January 11, 2009
Urban Meyer said a couple of weeks ago that Notre Dame "is still my dream job."
Hopefully, he has gone to a sleep specialist since then to figure out why he is having such nonsensical visions when he turns out the lights at night.
Urban Meyer is living every coach's dream right now at the University of Florida. He just won his second national championship in three years. He coaches the largest, richest flagship university in a state filled with gifted football recruits. He makes more money and gets more exposure than many NFL coaches.
Are you listening, Urban?
You are living in Paradise Found.
Don't blow it because of some overzealous adult ambition or silly boyhood dream. Take the same advice you gave football recruits as you sat smiling on the dais Thursday in South Florida after your Gators beat Oklahoma 24-14 for the national title.
"The whole country saw us win the national championship tonight," you said. "You've got to be out of your mind if you don't want to play for the Gators."
And you, Urban, would have to be out of your mind if you ever want to leave the Gators. If you don't believe me, just ask Steve Spurrier, one of your iconic predecessors at UF. Or ask Howard Schnellenberger, who left Miami years ago after winning this state's first national championship.
Spurrier left UF in 2001, failed as an NFL coach and is now wallowing in mediocrity at South Carolina. Schnellenberger is coaching at the lowest level of Division I-A at Florida Atlantic. Both men had a chance to become the Bear Bryant of their generations, but went searching for greener grass.
They found crabgrass instead.
I asked Schnellenberger once about one of the biggest coaching blunders in history — when he resigned at UM to take a job with the United States Football League, which ended up folding a year later. What if Schnellenberger had remained at UM after he won the school's first national title in 1983, setting the stage for four more championships that would come over the next two decades?
"Yeah," Schnellenberger admitted. "It was a [expletive] decision."
Meyer grew up in Ohio wanting to be an iconic college football coach just like his idol, Woody Hayes. He has already become that at Florida. And if he stays, he has a chance to go down as the greatest coach in college football history. You heard me — the greatest coach in college football history.
•Bear Bryant? He won six national titles during 25 years at Alabama. If the Urbanator keeps up his current championship pace and stays at Florida for 25 years, he would double the Bear's championship total.
• Joe Paterno? He's the winningest coach in college football with 383 victories in 43 years as a head coach. At his current pace, if Meyer is alive and well and chooses to coach for 43 years, he'd have 446 victories.
Oh sure, Meyer could conceivably become an even bigger legend if he were to somehow wake up the echoes and make Notre Dame a champion again. But at Notre Dame, it's a gamble; at Florida, it's a given. Florida has a better recruiting base, better weather and, yes, better admissions standards.
In four years of coaching at UF, Meyer has already won as many national titles as the legendary Bobby Bowden has won in 43 years as a head coach. He's won as many national championships as any coach in state history and any active coach in college football.
Even the ultra-focused, workaholic Meyer, who said he really had no chance to enjoy the national title two years ago, says he will make some time to savor this championship. Why? He knows he has it rolling now and it likely will keep rolling.
Two years ago, he had a great team. Now, he has a great program.
"We all saw what was coming two years ago," Meyer says. "We lost basically the entire defense and the backups weren't ready to play. We had a void in recruiting. I knew in my heart we had a long way to go.
"I'm very confident now, whereas I wasn't two years ago. I see a program that is set now. We're good now. We'll have a good senior class next season and another one the year after that."
And the year after that. And the year after that. And the year after that.
It doesn't take a genius to understand why Meyer has become the recruiting force that he has. Not only is he innovative in using schemes and formations on the field, he is equally innovative in using technology in recruiting.
He has raced ahead of the curve while his in-state competition has fallen behind it. In Tallahassee, ol' Bobby isn't what he used to be. And in Miami, young Randy Shannon is struggling and still hasn't proved he can be a good head coach.
Meanwhile, the Urbanator rolls on toward immortality.
If he's smart, Notre Dame is in his rearview mirror.
If he's smart, he will realize that Notre Dame dream job has become a nightmare.
The dream is right here and right now.
Forget about becoming Pope Urban.
He's better off being Bull Gator.
Mike Bianchi's Open Mike blog can be read at OrlandoSentinel.com/openmike, and his radio show can be heard every weekday from 9-11 a.m. on 1080 AM.
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