Gator Nation Upset: Meyer Latest Coach to Ditch Florida

Scott McKinneyContributor INovember 10, 2011

Urban Meyer
Urban MeyerAl Messerschmidt/Getty Images

Beyond the legal and moral issues now facing Penn State, a major decision looms: who will be the next head football coach?

Penn State's choice is critical. The university has not had to conduct a search for a new football coach since 1966 when a young assistant already on the Nittany Lion staff was tabbed to replace Rip Engle.

The new coach will not only be asked to bring Penn State back among the elite of college football, but to lead the school and its football program out of the dark cloud of a disturbing child sex-abuse scandal that has rocked the campus, the state and the nation.

Enter Urban Meyer.

The former Florida Gator top man compiled a 65-15 record in Gainesville and won two BCS National Championships. He announced in December 2010 he was stepping down due to health concerns and to spend more time with his family. Meyer had previously announced a leave of absence at Florida prior to the 2010 Sugar Bowl following the 2009 season.

While Meyer enjoyed tremendous success as the Gator head coach, it came at a price.

The coach was often criticized for having 30 players arrested during his six-year stay in Gainesville. While most of the charges were eventually dismissed, they brought unwanted headlines about his program and a university that boasts a reputation above reproach.

Can Penn State afford to tote the baggage that Meyer brings?

But a deeper concern arises out of the Sunshine State. Will Gator fans revolt over Meyer's potential return to the collegiate sidelines?

Florida fans bought what Meyer sold. While they hated to lose the only coach who could hold his own when compared to the legacy of Steve Spurrier, they wished him well and a speedy recovery while dealing with his medical concerns.

Fast forward to 2011 and Meyer appears possibly headed back to the Big Ten (he once served as an assistant at Ohio State), and Florida fans are lukewarm over first-year coach Will Muschamp. The Gator nation will not accept a 6-6 season, which is exactly where Florida is headed under Muschamp.

How they will accept "their" coach, Meyer, suddenly returning to the sidelines after a miraculous recovery remains to be seen. Florida fans still have not forgiven the ol' ball coach Spurrier for spurning them in favor of South Carolina when both jobs were open in 2004.

School loyalty is a thing of the past.