Notre Dame, Meyer seem like perfect fit
November 20, 2008
It was a parenthetical pause. An aside in a column I wrote last week comparing the differing coaching styles between the University of Florida's Living Legend (Steve Spurrier) and current legend, or Urban Legend, (Urban Meyer). It was an opinion I threw into the churning sea that is Gator Nation, which was quickly treated as chum.
Oh, the e-mails.
Why do I think Urban Meyer would go to Notre Dame?
First, let me interject to say that just because I think Notre Dame is in Meyer's future doesn't mean I want it to be. It'd be great to see him spend the next 20 years of his coaching life at UF. I just don't think he will.
Again, that's just an opinion; an opinion that got heavy reaction.
A common contention in my e-mail in-box is that in 2004, Meyer turned down Notre Dame in favor of becoming Florida's coach. Why, then, would he leave a school he once chose over Notre Dame to go to Notre Dame?
Because things change.
After winning the 1996 National Championship, Spurrier went to bed prepared to wake up the next morning and take the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' job. He didn't. But five years later, he did jump to the NFL. Things change.
In his authorized biography "Urban's Way," written with former FLORIDA TODAY sports editor Buddy Martin, Meyer refers to his Big Three coaching jobs, the only three his wife Shelley has no veto power to block him from taking a job at. They are Notre Dame, Ohio State and Michigan.
Of those three, Meyer's self-proclaimed "dream job" -- his quote, not mine -- is Notre Dame, where he was once an assistant under Lou Holtz, spending five years with the Golden Domers. Meyer also spent the first two years of his coaching career as a graduate assistant at Ohio State, where he earned his master's degree. He is an Ohio boy who grew up revering Woody Hayes.
So why didn't Meyer take the Fighting Irish job in 2004? Because the timing wasn't right. His authorized biography explains, "Florida's biggest advantage would turn out to be Urban's and Shelley's desire for a strong family life, because he could recruit closer to home."
At Notre Dame, you recruit nationally, which means flying around the country, away from home a lot more. At a state school like Florida, you can recruit a kid, or several kids, during the day, and still be home for dinner, or at one of your kid's practices, that night. With a young family, that mattered a lot. But even with that in play, turning down Notre Dame was very difficult, as Meyer notes in this passage in his biography:
"I wanted to go to Notre Dame," Meyer admitted, "but my family wanted to talk about going to Florida."
Shelley knew how tough the decision was for her husband because "he left his heart at Notre Dame when we left there last time -- he really, really, really loved Notre Dame."
That's "really" loved three times, if you're scoring at home.
So, again, the main reason Meyer chose Florida over Notre Dame in 2004 was because he had a young family.
Memo to Gator fans: The family isn't that young anymore.
Oldest daughter Nicole is 18, getting ready to leave the nest and head to Georgia Tech on a volleyball scholarship. Next oldest is Gigi, 15, a high school sophomore. Then there's Nathan, who turns 10 Monday. Soon, he'll only have one child at home, which makes it much easier for him to balance his professional and personal life -- i.e. the rigors of coaching the Fighting Irish.
All of this is relevant, of course, because Charlie Weis continues to struggle at Notre Dame. You just know that if Notre Dame could trade Weis for Meyer, they'd do it in a heartbeat.
If you're the Fighting Irish, you must have a short list of candidates in mind if you do make a coaching change. And if you're the Fighting Irish, Urban Meyer absolutely has to top that list.
In my opinion, Meyer is one of the country's three best college coaches, along with Southern Cal's Pete Carroll and Alabama's Nick Saban.
For Notre Dame's purposes, Meyer is the guy who repeatedly, and even in his current biography, calls coaching your football program his "dream job." He's also, and this is no small consideration, devoutly Catholic, even named after a pope.
For Notre Dame's purposes, Meyer runs a clean program, wins, works like a maniac, is passionate about recruiting, and cares deeply about what kind of men he produces off the football field.
In short, he is everything Notre Dame would want.
He is -- dare I say it? -- Notre Dame's dream coach.
Better yet, your dream coach calls your school his dream job. How often does that happen?
And people wonder why I think a marriage is inevitable?
For what it's worth, I discussed the topic yesterday with Buddy Martin, author of "Urban's Way." Buddy's gotten closer to Meyer than any journalist I know, and he reiterated to me that "Notre Dame is Urban's first love."
Will it be his last love?
Martin said he doesn't see Meyer coaching the Gators beyond the length of his current contract, which has five years remaining.
I don't see him lasting that long.
Again, just an opinion.