Monday, July 20, 2009

Notre Dame, Tired Rumors, and Overstaying

The off-season college football world has been abuzz with the fictitious news that Urban Meyer might/will leave Florida for Notre Dame after the upcoming season, created in large part by one Paul Finebaum.

The rumor was apparently “started” (if you can call it that) by Steve Spurrier, elaborated on by Finebaum, and has become a subject of hot conversation among the chattering sports media in the non-news period between recruiting and the start of the season.

Gregg Doyel of did an admirable job of dismissing the nonsense that is Finebaum in his article of July 19th. Likewise Doyel effectively questions the motivations of Spurrier in the same article (I tend to be more forgiving of Spurrier than Doyel as it seems, to me at least, that Spurrier was defending Shane Matthews regarding some comments Meyer made regarding Matthew’s loyalty).

Like most observers I don’t believe Meyer has any intention of taking the Notre Dame position, “dream job” or not. For one Meyer could have already had it. Most importantly, however, Meyer and honest minded observers know that Notre Dame is a has-been in the college football world, at least in respect to real competitiveness. Sure they are likely to notch some 8 or 9 win seasons in the near future. With their tepid schedule the real surprise has been their failure to do it more recently. And sure, they are going to continue to draw fan interest for some time due to their unique position. But real competitiveness? No way. One just needs to look at their bowl record in their past 10 appearances (1-9 with the sole win being over Hawaii) to see how the Irish match up on a national stage.

No, were I truly worried about Meyer going somewhere in the near future South Bend wouldn’t even register on my radar. Were I thus worried (and I’m not) I would look to the potential retirement of Jim Tressel as my greatest concern. In the Buckeyes you have Meyer’s home state, a fertile recruiting area, and national power and prominence.

But I’m not worried, and the reason is I don’t really think it matters that much.

Yeah, I said that.

Before exploring further, let me say that I am and will always be grateful to Urban Meyer for 2006 and 2008, and hopefully a couple more golden Gator years. And coaching does matter (see Ron Zook).

But there are and will always be plenty of talented young coaches that, given the right circumstances (money, top facilities and recruiting access) will be willing to coach the Florida Gators. Florida can match or exceed the money anyone can offer a coach, and our newest facilities are second-to-none. However the greatest strength of Florida –and in this case I mean the entire state – is the rich recruiting talent available.

Consider – since 1983, a couple of years after the population of the state really began to explode, the “big three” of Florida have won 11 “national” titles. That represents 44% of the 25 total titles during the period from a single state. What’s more a team from the state has nearly always been competitive at the national level during that time, with 6 of the putative national title games being lost by a team from Florida (3 by Miami, 2 by FSU, 1 by Florida). That marks 17 of the past 25 “national title” games that have featured a team from Florida, a record not remotely approached by any other state.

Not to mention the recent competitiveness of teams like Central and South Florida, the state is the virtual definition of modern college success.

Underlying the strength of the talent in the state, the 11 state of Florida national titles in the past quarter century have been won by 7 different coaches (4 at Miami, 2 at Florida, and old Bobby in Tallahassee). Only Bowden and Meyer can claim more than one.

In my opinion the worst situation you can have is a coach well past his prime who, based on gratitude of his past success, keeps coaching beyond the point where everyone knows it is time to move on.

My nightmare as a Gator fan is that Urban Meyer becomes Bobby Bowden.

I mean, far be it from me to complain about the plight of our rivals just to the north, but won’t some adult step up in Tallahassee and realize that spending your off season vehemently defending against the potential loss of PAST victories isn’t healthy for your program? There is no surer sign that the Florida State program is all about Bobby Bowden than the current situation. (And keep it up, I say!)

One of the most detrimental things that could happen to Florida is if the program became all about an individual. We came perilously close to exactly that situation in Spurrier who, had he stayed as many fans wanted (or even worse, had he returned) would never have brought us Urban Meyer. In retrospect we were fortunate Steve chose to leave when he did. In FSU’s case it is even worse – it is all about an individual who refuses to leave. I hope we are never anywhere near that situation.

The ideal coaching tenure is about 10 to 15 years, which I imagine is near the human limit for anyone with one program. The tireless recruiting and the ever increasing demands of fans and alumni must wear down even the most resilient coach. (Not coincidently these are the exact things that bring and motivate success.) They were exactly the reason the ever honest Spurrier gave for moving on.

So as Urban begins his 5th campaign at Florida I plan on enjoying the moment, and hoping I get to see anywhere from 2 to 3 times as many more seasons with Meyer at the helm. I also hope for much more success which, if accomplished, will have the effect of ever higher pressure on our coach. And, when he feels like it is no longer worth it, I hope he moves on to other success (excepting, of course, the SEC East).

It will be for the good of the program, and if Florida keeps paying attention to what matters, the Gators will be fine.

1 comment:

jj gator said...

Great post, Mergz.

Based on what I've heard others say who are more reliable "insiders" into Gator football and what I've read in Buddy Martin's book "Urban's Way", I also don't believe Urban Meyer will be going anywhere anytime soon. I would just love to see him remain at UF for the long haul; even though this is only his 5th year in charge he still has the opportunity to take the football program a step further than where SOS took it (and I really hope he does!)

Unlike you though, I am NOT forgiving of Spurrier. His behavior on the Finebaum show was childish, uncalled for and unimpressive, and he made himself look even more foolish in instigating more trouble that was already caused. If there's a dint of jealousy coming from SOS in light of what Meyer has accomplished, then he needs to get over it; he had his chance. I don't care WHO he is; he should have kept his big mouth SHUT.

In addition, I happened to be at the Orlando Gator Gathering when Meyer spoke; not ONCE did he allude to Shane Matthews by name when he made the statement about those who spoke ill about Florida football not being welcome into the inner circle. That was BS stirred up by Andrea Adelson at the Orlando Sentinel and further exascerbated by SOS in his egging Finebaum on.

Finebaum is nothing more than a blowhard, an attention-seeker and an instigator whose type of journalism seems more suited for tabloid publications like the National Enquirer - NOT a main-line newspaper or sports website.

As far as Notre Dame goes, I'll go on record as hoping that they'd give Brian Kelly (Cincinnati head coach) the job should they ever let Charlie Weis go; however, in all honesty I don't see Weis going anywhere soon. Based on ND's performance in their bowl game last December, their incoming receuiting class, more maturity and experience in their locker room this year, and a "soft" schedule I see things working to Weis' advantage.

Right now Florida happens to be one of the premier schools to be coaching college football at for all the reasons you've stated, and luckily we were in the right place at the right time to bting Urban Meyer in once we got rid of Zook - as things have turned out, Meyer is the right fit for the Florida program.

You've expressed concerns about Meyer possibly becoming another Bobby Bowden, but I don't see that happening. When he's decided that enough is enough, likely he'll retire just as Lou Holtz did when he dediced to call it a career.

Right now I'm waiting to see when contract negotiations will be started by Machen/Foley regarding a raise and/or a possible contract extension for Meyer, which is well deserved as far as I'm concerned - and, if drafted right, could deter potential poachers.

What really matters is that Gator Nation stand behind Urban Meyer 100% and not back down from giving him their fullest support - we need to keep out football program headed in the right direction and the success of recent years carrying on into the future, and part of that will come from Gator fans continuing to make Coach Meyer and his family feel welcome in Gainesville.