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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. Just like now, he said he wanted to spend more time with his family, though he also said that he had health concerns.

Less than 24 hours later, he changed his mind and decided to instead take a leave of absence.

He was diagnosed with esophageal spasms and was taking prescription medication to treat it.

The leave of absence eventually turned into some extended vacation time.

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.

He went to Hawaii with his wife, traveled to Rome and saw the pope, took a trip to Israel, visited the Masters golf tournament with his daughter and took in a Tampa Bay Rays baseball game.

He said it was the first offseason in which he stepped away for days at a time.

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

Florida finished 7-5, the worst record of Meyer’s 10-year head coaching career, which began at Bowling Green. It was the first time the Gators had lost five regular-season games 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.

“I can assure you we are going to rebuild this thing and build it up the right way and do it right,” Meyer said. “Obviously we are down a little bit. I didn’t believe we’d be that far down, but we are. How do you build a program up? You build it up with tough players, tough coaches and you have got to play better.”

Meyer’s staff had also undergone significant changes in the past few seasons, with both his offensive and defensive coordinators from the championship teams moving on to become head coaches.

Dan Mullen, who had been Meyer’s quarterbacks coach since his days at Bowling Green, went to Mississippi State after Florida won the ‘08 championship.

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