Pope Urban Meyer Could Use Some Air Miles

Tony GuadagnoliContributor IJuly 23, 2009

While waiting for Commissioner Thompson to call me back ...

The pope of college football was on display Thursday. No, not Beano Cook. Pope Urban Meyer, Florida Gators coach. Meyer, a Catholic, was named after Pope Urban of which there were eight at last count.

Meyer and his immensely popular quarterback, Tim Tebow, were the big names for Day 2 of the SEC Media Days in Hoover, Ala.

The Sun Belt Conference, in an effort to save money, held its entire media days by teleconference earlier this week. It did well, drawing a record 50 media through electronic communications.

While Pope Meyer was in Hoover on Thursday, the pauper (Lane Kiffin) shows up Friday. Kiffin will be the final coach on the docket and the one most of the 900-plus (yes 900 media credentials) are in Hoover to see. The SEC Media Days are so popular and esteemed that even Nick Saban is not a cranky pants and downright friendly.

You think the Super Bowl draws attention, you should see what Al.com, everything Alabama, is doing with these three days. When they say college football is religion in Alabama, they ain't just whistling Dixie. The real pope could land in Birmingham and it wouldn't get this kind of coverage.

These are heady days indeed for the SEC—Meyer, Tim Tebow and the Florida Gators in particular. The SEC has $2 billion worth of TV money coming its way in the next 15 years thanks to deals with ESPN and CBS. The new ESPN "SEC Network" will go into non-South markets such as Chicago, Indianapolis, Pittsburgh, and New York.

That's why it's too bad Florida refuses to follow suit and travel anywhere outside of its state for nonconference games. The last non-SEC, non-Florida road game for the Gators was Syracuse in 1991. That was Steve Spurrier's first non-SEC, non-Florida State loss, mainly because 4-year-old Tim Tebow was only the seventh-best all-time NCAA quarterback back then. Just kidding, but Tebow is one of the best of all time.

"We have some great rivalries within the state," Meyer said Thursday. "We're going to do that. There's not a whole lot of discussion about going out. Once again, our scheduling philosophy is we want to play at least one big-time program. That's built in our schedule every year. Sometimes when you see USC play Ohio State, that's their big one."

I can certainly understand Meyer's reason to play other Florida teams and maintain the traditional game with Florida State. The Gators also have their game with Georgia in Jacksonville every year.

But the Gators have won two of the last three national titles, are favored to win again this year and also will be a major part of the burgeoning SEC Network, so don't you think their national fan base has grown? 

Doesn't it make sense to reward your fans in other parts of the country with one game near them? Wouldn't some or many of the alumni travel to a game at a Big 12, Big Ten—hell even Big East, school. Don't you think some of the Gators would, oh I don't know, like to maybe see something other than citrus groves and cane fields in their careers? Heck, maybe even stare into Bevo's big brown eyes.

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Meyer is from Northeastern Ohio and should perhaps remember his background a bit. Those fans might actually want to see a team like Florida. One non-conference BCS game outside of the Sunshine State once every 10 years isn't too much to ask is it? I think Ohio State or Penn State, certainly Notre Dame, would probably give you a home-and-home series. Pretty sure the pope would even help pay for expenses. 

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