gainesville is a 2 to 6 year stop for most people. It’s not a place like Oklahoma, Alabama, Notre Dame or Michigan where if you are winning it’s a lifetime job. UF Basketball coach Billy Donovan nearly left the school a couple years back when he resigned and returned. Getting Spurrier to stay as long as he did was a miracle. Even if you look at the Presidents of the University of Florida, rarely do they stay past 10 years and most leave between a 4-8 year stay.
Meyer will likely resurface. From his past statements and comments, especially regarding how the Ohio State/Michigan rivalry has played a huge role in his life, it would not surprise me to see him take a year off and resurface at Michigan. For a portion of his life, he lived 55 miles from Ann Arbor and 155 miles from Columbus. There are people stating he could go to the Denver Broncos to rejoin Tim Tebow. He could also return to the SEC like Spurrier and Saban did with different teams. There is also the possibility that if Brian Kelly doesn’t workout at Notre Dame, he could land his “dream job.”
From a Gator fan who saw 2 National Championships and 2 SEC Championships in the 6-year stop—Thank you Urban Meyer.