GAINESVILLE, FLA. (AP) - With his wife and two of his three children sitting a few feet away, Urban Meyer didn’t have to look very far to be reminded why he’s leaving one of the premier jobs in college football.
It’s all about family.
Meyer resigned from Florida on Wednesday, stepping down for the second time in less than a year. His first attempt, which lasted just a day, was for health reasons. This time it’s to be a better husband and father.
“At the end of the day, I’m very convinced that you’re going to be judged on how you are as a husband and as a father and not on how many bowl games we won,” Meyer said at a campus news conference.
“I’ve not seen my two girls play high school sports. They’re both very talented Division I-A volleyball players, so I missed those four years. I missed two already with one away at college. I can’t get that time back.”
The 46-year-old coach led Florida to two national titles but briefly resigned last December, citing health concerns. He had been hospitalized with chest pains after the Gators lost to Alabama in last season’s Southeastern Conference championship game.
“Last year was a knee-jerk reaction,” Meyer said. “This year was just completely different.”
Meyer signed a six-year, $24 million extension in 2009, meaning he’s walking away from about $20 million in guaranteed salary. But Foley did agree to pay Meyer a $1 million retention bonus the coach would have received had he been employed on Jan. 31, 2011.
This time, Foley doesn’t anticipate another change of heart.
“He’s worked his tail off,” Foley said. “You think of what he’s rebuilt. He built one at Bowling Green, he built one at Utah, he built one here. It’s not just sacrifices here the last six years. That’s 10 years of their lives, not to mention what he did before that as an assistant coach. It’s his time to step back and spend time with his family. You’re not getting it back. I admire him for that.”
Foley said the coaching search will begin immediately and hopes to have a new coach before Christmas. Although Foley declined to offer names, Utah’s Kyle Whittingham, Mississippi State’s Dan Mullen and Arkansas’ Bobby Petrino are likely on the list.
Meyer said he planned to be involved in the search, which could make Whittingham and Mullen front-runners. Whittingham was Meyer’s defensive coordinator in Utah, and Mullen served as the offensive coordinator at Florida. Petrino was Foley’s second choice behind Meyer in 2004.
“I don’t see why it should take that long,” Foley said, adding that he has not contacted anyone.
Meyer’s announcement caught players, fans and the rest of college football by surprise.