STARKVILLE, MS - OCTOBER 24: Head coach Urban Meyer of the University of Florida Gators, during pre game warmup up against the Mississippi State Bulldogs, at Davis Wade Stadium on October 24, 2009 in Starkville, Mississippi (Photo by Rick Dole/Getty Images)
Sunday, sources say, he changed his mind.
Meyer, 45, will coach the Gators in the Sugar Bowl against Cincinnati on New Year's Day, and then take an indefinite leave from football while Florida offensive coordinator Steve Adazzio runs the team in his absence. It is not known how long Meyer plans to be away.
"There's no guarantees here," a source told the AP after attending a morning practice seemed to change Meyer's mind. "He could still walk away. He's got some significant concerns about his health and his tank and his family. But instead of cutting the cord, he's going to take a step back and see how he feels."
Meyer is expected to address the media this afternoon.
“I have given my heart and soul to coaching college football and mentoring young men for the last 24-plus years and I have dedicated most of my waking moments the last five years to the Gator football program,” he said yesterday in a statement. “I have ignored my health for years, but recent developments have forced me to re-evaluate my priorities of faith and family.”
The latter includes Meyer's wife, Shelley, and three children: Nicki, a freshman volleyball player at Georgia Tech, and high schoolers Gigi and Nate. Their comment, according to ESPN's Rece Davis: "We're glad to have our dad back."
Famously intense and rarely relaxed, Meyer faced an especially challenging year on and off the field as the Gators were widely expected to repeat as national champions. The offense sputtered, quarterback Tim Tebow got concussed, defensive end Carlos Dunlap notched a DUI, linebacker Brandon Spikes was caught eye-gouging, the team suffered through flu, and "turmoil" even led to a physical skirmish between Spikes and Tebow following a close game at Mississippi State.
A loss to Alabama in the SEC Championship on December 5 ended the championship expectations and left Meyer unconscious in the hospital with what was originally reported to be "dehydration" but, according to players, heart-related issues.
A Florida football staffer told the Orlando Sentinel Saturday that Meyer was in fact hospitalized "at least twice" this month with nausea, chest pain, and sickness.
Last month, a Sports Illustrated profile revealed that doctors found an arachnoid cyst on Meyer's brain in 1998, brought on by "stress and rage and excitement." They warned that painful headaches would flare under high stress; his wife warned that he'd have to take it easy.
"I know you want to be a head coach," she told him then. "But if it's going to make you sick and old and crazy? I don't want you to be a head coach."
But he did, anyway, leading both Bowling Green and Utah to record-setting years before heading to Gainesville in 2005.
Despite his recent hospitalizations, Meyer's decision came as a shock to players, media, and the school itself. He signed a six-year, $24 million contract in August; just last week, Tebow said he thought Meyer was handling the stress of his job "better."
"He puts a lot on himself and he cares a lot and he takes a lot of the burden on himself,” Tebow said. “That’s something we talk about a lot. You’ve got to take care of yourself. Although we’re both very passionate, you can’t always let it all feel like everything is on your chest.
“And I think he’s doing a better job of doing that. But...it can weigh on you a little bit."
The university reportedly offered Meyer "time off," but the man who presided over some of Florida's winningest years opted to resign altogether before taking them up on the offer.
Meyer steps away from Florida with a 56-10 record, but college football, naturally, isn't pausing for a moment of silence: Gators commit Gerald Christian says he heard from Miami, FSU, and Georgia in the half-hour following Meyer's resignation.
Chest pains? No wonder.