Senior Writer

For Meyer, a diminished will means there's no way forward


It wasn't the esophageal spasms. It wasn't the Ambien. It wasn't the headaches.

It was plain, old-fashioned burnout for Urban Meyer. Florida's coach finally admitted it.

Well, admitted it again. This time for good. We think. At this very point a year ago, Meyer was getting ready to resign the first time. Then he talked himself out of it, finally blaming it on those spasms. Sort of. We never were really sure what convinced Meyer to resign, return and reload. We sure as hell know now.

What we found out Tuesday was that at least for the last year Meyer hasn't been able look himself in the mirror. He knew he couldn't give, couldn't work like he had in the past. It finally showed up on the field. The Gators were an unmitigated failure in 2010, reflecting the fading will of their coach. They were directionless. They played without passion. They didn't play down to the competition. They became the competition.

You saw it in the opener when Miami (Ohio) hung on for way too long. With the SEC East on the line, Meyer's private domain, the Gators didn't show up against South Carolina. The same for the Florida State game.

Florida and Texas became the biggest disappointments in the country. Mack Brown is retooling his staff. Meyer is retooling his life. For that we should admire him. Still young, he has taken control of his life. The flag he planted on top of the SEC and college football won't be taken down for a while.

I applaud the man. It took him this last year to figure out that the game really was destroying him. Better to move on than chase the dragon like some drug addict. The great Urban Meyer didn't have it anymore. That his desire flamed out sooner than most is a reflection of the man, but more of a reflection of the times.

In many ways, the game is out of control. USA Today had a story Wednesday centering on Fresno State coach Pat Hill. Hill is taking a 33 percent pay cut to help the cash-strapped university, and because it was the right thing to do.

How many coaches at the top level would do the same? USA Today mentioned there may be a growing trend toward more incentive-based contracts. What a concept: Earn what you are paid -- without the agents and the shoe deals and the radio shows.

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Meyer did more than earn his money in six seasons at Florida. The problem for him was living up to that contract. Perhaps the nation's best coach fell victim to -- everything. The pressure, the glare, the recruiting, the arrests.

In the end, it was a surprise only to him that he couldn't win the SEC every year and compete for a national championship most years. In this day and age, even those benchmarks are impossible to achieve for a coaching mastermind.

Look what happened to Nick Saban, perhaps the only other college coach on Meyer's level. A year after winning it all, human nature took over. The Tide weren't as hungry and played like it. Saban talked about accountability. He got lack of effort, certainly not on the 2009 level. He got outcoached by the Mad Hatter at LSU. His team blew a 24-0 halftime lead at home to Auburn.

Saban can stand it for now. But will he be next?

Don't believe any of this stuff about 25 years of coaching caving in on Meyer. He was a rising star at Notre Dame, Bowling Green and Utah. That was the easy part. The hard part was chasing his own legacy at Florida.

The legacy won.

It will live on, mostly untarnished. It's hard to argue with being the nation's winningest coach (10 years or more). Despite this season, the man is going out on top.

It's fitting that his last game will be against (by then) 84-year-old Joe Paterno in the Outback Bowl. JoePa is the standard for longevity that every coach measures himself against. What does it say about Meyer and the modern state of college football that the longest-tenured coach in the game has outlasted the best coach in the game?

Anyone in need of a credential from all the BCS title games? Dennis Dodd has them. In three decades in the business, he's covered everything from the Olympics to Stanley Cup to conference realignment. Just get him on campus in a press box in the fall. His heart lies with college football.

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