Florida Coach Urban Meyer will step down citing health concerns

After five seasons and two national titles at Florida, Coach Urban Meyer is stepping down after the Sugar Bowl.
After five seasons and two national titles at Florida, Coach Urban Meyer is stepping down after the Sugar Bowl. (Ed Reinke/associated Press)
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By Steve Yanda
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, December 27, 2009

Florida Coach Urban Meyer resigned from his position Saturday afternoon, the school announced in a press release. Meyer won two national championships since taking over the Gators in 2005 and will coach his final game with the program Friday against Cincinnati at the Sugar Bowl -- the fourth Bowl Championship Series game in which his teams have played in nine seasons as a division I-A head coach.

In the press release, Meyer, 45, issued a statement in which he cited health concerns, as well as a desire to spend more time with his family, as reasons for his stepping down. On Dec. 6 -- hours after Florida lost to Alabama in the Southeastern Conference title game -- Meyer checked himself into a Gainesville, Fla., hospital and was treated for dehydration. He told the Gainesville Sun he had suffered chest pains prior to going to the hospital.

Meyer has been hospitalized at least twice since dealing with the chest pains and has had a non-life threatening heart valve muscle defect diagnosed, according to an ESPN.com report.

"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," Meyer said in the statement. "I have ignored my health for years, but recent developments have forced me to re-evaluate my priorities of faith and family.

"After consulting with my family, [Florida President] Dr. [J. Bernard] Machen, [Florida Athletic Director] Jeremy Foley and my doctors, I believe it is in my best interest to step aside and focus on my health and family."

Joe Haden Sr., father of Florida senior cornerback Joe Haden Jr. (Friendly), said he understood Meyer's reasons for stepping down and appreciated all he has done for his son over the past four years. Jordan Haden, another of Haden Sr.'s sons who Scout.com rated a four-star recruit at safety, committed to the Gators and graduated from Friendly High early so that he could attend classes at Florida during the spring semester.

Haden Sr. said that, as of now, Jordan still planned to honor his commitment, even though he will be heading to a Florida program bereft of the head coach and the defensive coordinator, Charlie Strong, that recruited him. Strong left the Gators earlier this month to become the head coach at Louisville.

"He's our direct connection to Florida football; Florida football is Urban Meyer right now," Haden Sr. said. "We're just very, very, at this point, eager to find out, you know, who's going to take over the realm of the head coaching position. I know Florida is not going to make any rash, quick decisions. They're going to make the right decision. But at this point, we're not going to jump ship or anything."

Meyer went 56-10 in five seasons at Florida, leading the Gators to SEC and national titles in 2006 and 2008. In 2004, Meyer led an undefeated Utah squad to the Fiesta Bowl, becoming the first team outside of the six conferences with automatic qualifying bids to earn a Bowl Championship Series bowl berth. His 95-18 overall record gives him a higher winning percentage (84.1 percent) than any other active division 1-A coach with at least five years experience.

"Coach Meyer and I have talked this through and I realize how hard this was for him to reach this decision," Foley said in the release. "But, the bottom line is that Coach Meyer needed to make a choice that is in the best interest of his well-being and his family."

Meyer's name frequently was brought up whenever high-profile college coaching jobs became -- or were sure to become -- vacant. When talk of former Notre Dame coach Charlie Weis's demise began earlier this season, Meyer was rumored to be high on the Fighting Irish's wish list, though he dispelled any notion of him leaving Florida.

With Jim Zorn's future as coach of the Washington Redskins considered to be in jeopardy, it is possible Meyer's name could be brought up as a potential replacement there as well.

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