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The Florida Gators' fall a year after Urban Meyer's first resignation

GAINESVILLE — It has been a tumultuous year for Florida football coach Urban Meyer.

During the past 365 days, he resigned twice, suffered through the worst season in his 10-year head coaching career and battled health problems.

Exactly one year ago today, Meyer stunned college football when he abruptly resigned. After prompting from school officials and his players, Meyer had a change of heart the next day and decided to return.

The ensuing months were not easy. And midway through the 2010 season, the wheels started to fall off.

When Meyer walks off the field at Raymond James Stadium on the afternoon of Jan. 1, win or lose it will be his final time as head coach at the University of Florida. He resigned Dec. 8, citing health and family reasons.

Here's a look back at the past year and the trials and tribulations he endured.

Dec. 1, 2009

Florida defensive end Carlos Dunlap, the Gators' sacks leader, is arrested for DUI during the early part of the week of the SEC Championship Game in which No. 1 Florida is scheduled to play No. 2 Alabama. Meyer meets with the media after practice and is visibly worn and tired-looking. He insists he's fine. Dunlap is suspended for the title game.

Dec. 6, 2009

Alabama dismantles the Gators for the SEC title. Later that night after the team returns to Gainesville, Meyer is rushed to Shands at the University of Florida hospital after his wife finds him on the floor unresponsive and with chest pains, and calls 911. Florida athletic officials say he was suffering from dehydration. Meyer later explains why he wasn't forthcoming.

"I have three children that mean more to me than anything. I have a football team that means more to me than anything, and to … I didn't want it to get out at all," he says. "If that means not coming clean with full details about something very personal, if you can't understand that, then, first of all, I think you've got to recheck yourself."

Dec. 9, 2009

Florida defensive coordinator Charlie Strong is hired as the new coach at Louisville. He later takes two assistant coaches, Vance Bedford and Kenny Carter, to join his staff. Meyer eventually must replace four assistant coaches.

Dec. 26, 2009

After what he described as extensive talks with his family, Meyer resigns as coach. He cites health reasons and a desire to spend more time with his family.

Dec. 27, 2009

Less than 24 hours later, after a heart-to-heart talk with strength and conditioning coach Mickey Marotti about the collateral damage his decision to leave would have, Meyer announces he will return for the 2010 season but will take an extended leave of absence after the Jan. 1 Sugar Bowl. The leave was suggested by athletic director Jeremy Foley and president Bernie Machen before Meyer's decision to resign. Meyer also cites his team's response in a bowl practice before leaving for New Orleans as a factor in reconsidering his decision.

"He wanted to make sure that with this decision everybody else was taken care of," senior quarterback Tim Tebow says. "Even when he's trying to do something for his family and for himself, he still wants to make sure the players are taken care of and the coaches got a spot. … That's what I remember most is when he's got all these big decisions for himself and for his health … he's still worried about everyone else. That shows how much he cares about this university, his players and then his coaching staff."

Jan. 1, 2010

Florida earns a 51-24 win over Cincinnati in the Sugar Bowl. Meyer takes a short break, then centers on recruiting but does not go on the road.

Feb. 4

The Gators reel in one of the top two recruiting classes in the country, according to several recruiting services.

Feb. 5

Meyer begins his indefinite leave of absence. Offensive coordinator Steve Addazio takes over as interim head coach.

March 17

Meyer is present when spring practice begins. He acknowledges what would become a recurring theme throughout the season. "You want to determine who we are offensively," Meyer says. "We have no idea right now." Meyer attends all practices and the spring game before taking more time off, during which he and his family travel extensively, including to Rome and Hawaii.

June 1

During the SEC spring meetings in Sandestin, Meyer reveals that he has been diagnosed with esophageal spasms, abnormal contractions of the muscles in the esophagus (the tube that carries food from the mouth to the stomach). The spasms do not move food effectively to the stomach. Symptoms include difficulty swallowing or pain with swallowing, heartburn and pain in the chest or upper abdomen. He says he is well and plans to stay that way. "I've just got to be smarter in the future, and I'm going to be," Meyer says. "I'm not going to let that happen again. But the biggest thing was, all that was related to what the heck were those pains going through my chest. Once you find out what it is, life gets a little better quickly."

July 21

Meyer arrives at SEC media days and tells reporters he feels great. He talks about his time off — "I'm not quite sure 'leave' is the word" for it, he says — and what he learned. "What I've got to do is learn to really trust our staff, empower people and give them opportunities to grow," Meyer says. "They've done a great job; we've got a great staff. I've got the best strength coach in America, and to sit there and micromanage our strength program would be nonsense and I did that for a few years. So I'm very pleased with the way it's going right now."

Sept. 4

Florida's season begins with a 34-12 win over Miami of Ohio. The Gators struggle, and it turns out to be a foreshadowing of a troubled season.

Oct. 16

Already on a two-game losing streak, Florida suffers a 10-7 home defeat to Mississippi State. It is the first three-game losing streak in Meyer's head coaching tenure and the first for the school since 1988.

Nov. 13

Having put together consecutive wins over Georgia and Vanderbilt, the Gators have an opportunity win the SEC East and advance to the SEC Championship Game if they can get past former Gators coach Steve Spurrier and South Carolina. It doesn't happen. Florida plays terribly and loses 36-14. "We're just not very good," Meyer says.

Nov. 27

A 31-7 loss to Florida State ends the Gators' six-game winning streak over the Seminoles and adds to Florida's woes. The five losses are the most in Urban Meyer's head coaching tenure. In his postgame session with the media, Meyer says, "I can assure you we're going to rebuild this thing, build it up the right way and do it right."

Dec. 8

Meyer again stuns college football by resigning for a second time, saying again he wants to devote more time to his family, watching his daughters play collegiate volleyball and coaching his son's Little League team. "Last year was a wakeup call," Meyer says. "I think sometimes we make it far too complex. At the end of the day I'm very convinced that you're going to be judged on how you are as a husband and as a father and not on how many bowl games we won. I've not seen my two girls play high school sports. They're both very talented Division I-A volleyball players, so I missed those four years. I missed two already with one away at college. I can't get that time back."

Dec. 11

It is confirmed that Meyer also resigned because of health reasons related to those that led to his 2009 resignation. Meyer has a recurring burning sensation in his chest that doctors recently told him could increase his cardiovascular risk factors if he continued the coaching lifestyle.

Antonya English can be reached at english@sptimes.com.

The Florida Gators' fall a year after Urban Meyer's first resignation 12/25/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, December 28, 2010 2:50pm]
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