At 40-years old it’s no surprise that Urban Meyer was the most sought after football coach in America. He has the right pedigree, having been an assistant at Ohio State and Notre Dame (among others) and a successful head coach at Bowling Green and Utah. But he also has the media savvy, the self deprecating humor and a presence that successful leaders need.
Meyer strode to the podium on Tuesday after being introduced as the new Florida football coach and took his time gathering his papers and his thoughts. He spoke clearly and directly, addressing the assembled media and the boosters in attendance. He didn’t flinch, he didn’t stumble. He deflected the hard questions and hit the easy ones out of the park.
The only surprise was his revelation regarding his admiration of Steve Spurrier. “If Florida was on TV, I was there watching,” the new Gator Head Coach explained. “I was a fan, and I know you’re not supposed to be, but I like how they took the field, how they played the game, how they left the field. They had a swagger if you want to call it that. Hopefully you saw some of that at the University of Utah.”
Wow was that just what the Gator nation wanted to hear! A return to running up the score, big numbers on offense and a swagger that fans were used to. It’s only funny because Spurrier himself the week before while accepting the South Carolina job said he learned “humility” while he was away from the college game, and vowed to have a little less swagger as the coach of the Gamecocks.
But Meyer is the right guy for the job.
Winning, and winning in the fashion that will satisfy the culture of Florida fans is a whole different story. But even though he was the flavor of the month in coaching circles, Meyer is the right kind of personality for the football program and the right kind of football coach for the community.
I happened to stand right behind where his wife and their three children were sitting at the press conference. His wife in an orange and white striped Gator blouse and his kids decked out in brand new orange and blue. Meyer apparently never thought twice about having a chance to work in Florida. “Why don’t you put your name into the hat at some of those schools in Florida,” Meyer’s wife apparently told him each time he was thinking about changing jobs.
Remember, this is a career that was at Ohio State, Notre Dame, Illinois State, Colorado State, Bowling Green and Utah. Not a lot of balmy days in any of those locations. “Yeah, right,” Meyer told his wife, “I don’t know anybody down there. I can’t just throw my name in the hat!”
Win enough games and you can. And knowing the President of the University doesn’t hurt either. Meyer asked Lou Holtz and Bob Stoops about taking the job at Florida, but perhaps the most influential person he talked to was Billy Donovan, the Gators basketball coach. “Coach Donovan spent hours on the phone with me,” the new football coach explained, “And he couldn’t say enough about the Gainesville community and how great a place it is to raise a family. That’s what I was looking for.” Good thing, since Meyer is exactly what the Gators were looking for as well.