Though Florida and Utah don’t have much of a history, the Gators and Utes share one major tie: Urban Meyer.
Meyer guided Utah to a perfect season in 2004 before jumping to UF, where he won a pair of national titles. His reputation in Florida is complicated, to put it nicely. He’s not in the Gators’ ring of honor, and some fans haven’t forgiven him for his exit or his program’s off-field issues. The way his Jaguars tenure ended doesn’t help.
But how is he remembered in Utah?
“Fondly. Very fondly,” said Josh Newman, who covers the Utes for The Salt Lake Tribune.
Newman said there’s a corner of the fan base that would welcome Meyer “with open arms, no questions asked” as the replacement for Kyle Whittingham, whenever he retires.
Whittingham has gone out of his way, repeatedly, to praise Meyer.
“He doesn’t talk about anybody the way that he talks about Urban Meyer,” Newman said.
Bill Riley agrees: Meyer’s reputation remains strong in Utah.
“No matter what happens, people will always have fond memories of Urban because he put Utah on the map,” said Riley, the Utes’ play-by-play announcer and a midday radio host at 700-AM KALL.
There were valid questions around Gainesville a year ago about how Meyer would be received by UF fans when the Gators honored him during the opener against Florida Atlantic. There were cheers — the fact that Steve Spurrier was being honored, too, undoubtedly helped.
Newman said he has no doubts about the fan reaction if Utah honored Meyer during a game. He’d get a standing ovation.
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