Florida head coach Urban Meyer will face a barrage of questions on Sunday about his stunning decision to step down from his job after the Sugar Bowl.
There will be questions about his health, what he will do in the future, whether he is gone from coaching for good, and how he will assist in finding his own replacement.
But the biggest question of course is….what happens next?
The news about Meyer – combined with Bobby Bowden’s departure – is a seismic shift in college football in both the state of Florida and the nation.
Meyer brought the Gators to unprecedented heights and made them the most dominant program in the state. The list of accolades is long, including 2 national titles, an amazing winning percentage and a 15-1 record against the Gators biggest rivals.
Keeping that intact won’t be as easy as some might think regardless of who is picked as a successor. Gainesville-bound recruits will pretty soon hearing whispers in their ears that they should think about going someplace else.
Meyer already had a bit of rebuilding job ahead of him in 2010 thanks to the departure of Gators legend Tim Tebow. And the Gators earlier this month lost defensive coordinator Charlie Strong to Louisville. So while there will be a lot of blather about how this is one of the most attractive jobs in the nation the truth is that the next coach for the Gators will have tremendous challenges when he walks through that door.
The biggest challenge will be the immediate pressure on the next UF coach to match the recent successes of the Gators. That could be a tall order given that Meyer is leaving while the Gators are at their peak. I don’t think next season would have been a down year for the team, but it’s hard to imagine the Gators would have been as good as they have been the last three years.
This change, in many ways, may be a Christmas gift for Lane Kiffin at Tennessee, Mark Richt at Georgia….and even Steve Spurrier at South Carolina. (Just as an aside – it’s interesting how Spurrier is not viewed right now as a top contender for the opening. Um, hey Gator Nation, he’s the one that made the job so attractive to Meyer in the first place….)
But this decision could result in more than just a realignment of the SEC.
For three decades the programs in the state of Florida – University of Miami, Florida State and UF – have dominated college football in a way that no other state can rival. To have 3 schools from the same state battle it out for national championships is truly unprecedented. The fact that the three schools have combined for 11 national titles in the last 26 years is astounding.
The end of the Bowden era, and now the end of the Meyer era, could wind up as the demarcation point of a new period in college football where the Big 3 Florida schools no longer dominate the national scene like they once did. Other schools have already begun poaching players from Florida high schools and this could just accelerate it. This could also be the opening that programs at the University of South Florida and University of Central Florida need.
Or maybe even worse to FSU and UF fans – this could mark the starting point of a new time of dominance for the U.
While Miami’s season was a disappointment, the team is still playing in a bowl and Jacory Harris is an extremely talented quarterback who will probably get a lot better. And there is hope that the defense – which was Miami’s biggest weakness – will become a dominant unit next season.
It’s too early to tell of course just how all this will play out, but it’s a gamechanger all the way around.