GAINESVILLE — When he stood at the podium Wednesday and stunned the nation by resigning as Florida's football coach in his sixth season, Urban Meyer said his sole reason was to spend more time with his family.
It turns out, there was more to the story.
Meyer also resigned because of health reasons related to the medical issues that initially drove him away last December. The 46-year-old has a recurring burning sensation in his chest that doctors recently told him could increase his cardiovascular risk factors if he continued the lifestyle related to coaching.
Meyer insisted during his Wednesday news conference that his health was not an issue, and he stated that again during his Outback Bowl appearance Thursday in Tampa. Meyer will coach the Jan. 1 game against Penn State before turning the program over to new coach Will Muschamp.
Tampa Gator Club president Gigi Pelosi-Farrell said she doesn't fault Meyer for not revealing his illness. "You've got to feel sorry for him; it's a private matter but in his position it's hard to keep it private," she said. "He's got kids. If you're not well, you want to tell them something but maybe not all. It's got to be really tough to go through that. I don't wish that on anybody."
Meyer resigned Dec. 26, 2009, then rescinded that decision one day later. At the time, he said he had been experiencing chest pains for nearly two years that were similar to symptoms of a heart attack. He was later diagnosed with esophageal spasms and placed on medication, which he said had helped control the problem. He took an extended leave of absence during the spring to focus on his health, but he said last week that he knew when he returned it was year to year.
"It was," Meyer said. "I wanted to stretch as much as I could because of an obligation to this program and our coaching staff. … That's all I could think about last year at that time. It's still hard this year but at least I think there's some preparation that went into it. Year by year (was how he approached coming back). The reason last year was for my staff. There was not a lot of thought that went into last year, it just happened."
Meyer was recently told by doctors of the continuing risk factors, after which he informed athletic director Jeremy Foley of his decision to resign. He will be able to control his chest pain with the help of continued monitoring.
"It took a big man to say 'I just can't go,' " said Danny Ponce, a member of Florida's University Athletic Association board of directors. "To walk away, it takes a big person. Somebody else might have just said, 'Well, I'll just back it down and go through the motions.' But not Urban. He's either excellence or he's out. I applaud him for the decision."