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Urban Meyer-Ohio State rumors flame suspicions about coach's exit from Florida Gators

Urban Meyer coaches his last game for Florida in the New Year’s Day Outback Bowl before stepping down a second time for what he said were health and family reasons.

WILL VRAGOVIC | Times

Urban Meyer coaches his last game for Florida in the New Year’s Day Outback Bowl before stepping down a second time for what he said were health and family reasons.

Another sideline up ahead, and suddenly Urban Meyer feels fine.

And isn't that just bucky?

Why, Meyer feels terrific. Once again he has sorted out the balance between scoreboards and sanity, and he is ready to break out the whistle all over again. And maybe run a few sprints. Ohio State, here he comes.

Yep, any day now you can expect Meyer to run toward the Buckeyes.

And, as it turns out, away from the Gators.

He will go. You know he will, because Meyer is a football coach, and because he is an Ohio boy, and because Ohio State is still a brand name. He will go because he loved Woody Hayes. He will go because if he says no, he probably will never have another chance to say yes to OSU.

As for the Buckeyes, they will rush to hire him. Because Meyer already is just one shy of Woody's national championship total (three). Because they think he can turn quarterback Braxton Miller into the next Tim Tebow (would that make him Rebow?). Because he is, as near as anyone knows, tattoo-free.

It makes sense, in other words. They kind of fit, Meyer and this program in the mire.

Except for this:

Uh, didn't Meyer leave coaching because of the stress? Didn't he want to spend time with his family? Wasn't that why he walked away from the same job twice?

Or, as the conspiracy theory goes, was it more because he didn't want to spend time with mediocrity?

More and more, as this Gators season grows worse and worse, you hear rumblings that Meyer bolted because he saw trouble coming. It's an easy thing to wonder: Might Meyer's health have been better if the roster hadn't been worse? At the very least, might his plan all along have been to sit out a season and then wait for another big program to come calling?

It is a harsh thing to suggest a coach abandoned his program. It is questioning a man's competitiveness, and it is questioning his character. Yet, the chatter is out there. Taking another job so quickly only increases the speculation Meyer is hurrying away from a mess he created.

Was Meyer really that ill last year? Is he really that much healthier now? Was it the stress that made him sick, or was it thinking about this year's depth chart? And since when did Columbus, Ohio, become Lourdes?

Football fans are a suspicious lot, and football coaches are an elusive target, and so it is hard to get a straight answer. Instead, what we have is suspicion.

Part of the reason is the situation. No one is used to dealing with a coach who resigns because of his health, returns because he has discovered balance in his life, then resigns because of his health. Now, according to Meyer's statements to the Gainesville Sun this week, he has rediscovered the balance.

Part of the reason is Florida's struggles. These are difficult days for the Gator Nation. I have a friend, a former Florida player, who wears black the day after every Florida loss. "These days,'' he told me a couple of weeks ago, "I feel like Johnny Cash.''

When you start to assign blame for Florida's problems, Meyer is a leading suspect. As it turns out, the recruiting classes were a couple of notches short of top.

And part of it, naturally, is Meyer himself. He was an excellent coach for the Gators, but Meyer was never a warm guy, never a chuck-you-on-the-shoulder guy. There hasn't been a two-time national championship coach less appreciated since Dennis Erickson at Miami. A lot of Florida fans still believe Meyer was on cruise control in his last season.

He flipped, he flopped, he fled.

Now it appears he's going to coach somewhere else.

There is a risk. How can Ohio State predict how Meyer will feel this time next year, or the year after? Can it trust Meyer, who had his share of player arrests, to clean up the problems Jim Tressel left?

As for Meyer, there is stress at Ohio State, too. Fans want national titles there, too. They want Heismans. They want highly ranked recruiting classes. They want a coach who is going to work like a madman to make things better — you know, just like Meyer used to do when his health was good, before it was bad, after it was good, before it was bad, back when he was a Gator.

Now he is gone. He will be another team's coach, with new colors and a new contract. It was bound to happen.

Oh, and Urban? Good luck winning that wooden turtle against Illinois.

And tell Ron Zook everyone says hi.

Urban Meyer-Ohio State rumors flame suspicions about coach's exit from Florida Gators 11/24/11 [Last modified: Friday, November 25, 2011 1:12am]

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