TAMPA — Whoever replaces Urban Meyer as Florida's football coach won't have far to go if he has a question about the past few seasons.
Meyer might have an office right down the hall.
Meyer said Thursday that he plans to work as an adviser for the Florida athletics program, and he will live in Gainesville, at least for the time being.
His new role is undetermined.
"I want to be part of college football," Meyer said. "I don't know (how). I'm still working on that. … We've got to wait until the new coach gets here. I still want to help the University of Florida."
Athletic director Jeremy Foley said he wants Meyer to be around "for as long as he wants to be around" and that Meyer will have an office in the athletic facilities.
Foley said he's not concerned about Meyer's presence being a distraction to the new head coach, adding it's something he'll address with potential candidates.
"Urban Meyer just had this job," Foley said. "He decided to give it up. I think having him around and having him be able to speak to the team and embracing the past, whoever the new coach is, I think that's really important. And I think the fact that this separation came — it's disappointing and sad — but nobody got fired here. This is no ugliness here.
"It's all as good as can be, and I think that helps us going forward. I'll bring that up (to candidates). He will not do anything around the program where he's not welcome. He's smarter than that."
Foley has begun his search for a replacement, and Meyer is preparing for the Outback Bowl and what life will hold afterward.
"I have one (daughter) going south to Fort Myers (Florida Gulf Coast University) and I've got one up in Atlanta (Georgia Tech) and I've seen two (volleyball) games in two years, and that's got to change, that's going to change," Meyer said. "And I'm going to help coach my son's baseball team this spring."
Florida (7-5) plays Penn State (7-5) in the Outback Bowl on Jan. 1 where Meyer faces Joe Paterno, who next season will be coaching as long as Meyer has been alive — 46 years.
Paterno said he understands why Meyer is walking away.
"I tried to think it out why he would do it," Paterno, 83, said Thursday during the Outback Bowl news conference involving the two coaches. "Then I thought back to when I was his age. If I had had an opportunity to leave, I probably would have taken it, but I'm not Urban Meyer.
"When you look at Urban Meyer and you look at Joe Paterno, Urban Meyer can do a lot of things. A big, good-looking guy, he's got great charisma. I'm serious. Poise and the whole bit. And I think that I never had some of the opportunities he has. I'm speaking for him when I shouldn't, but I think that he just said, 'Hey, maybe it's time to see if I want to run a bank or I want to do something else.' I didn't have any other opportunities."
Former Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach and current ESPN analyst Jon Gruden said Meyer's situation resembles that of many parents, including those working two and three jobs while missing out on family time. He believes Meyer might coach again.
"I think eventually, maybe when his kids grow up, maybe he gets the itch again," Gruden said. "But right now, I think he needs to catch his breath. The guy might be really tired, you know. … He won two national titles. The SEC is not for everybody now. It's tough to win."
Gruden said he's aware of speculation about his future and without addressing whether he would pursue a coaching position, he said he likes his job at ESPN.
Meyer said he will not take any coaching jobs in the near future. But if the Gators' new coach wants any help at all, he said he'll be happy to do whatever is asked. And if he wants him to stay far away, that's fine, too.
"It's all up to that person," he said. "There will be no ego. For people who know me, it's all about Florida football, helping out. If that's minimal, it's minimal."
Antonya English can be reached at [email protected] Follow her coverage at gators.tampabay.com.