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Florida Gator fans, players have mixed reaction to Urban Meyer taking Ohio State coaching job

Urban Meyer walks off the field after Florida’s victory over Penn State in January’s Outback Bowl at Raymond James Stadium.

WILL VRAGOVIC | Times

Urban Meyer walks off the field after Florida’s victory over Penn State in January’s Outback Bowl at Raymond James Stadium.

GAINESVILLE — When former Florida coach Urban Meyer walked off the field at Raymond James Stadium in January after defeating Penn State in the Outback Bowl, it was his last time coaching at Florida but many suspected it wouldn't be his last time coaching.

Yet when Meyer, who resigned in December citing health reasons and a desire to spend more time with his family, was officially announced as head coach at Ohio State on Monday, fans and players in Gainesville had mixed reactions.

Meyer's decision seemed to divide Florida fans among two lines: those that say he brought two SEC and national championships to the program and that should be enough; and those who believe he lied about his health problems to get out because he knew the Gators were about to start rebuilding.

"The SEC needs coaches who have integrity to stand behind their team when the chips are down," said Chanda Brandt, a longtime UF fan from High Springs. "Shoutout to Ohio State: hope all your seasons are winning or history will repeat itself."

"When is a coach's word going to be worth something?" Robert Randall said. "I have heart problems and then (one) year later I'm better to coach?"

But others took the attitude of live and let live.

"I know a lot of people are upset, but I'm not one of them," Ken Morrison said. "For whatever reason, he left. I don't know if it was health, but it's over now. He coached, here, we won. I'm okay with that. We should all move on."

Meyer, 47, said during his news conference Monday that he feels "great," he believes he has learned how to balance, health, family and the job, and that he remains loyal to the Gators.

"My six years at Florida, Florida was my dream job," Meyer said. "I will always be a Gator, I will always be a part of that program. However, this is my home state and it's great to be back home."

Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley, who has a close relationship with Meyer, said he wishes the Meyer family the best in Ohio.

"We will always be indebted to Urban Meyer and his contributions to the University of Florida," Foley said in a statement. "He elevated our program, winning multiple national championships and made a strong impact in this community. Over the past 11 months, he has clearly had an opportunity to determine that now is the right time to return to coaching. He is good for college football and we knew he would return to the sidelines to coach again. We wish nothing but the best for him and his family as he embarks on a new chapter in his career."

Many Florida players expressed support for their former coach, but some believed too much attention was being paid to Meyer.

"Not a problem with me," said redshirt junior defensive tackle Omar Hunter, who was recruited by Meyer. "If he wants to be at Ohio State, good luck to him. I love Coach Meyer. He brought me here to Florida. I love him as a coach and if he wants to go to Ohio State, good luck to him."

Senior offensive lineman James Wilson said he didn't want to talk about Meyer: "Coach (Will) Muschamp is my coach.''

Several Gators put their feelings on Twitter. Freshman quarterback Jeff Driskel, who came to UF primarily to play for Meyer, offered congratulations. Sophomore receiver Andre Debose said he wasn't angry: "Over these years I found that college football is a business. Who would turn that deal down?"

Linebacker Jelani Jenkins, who abruptly refused to talk about Meyer on Saturday night, saying his focus was on Florida, took to Twitter to throw his support behind Muschamp: "We got Champ we'll be just fine.''

Offensive lineman Jon Halapio added: "If it isn't Tim Tebow all over TV today, then its freaking Coach Meyer,"

And former defensive tackle Terron Sanders added: "Why are y'all people acting like you're married to Urban and you just caught him cheating on you? Just be happy for him and his family."

If Gator Bowl officials have their way, Meyer's old team will play his new one Jan. 2 in Jacksonville. And some players welcomed that idea.

"I pray to GOD we play Ohio State in the Bowl Game..!," safety Matt Elam said on his Twitter account.

"Really wanna play Ohio State in a bowl game," offensive lineman Chaz Green said.

Things could get worse if Meyer starts raiding UF's staff and landing some top state recruits. There are already reports that UF director of football administration Mark Pantoni has left to join Meyer, and that Meyer plans to hire UF strength and conditioning coach Mickey Marotti and linebackers/special teams coach D.J. Durkin.

Florida Gator fans, players have mixed reaction to Urban Meyer taking Ohio State coaching job 11/28/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, November 29, 2011 10:26am]
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