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Florida Gators coach Urban Meyer stayed quiet about 911 call for children's sake

NEW ORLEANS — One day after the release of a 911 call from his home in December, Florida coach Urban Meyer said at Thursday's Sugar Bowl news conference he did not disclose the fact that he was rushed to the hospital with chest pains by ambulance because he was trying to protect his children.

ESPN obtained the 911 call that Meyer's wife, Shelley, made after he complained of chest pains, then became unresponsive in the early morning hours following the Gators' 32-13 loss to Alabama in the Dec. 5 SEC Championship Game.

"I think that when you're dealing with family members, I have three children that mean more to me than anything," said Meyer, who will begin an indefinite leave of absence after tonight's game. "I have a football team that means more to me than anything. I didn't want it to get out at all. We were very careful. I didn't want to alarm them.

"You'd think that at some point there would be a lot of respect for families involved and children — 11-year-old boys and 16-year-old girls and 19-year old girls. You do what you've got to do to protect them. If that means not coming out with full details about something very personal, if you can't understand that, then first of all you've got to recheck yourself. And second of all, I think at some point you certainly will understand that."

Going with Strong: Florida outgoing defensive coordinator Charlie Strong confirmed cornerbacks coach Vance Bedford will join the new Louisville head coach's staff as defensive coordinator.

Bedford came to Florida from Michigan in 2007, where he was the secondary coach. Bedford last served as defensive coordinator from 2005 to 2006 at Oklahoma State.

Bedford is the third assistant coach set to leave the Gators since the SEC title game, following Strong and Billy Gonzalez (LSU).

OUT WITH A FIGHT? Let's be honest, this isn't the fairy-tale ending Florida had hoped for when the season began in August. With its entire defense returning, a Heisman Trophy winning quarterback and the majority of its offense intact, the defending national champions were supposed to be a lock for the national title game in Pasadena, Calif., next week.

Instead, Florida (12-1) is playing in tonight's Sugar Bowl against undefeated Cincinnati, trying to overcome more turmoil and drama. To make matters worse, the Gators haven't sold their allotment of 17,500 tickets.

And yet, the Gators players say they have a lot to play for. After all, their legacy is on the line.

"We need to finish 13-1," senior LB Ryan Stamper said. "We're the Florida Gators, and everybody expected us to go to the national championship game, so now it seems like a disappointment to be in a BCS game. But let's be real, this is probably one of the best Florida teams in history. We want to come out, play hard and show the world we're still one of the best defenses in the country. And we want to send coach Charlie Strong out on top. We don't want to be the team that had it all, then ended with two straight losses."

For Meyer, who may be coaching his last game as Florida's head coach, a victory for his players is extremely important.

"I love my players," he said. "I'm not ashamed to say that. I love Florida. And I want to win this game in the worst possible way. Not for myself, not for our staff, not for (interim head coach) Steve (Addazio), not for whomever, but for our players."

So does Cincinnati, because it means proving that the Bearcats belong on the national scene with powers such as Florida, the players said.

"It will probably be the biggest win in school history if we can get it," Bearcats senior receiver Mardy Gilyard said. "Nobody expects us to be able to win this game. So there's a lot on the line for us, a lot to prove. Everybody's got something to prove in this game."


Sugar Bowl

Florida vs. Cincinnati, 8:30, Louisiana Superdome, New Orleans

TV/radio: Ch. 13; 620-AM, 1040-AM

Line: Florida by 13

Florida Gators coach Urban Meyer stayed quiet about 911 call for children's sake 12/31/09 [Last modified: Thursday, December 31, 2009 9:30pm]
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