Urban Meyer doesn't look uncomfortable, just out of place.
Florida's former coach is telegenic enough in his new job as a college football analyst. You've probably seen Meyer interviewing some of the game's biggest names. But to him they are less "gets", and more like peers he was trying to beat the snot out of just a few months ago. The new gig seems to agree with him as far as it goes. The phrase "busy work" comes to mind. Meyer must feel like he's wearing a wool suit in the Gainesville heat. Not being on the field bothers him. You can tell. You don't even have to spend a few minutes on the phone with him like I did. All you have to do is read the body language bleeding through on basic cable.
"I won't tell you that you won't see him coaching again because I think someday he will," said one Meyer's closest friends. "He's too good a coach not to."
|Urban Meyer is still spending time on the sidelines these days, but he is not coaching. (US Presswire)|
That's the great mystery and, perhaps, danger. Meyer could be the same wreck he was in December 2009 when he quit the first time. A couple of tweets attributed to Gigi Meyer have indicated Urban's daughter wants her daddy back. Didn't the man resign to spent more time with his family?
Those are issues for his loved ones, doctors and medications to decide. All I know is that he's ready and headed your way, Ohio State -- perhaps soon. If not Columbus, then somewhere else -- soon. Pac-12 schools, with all that new TV money, suddenly have the ability to pay him. The operative word is soon. It might not be the best decision but it's the only decision for a man who misses the game.
"He is too good at what he does," Whittingham reiterated in the same conversation, "to be out of it for very long."
Got it? You should know by now Meyer can't stay silent or inactive for long. During his latest down time, he has become somewhat of an NCAA watchdog. During a February radio interview, he dropped this bomb:
"What I've seen the last five years is a complete turn in the integrity of the college coaching profession."
And he means it. If the NCAA hasn't already talked to him. Meyer is willing to cooperate.
"I think you just have to make the rules as clear as possible and severely punish the people who violate the rules," Meyer told me. "There's no such thing as a secondary violation, if there is an intentional violation. The first thing you've got to do is get rid of that term. That just tells everybody: Secondary means not important. Intentional violation of rules should be punished."
He's talking to you Jim Tressel, Bruce Pearl and anyone else willing to listen. A lot of you are already calling B.S. Sure, Meyer has those 30-odd legal dustups in his six years at Florida. Who is he to be pronouncing sentence on the profession? Truth is, there isn't a Mother Theresa in college football. Sorry. Anyone even close to the subject is going to have some warts. Tressel still has his job for the same reason Meyer could succeed him. They both win.
Meyer operated inside the SEC recruiting vortex. If his comments make him the ultimate double agent, tough. This is a guy who was criticized, by some, after Cam Newton "got away." Meyer can't say it for the record but we know there were issues that caused Newton to leave for Auburn. The alleged stolen laptop. The reported academic fraud that had Newton headed for the door when a Florida academic committee was about to come after him.
"The SEC is an interesting conference," Whittingham said. "It will grind you up and spit you out. Urban is brutally honest. He's going to say what he feels."
So how much unethical shenanigans -- or, if you prefer, cheating -- did Meyer run into while he was coaching?
"Things would come to light and the protocol was to turn them in to the compliance office," Meyer said. "I felt a responsibility to my staff. Violations would occur and our staff would not hear the result or a punishment. The school who committed the violation would be allowed to continue to recruit and sign the player. That did not make sense."
"What happens is there's 10 percent, 20 percent of things that are done the wrong way. The majority are still done the right way. I was outspoken about it. I was very concerned about it. I'm still concerned."
This is what it's like being a whistle-blower outside of the ropes. Frankly, Meyer doesn't care if those peers care. Part of his success is that brutal honesty. Before that first season at Utah, Meyer found out who wanted to play. Call it "running guys off". Whatever. It worked, and it had supporters. Some of the older players, figuring the message had been delivered, finally went to Meyer asking him to back off. According to Morgan Scalley, former Utah defensive back and the Utes' current safeties coach, he did.
"A lot of what he brought to the program, we still do," Scalley said.
"Except I don't remember backing off," Meyer said.
He'll be back coaching because they're addicts, coaches, all of them. Bobby Bowden kept chasing one more title before Florida State unceremoniously kicked him out. Chris Ault has been coach at Nevada three times. He reached his ultimate high in 2010, leading the Wolf Pack to 13 wins including an upset win over Boise State and the school's first Top-25 ranking since the 1940s.
We know the addiction can be debilitating. We can only hope that with his experiences, his family's support and the right medication he can get back on the field. There are a handful of places in the country where a coach is pretty much guaranteed to win. Florida and Texas are two of them. Last season those schools became the biggest disappointments in college football. Brown retooled his staff. Meyer is retooling his life. For that we should admire him but time is short.
Every day looking out of place means another day out of the game.