Sunday December 27, 2009
No other way to do this than to go down the random thoughts that have been bouncing around all evening. It’s a massive and sudden announcement that has stopped the college football world in its tracks.
- First, our thoughts have to be with Meyer and his family. The issue doesn’t seem to be life-threatening (in the immediate sense, at least), but it was obviously serious enough to force a man who lived the game of football to readjust his priorities and step away. Hopefully it’s a hiccup in a long life.
- It’s so unusual to see someone at the top of their game – coaches come and go all the time, but this has to be as big of a shock as it was when Spurrier took to the podium at the start of the decade. The biggest difference is the health issue. We’re not saying goodbye to Meyer, so it’s not quite a Lou Gehrig moment. Ara Parseghian and Bo Schembechler will be mentioned as analogues, but were either really the dominant personalities in the sport when they stepped down?
- Georgia fans may never know how close Mark Richt came to a similar decision a few years ago during his wife’s battle with cancer. Facing one’s mortality, especially with financial concerns all but moot, has to make even the most driven professional place work far down the list of priorities.
- As much as we hate to admit it, the SEC was better off for having Meyer around. He’s a big part of the reason why the conference is going for its fourth consecutive national title. The coverage that will nauseate most of us leading up to the Sugar Bowl is a reminder that this is a national sports story that will dwarf almost every other college football story up to and including the national title game.
- One has to wonder when and where he’ll resurface. Again, he’s not dying. He’ll have time to step away and spend time with his family while addressing his health. It’s not hard to imagine a bright and effective communicator stepping into broadcast media at some point. Will we ever see him on a sideline again? He’s only 45.
- The SEC East was already pretty wide open heading into 2010, and this news only adds to the unpredictability. The top three teams in the division – Florida, Tennessee, and Georgia – all face big turnover and will be starting a new quarterback. Is South Carolina, with an experienced quarterback returning, a dark horse among a chaotic field?
- Bulldog fans shouldn’t be too giddy just yet – Georgia’s problems with Florida go far beyond the coach on the other sideline. Even Ron Zook had a winning record in Jax.
- Some might think it crass that Georgia and others began contacting Florida commitments less than an hour after the announcement. But back to Gehrig – we’re not hovering over Meyer’s death bed waiting to see if he’ll emerge from a coma. He’s made the decision to step away from coaching, and that decision – not to mention the departure of the offensive and defensive coordinators within a year of each other – has immediate implications in recruiting.
- Not going to get too wrapped up in the Florida coaching search except to say that it will introduce some new dynamics into the ongoing Georgia searches. Will Florida be replacing more than a new coordinator on defense as a new head coach takes over?
- Notre Dame might have inadvertently avoided a repeat of the 2005 battle with Florida over the next big head coach. Or is Brian Kelly re-examining that five-year Notre Dame contract tonight for a buyout clause?
- Charlie Strong is an interesting case. Meyer didn’t wake up this morning and decided to step down. All accounts are that he’s been considering it since “recent developments” (including a hospitalization following the SEC Championship game). Strong took the Louisville job in the meantime, but we have to think he would have been a candidate to replace Meyer. Meyer didn’t reach a decision until the past few days, but did Strong have a chance to see it coming?
- Will Meyer take on the “emeritus” role and hang around the program? I hope for his sake he’ll retreat into the privacy he’ll need to focus on health and family, but it will be tempting to remain around a Gator community that wants him around. That scenario wouldn’t bode well for the next coach though; Meyer’s shadow will loom large enough without the former coach popping up everywhere.
- As with Zook, I don’t envy the next Florida coach.