NEW ORLEANS -- After Florida quarterback
When will Gators coach
Meyer, winner of two national titles in five seasons, quit less than a week ago, citing health concerns. He changed his mind Sunday and accepted an indefinite leave of absence, but what does that mean?
The short answer, from one of the few privy to the discussions that led to the leave, is that no one -- not even Meyer -- knows the answer. In a candid interview late Friday night, University of Florida president
"It could be six months, it could be a year, or it could be never," Machen said. "But this is all about Urban and helping him get well and get himself right."
Machen also wanted to quell any rumors that Meyer is suffering from a specific ailment. "You guys have been on a bit of a wild-goose chase looking for some illness or something that's wrong with him," Machen said. "He just gave all of himself to his job, and he's exhausted mentally and physically. He doesn't, as far as I know, have any serious medical problem. There's no heart deal."
Machen explained that Meyer went to athletic director
Machen, who also worked with Meyer while president at Utah, understood Meyer's situation better than Meyer realized. In 2000, a burned-out Machen had told Utah's Board of Trustees that he would take a two-month trip to Europe. Machen told the board he planned to return to the United States, but he probably wouldn't return to his job. During the trip, Machen realized he had only needed a break. "There's some of Urban Meyer in me," he said. "I'm a little too driven. I take too much time away from my family for my job."
Even after hearing Machen's offer, Meyer still wanted to step down. So Machen told Foley to prepare for a coaching search. "We were moving on," he said. "We had prepared to go ahead. We were going to start down here [in New Orleans]."
This past Sunday, Machen was attending a function with his wife in Indiantown, Fla., when his phone rang. It was Meyer. "Remember what we talked about on Tuesday?" Machen remembered Meyer saying. "I think that might be the right thing for me."
So Foley, Machen and Meyer hammered out a deal to allow Meyer to step aside and allow offensive coordinator
For Meyer's part, he still hopes to return in time for the 2010 season. "In my gut, I feel like I'll be back," Meyer said. "I just want to make sure my family and health are No. 1. And I've just got to get that right." Asked how he'll feel when he wakes up Saturday or Sunday and realizes he isn't Florida's head coach, Meyer didn't offer much insight. "I know I'm anxious to get home," Meyer said. "We'll address ?? I'd rather this be about the players. We'll address the future when it's the appropriate time." At this, Tebow chimed in with his plan to help Meyer convalesce. "Better be looking forward," Tebow said, "to getting beat at some golf."
Machen said he plans to huddle with Meyer and Foley this week to lay out a plan for what Meyer must do to make himself well enough to return. "I don't care if he's not there in August or September or November or December," Machen said. "I want him to be right. And he's not going to call me up and say, 'I'm right.' We're going to have to have some real conversations about that."
In other words, Meyer will have to make real changes to the way he works. This season caused him to melt weight. He has suffered anxiety-related chest pains for four years, and they've become excruciating the past two. On the morning of Dec. 6, Meyer's wife, Shelley, called an ambulance because he'd awoken with chest pains and subsequently collapsed. That episode scared Meyer enough to quit. Machen wants Meyer to change his ways so nothing like that incident happens again. "I don't think anybody can change their personality," Machen said. "But you can modify your behavior and the way you operate. Obviously, he can't take a month off. And he has to think about doing things differently."
Meanwhile, Addazio and the remaining assistants -- remember, defensive coordinator
Addazio, meanwhile, has crafted his sales pitch as well. "It's real simple," Addazio said. "Florida's Florida. Coach will be back."
The Gators should have a little better gauge Saturday on what they must do in recruiting. During the Under Armour All-America Game, which airs at 11 a.m. on ESPN, Pahokee, Fla., receiver
Machen probably won't be worried about Dunkley's decision. He believes the program will be fine because of the system Meyer has built. Even if Meyer never returned, Machen believes Florida football would remain a national power. That's why The Question doesn't vex Machen the way it does Florida's fans. Machen offered the leave of absence not just because he cares about Meyer, but also because he didn't want to lose a rock-star employee forever. "If there's any chance that Urban Meyer is going to coach again," Machen said, "I want it to be at Florida."