Those closest to Urban Meyer, from his wife to his assistants to former players to administrators at Florida, repeat the same feeling: He’s unbelievably competitive. He’s incredibly driven. He’s a workaholic. He’s a control freak.
Last year he walked away from coaching after a mega-scare at home regarding his health. It wasn’t too long before he said he was going back to work, slowing his pace. He coached this year and either kept his word (and cut his hours) or kept his schedule. Whichever was true, his football team ended the season with a 7-5 record, including a regular season ending loss (his first ever) to Florida State. Cue retirement speech #2.
In his statement, Meyer claimed he wanted to spend more time with his family. One item on his cleared schedule is watching his girls play volleyball. While an admirable goal, it doesn’t satisfy the deep seated needs that someone born to coach has. A true coach regrets the moment he or she gives up the profession and, in most cases, returns after a brief hiatus. Witness Meyer last year.
There aren’t too many coaches who leave the game on their own terms. Exhibit A might be Bobby Bowden, who “retired” shortly after his 80th birthday. He admitted this year that he was forced out, that he wanted one more year. I worked for Jerry Tarkanian at Fresno State each of the seven years he was head coach at his alma mater and, although that seventh year was to be his last, he was trying to get . . . one more year. He knew his best years were behind him but the recruiting class he had lined up gave him a chance to go out the way he wanted - a big winner. Never mind that his seven-year run with the Bulldogs saw each year end in post-season play (5 NIT’s and 2 NCAA’s). And we all now of the decision of Joe Paterno who recently said matter-of-factly that he was coming back for another. “Why not?” was the 83-year-old’s reply.
Could it be that these guys remember Bear Bryant who hung on until the bitter end at Alabama even though he was a shell of himself on the sidelines, only to finally retire - and pass away months later? Jim Sweeney, another good friend, had trouble standing throughout a game in his final year at Fresno State, yet still didn’t want to surrender.
It’s the nature of the beast. These guys are so engulfed in what has become for so many, a time-consuming job, that they can’t fulfill their competitive jones in any other meaningful way. People can’t understand it - because those folks have never had a job they loved so much it wasn’t a job. It was a passion - and passion just doesn’t melt away - regardless of health or family or anything else.
So look for Urban Meyer to do what every “retired” coach does - go into the broadcast booth, or become a studio regular, only to return to the sidelines a la . . . nearly every former coach (who was given the opportunity to coach again) - with the exception of Al McGuire who, in all honesty, was never consumed with coaching in the first place.
Watching your daughters’ volleyball games is thrilling, but it just doesn’t take the place of running through the tunnel on game day.
It’s been said many times:
“If you’re lucky enough to get paid to do something you LOVE to do, you’ll never work a day in your life.”