Dec 14, 2010 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
For the second time in less than a year, Urban Meyer stood in front of the sports world and said he was done coaching football at the University of Florida. He said he had missed seeing his kids grow up, and wanted to make up for lost time.
Cynics sneered that Meyer said the same thing last December, when he made his (by his own admission) “knee-jerk” decision to quit, only to take it back 24 hours later. So why should he be believed now?
Perhaps because what he said, then and now, was true – only it took him 12 months to realize the whole truth. And that truth goes beyond the simple matter of putting aside all family considerations to be a head coach at a big-time college football program.
You see, Meyer coached in the Southeasetern Conference. By its very nature, SEC football thrives on excess – big stadiums, big tailgate parties, big marching bands, big budgets, big TV contracts, bigwig boosters. In short, it’s just too much.
And when you’re a head coach? Well, good luck there. You need to win, all the time, and God help you if that doesn’t happen, every year, every week.
It certainly ate up Urban Meyer. He came to Gainesville in 2006, and that first year produced a BCS national championship. So did the third year, with a Tim Tebow Heisman trophy in between. He was on top. Life was merry.
Then came that awful moment when the 11-0, top-ranked Gators went to the SEC title game and did the unacceptable – it lost. One game. To an Alabama side that would ultimately win it all over Texas in Pasadena.
Never mind that it was the lone blemish in an otherwise sterling 12-1 campaign. The most ardent in Gator Nation grumbled. And those grumbles turned into public potshots when Florida, sans Tebow and many other departed stars, went “only” 7-5 this fall.
Can you say unreasonable expectations? Yes, for most of the nation, but Meyer, and Florida, is just the latest casualty in an SEC where a lack of reason, and perspective, is the norm. Let us count the many different forms of madness…
There’s Alabama, where in two short decades six coaches tried, in total vain, to follow one Paul W. Bryant. Yes, the Bear cast more than a small shadow, and though Nick Saban put the Tide back on top in 2009, that honeymoon ended the moment ‘Bama blew that 24-0 lead to Auburn. How soon before the hot seat cranks up?
Saban once led LSU to the big prize, but on the Bayou he’s now persona non grata for having the audacity to go somewhere else. As for now, well, they’re just waiting for any excuse to can Les Miles, even if he’s got a national title on the resume and went 10-2 this year.
Go to Georgia, and they’re ready to jettison Mark Richt at any moment, or at least put him in the doghouse (or is it Dawg House?) next to Uga. Never mind that he’s won plenty in a decade in Athens. Going 6-6 is absolutely intolerable.
Sure, they love Bobby Petrino at Arkansas now, but as Frank Broyles, Lou Holtz, Ken Hatfield or Houston Nutt will tell you, even 10-win seasons will not soothe Hog partisans for too long. And good thing that Steve Spurrier finally got South Carolina to an SEC title game this year, or Ol’ Ball Coach would have faced some good ol’ trouble.
Tennessee folks have been red (no, make that orange) with anger for quite some time. They chased out Phillip Fulmer and, after the Laine Kiffin disaster, are giving Derek Dooley a very brief grace period. But how soon before the Volunteer faithful start griping?
Okay, so the Mississippi schools have a small amount of perspective, Kentucky still puts basketball first and Vanderbilt can slide by forever since they get whipped every year. Yet even Bobby Johnson left the Commodores after just one full (bad) season.
Then there’s Auburn. Even undefeated seasons (without a national title) could not prevent big-time boosters from turning on Terry Bowden and Tommy Tuberville. And the school’s past NCAA issues makes everyone assume that they did something illicit to get Cam Newton, despite the current lack of evidence.
So Gene Chizik, enjoy this moment. Savor the unrestrained adulation among War Eagle partisans as they prepare for a long-awaited chance at the big prize Jan. 10 against Oregon.
Fair warning, though – you better win in Glendale, or that oak tree in Toomer’s Corner, where they like to hang rolls of toilet paper after big wins, might feature more unflattering references to Chizig. And Urban Meyer will understand, even if few others will.