The University of Florida announced Urban Meyer is “stepping down” as head football coach after UF’s Sugar Bowl game against Cincinnati. Here’s the meat of the official Florida press release:
Urban Meyer is stepping down as head coach of the University of Florida football team, Athletics Director Jeremy Foley announced Saturday afternoon.
“I have given my heart and soul to coaching college football and mentoring young men for the last 24-plus years and I have dedicated most of my waking moments the last five years to the Gator football program,” said Meyer. “I have ignored my health for years, but recent developments have forced me to re-evaluate my priorities of faith and family.”
“After consulting with my family, Dr. Machen, Jeremy Foley and my doctors, I believe it is in my best interest to step aside and focus on my health and family.
Very sad day for Florida and college football. Meyer is a mere 45 and on top of the college football mountain. So why is he quitting?
The best we have to go on at the moment was a piece three weeks ago by S.L. Price of SPORTS ILLUSTRATED that chronicled Meyer’s longtime battle with a brain cyst, which was first discovered in ‘98.
Then it hit. The pain stampeded through his skull, near-blinding, far worse than the time in South Bend: “It was killing me,” Meyer says. The Utes won, the game ended in a roiling riot of celebration, and, Lord, Meyer tried. He took his ecstatic players into the locker room and led them in prayer, grinning to show he was happy, though the grinning hurt too. He stumbled into the training room, and the men there laid him out on a table.
This time Meyer didn’t blow it off. He went to a doctor the following week, and when he was shown the CAT scan, he could see the big, dark mass. “That’s a tumor on my brain,” Meyer said. “Oh my gosh….” He felt a flash of terror, saw images of Shelley and the girls and four-year old Nate, and at 39 he realized that he just might die.
But no: It wasn’t a tumor but the same arachnoid cyst, inflamed again by stress, rage, excitement. Again, a doctor told Meyer he had to ease up. This time he listened. “Ever since that day, on the sideline you’ll see me—I’m trying to stay very composed,” he says. “I have headaches, but not like that. I’ve changed.”
Once you read that, you aren’t as surprised as you might’ve been without context.
You also wonder if there hasn’t been some sort of development in Meyer’s condition since that piece. Hopefully not.
Might be a little early to start examining possible replacements, as I don’t rule out Meyer changing his mind. But it goes without saying that former UF DC Bob Stoops (under Steve Spurrier) would top the list.
UPDATE: Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com reports, “an NFL source tells us that Meyer has informed the team that he has a heart problem.”
UPDATE: Pete Thamel of the NEW YORK TIMES: “He’s not in the hospital . Doesn’t have a disease. A stress and lifestyle issue.“