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What will it take for people to believe Urban Meyer isn't leaving Florida for Notre Dame?

Urban Meyer has raised two BCS trophies as a Gator, but many believe he will still bolt.

BRIAN CASSELLA | Times

Urban Meyer has raised two BCS trophies as a Gator, but many believe he will still bolt.

In his chance to set the record straight, here is what Urban Meyer should do.

When it is his turn to speak this morning at his SEC media days session, he should approach the stage slowly. He should hum a familiar tune as he walks, something about waking up the echoes and shaking down the thunder. He should take a moment to thank the management of the Wynfrey Hotel in suburban Birmingham for upgrading him to the Touchdown Jesus Suite.

And then he should say this:

"Okay, guys, you got me. After this season, I'm leaving Florida for Notre Dame. I admit it. I might take a plane. I might take a train. But if I have to walk, I'm going just the same. I want to be a Horseman. I want to be Rudy. I want to win one for the Gipper. Got it?"

And then, as the assembled writers scribble furiously into their pads, Meyer should add this:

"Are you folks nuts? Why in the world would a coach leave Florida for Notre Dame? Do I look like I'm tired of lifting trophies?"

At that point, maybe someone would believe Meyer when he says he isn't leaving Florida.

Maybe not.

In the SEC, that college football conference that never has an offseason, this seems to be the latest trend. Whatever Meyer says, and however emphatically he says it, people refuse to believe him. Meyer says he isn't going to Notre Dame, and Paul Finebaum, a columnist from Alabama, says he isn't telling the truth. Meyer says it again, and Jeff Schultz, a columnist from Atlanta, says he doesn't believe him.

At this point, it seems we are down to pinky swears and blood oaths. And there is more to come. I give today's interview session three questions, maybe four, before someone else works Notre Dame into a question for Meyer, which will be followed by yet another answer where he says he isn't going, which will be followed by someone else questioning Meyer's honesty.

And on it goes. At this point, if Meyer was to end up coaching Notre Dame after all his denials, he would make Nick Saban look like Honest Abe Lincoln.

So why doesn't anyone believe Meyer?

And, short of signing a new contract with a $48 billion buyout clause if he goes to Notre Dame, what can Meyer do about it?

Yes, it is true that Meyer has referred to Notre Dame as his dream job, and it is true that the Irish have a rather large, rather hot seat in their coach's office. On the other hand, I once considered Annette Funicello to be my dream date, but as years moved along, I upgraded. (I assume she did, too.)

In other words, dreams change. Teams change, too.

And that's why Meyer isn't going to Notre Dame. Because he has a better job. It's the same reason Pete Carroll, Bob Stoops, Saban and Jim Tressel aren't going to Notre Dame, either.

Look, this isn't an effort to defend a coach's honor. After all, it has been documented that Meyer wasn't forthcoming when he left Bowling Green to go to Utah, or Utah to go to Florida in 2005. On the other hand, those were clearly steps up the coaching ladder. Jumping from Florida, where Meyer has won two BCS championships, to Notre Dame, which was good back in the days of Desi and Lucy, is not.

Not that anyone should interpret this as a suggestion that Meyer, 45, will be a coaching lifer at Florida. Eventually, Meyer may decide there is a better job out there in the NFL or the NCAA, and when he does, I imagine he'll express interest in it. Nothing wrong with that.

But Notre Dame?

Hint: The Irish aren't going to have Tim Tebow next year, either.

Don't forget this. Back in 2004, Meyer had his choice between Florida and Notre Dame. He chose Florida. Why? Because he had a better chance to win. That's still true.

As a fan of college football lore, this pains me to say, but Notre Dame isn't Notre Dame anymore. I once stood underneath the goalposts talking to players about the Four Horsemen and Knute Rockne and George Gipp, and from the vacant looks on the athletes' faces, I might as well have been talking about New Zealand rugby players. Ask an athlete today to name one of the Four Horsemen, and he's likely to say "Seabiscuit."

In other words, all of the tradition may matter to alumni, but recruits would rather read the directional signs toward the NFL.

So what should Meyer do? If he thinks it's affecting his recruiting — and yeah, other coaches may have mentioned it — then he could always sign a contract that costs him if he goes to Notre Dame.

Otherwise, he should do nothing but consider it the price of success. After all, Meyer is the most accomplished SEC coach since Bear Bryant. Naturally, he is the biggest target in the room.

Of course, if people keep asking, he could mention that he just woke up from a really, really juicy dream about the Tennessee job. You know, once Lane Kiffin is fired.

That'll drive them crazy.

What will it take for people to believe Urban Meyer isn't leaving Florida for Notre Dame?

07/22/09 [Last modified: Thursday, July 23, 2009 6:42am]
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