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“He’s always been the No. 1 advocate for preaching about family and making sure you take care of your family and everything,” punter Chas Henry said at the College Football Awards show in Orlando. “He’s one man I have unbelievable respect for about making sure you take care of your family. I understand this is a family decision. I have complete understanding, complete respect for it. You’ve got to take care of yourself and your family, and that’s what he’s doing. He’s always going to be a legend and loved at the University of Florida.”

Meyer was hired away from Utah by Florida after he led the Utes to an undefeated season. In his second season in Gainesville, he led the Gators’ to a national championship. Two seasons later he won another, the third time overall the school topped the final AP Top 25.

A bid for another national championship fell short in 2009, and the day after Christmas, Meyer surprisingly announced that he was giving up the job. Less than 24 hours later, he changed his mind and decided to instead take a leave of absence.

Meyer scaled back in January _ he didn’t go on the road recruiting _ but still worked steadily through national signing day. He returned for spring practice in March, but managed to take significant time off before and after.

But this season he had to replace Tim Tebow, several other stars who moved on to the NFL and four assistant coaches, and the Gators struggled mightily.

Florida lost five regular-season for the first time since 1988. The season ended with an embarrassing 31-7 victory to Florida State, Meyer’s first loss to the rival Seminoles.

After that game, Meyer vowed to fix the Gators’ problems.

Now, he’ll help find the person to do it.

“It has to be fixed,” he said. “It’s broke a little bit right now. But the way you fix it is hard work. When I say broke it’s broke because of a constant attrition of coaches who, God bless them, have gone on to be great head coaches. … You lose five juniors to the NFL draft and you have a little bit of a void in there right now. But it’s Florida. We’ll be back strong, stronger than ever.”

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College football writer Ralph Russo in New York, and Sports Writers Fred Goodall in Orlando, Fla., Pete Iacobelli in Columbia, S.C., and Janie McCauley in San Francisco contributed to this report.

(This version CORRECTS Mullen’s role at Florida to offensive coordinator. )