TAMPA — Steve Addazio will head to Temple to become its coach when his six-year tenure at Florida ends Saturday. And the offensive coordinator will carry strong memories with him.
Following the Gators' final full practice Thursday, an emotional Addazio reminisced about his first day walking into Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, his deep friendship with outgoing Florida coach Urban Meyer and the bond he shares with his players.
"You get close to these kids, and it's hard to say goodbye to them," he said, fighting his emotions.
"They are like family to you."
Addazio declined to talk about Temple and how he's juggling both jobs, saying he wants to focus on the Gators and the Outback Bowl. He also would not say if he plans to hire any of the Gators' current staff. When asked to reflect on his time with Meyer, Addazio said it couldn't be summed up in just a few words.
"I just love him," he said. "We've been through a lot together. He's a great football coach, a great human being. He's done a lot for my family. He's done a lot for this football program. And he's brought a lot of unbelievable moments to the Gator Nation. And he makes coming to work every day great.
"He brought me here, and life's all about relationships and being around the people that you want to be around. And I couldn't have been around anybody better."
AUSTIN BACK IN ACTION: Florida defensive coordinator Teryl Austin said he "feels much better" after spending Monday and part of Tuesday at Tampa General Hospital before being diagnosed with mild gastritis. Austin is one of seven coaches on the staff whose status is in the air after Meyer's resignation, but he insisted it's business as usual for the Gators.
"As a coach, when you sign up in this profession, you sign up to help the young men that you are coaching to get better, no matter what the situation is," Austin said. "No matter what the situation is, our goal was to help our guys get better to give them a chance to win the game Saturday."
Austin denied a report by Rivals.com that he has been contacted by Texas for the same position and added he would like to remain with Florida.
Coincidentally, Austin began his coaching career in 1991 as a graduate assistant at Penn State.
"I worked with a lot of those guys that are still on staff," he said. "It was great to see them. It's kind of neat to have an opportunity to work against guys you greatly respect … guys that do it the right way.
"And that's why they've had sustained success for so long. It's not an accident. You get good players. You do things the right way and you do it consistently, and you're going to have success over time."
READY TO RALLY: The Penn State Alumni Association and Nittany Lion Club will co-sponsor a pep rally at 3:30 today at the Tampa Convention Center, 333 S Franklin St. It will feature coach Joe Paterno, the Penn State Blue Band, cheerleaders and the mascot. It is free. After a pep rally at 5:30 in Ybor City, the Tampa Gator Club will gather at Splitsville in Channelside for food, drinks and fireworks at midnight. Tickets cost $75 and are available at the door. For details, go to tampagatorclub.com.
Dress code: Penn State is encouraging fans to wear white to the game.