May 14, 2009

Tim Tebow update, Florida Gators update, Spurrier being Spurrier, and why these Urban Meyer to Notre Dame rumors won't die

I love Tim Tebow. Maybe not like Thom Brennaman loves him, but I'm a big fan. How could anyone NOT love Tim Tebow?? There isn't a more genuinely good guy out there in any sport, and he's one of the best competitors I've ever had the privilege to watch. Not only is he one of the best college football players of all time (maybe the BEST of all time when it's all said and done), he seems like an even better person. I can't think of a better role model in all of sports than Tim Tebow.

Anyway, as is typically the case with #15, he's having an eventful offseason.

---First, Tebow got a chance to play a practice round at the Players Championship last week with Phil Mickelson. Is this really true that he was bombing some drives 350 yards?? I'd have to see it to believe it. Is he a lefty?? I'd love to find out what his handicap is.

Could there be two more different personalities than Tim Tebow and Phil Mickelson?? Mickelson loves to portray himself as a good guy, but there are enough stories out there about him that clearly paint a different picture. Meanwhile, Tebow is probably about as genuine as any athlete in America.

We've had some great pro-am pairings lately. Tiger and Peyton Manning, and now Phil and Tim Tebow. Even though I'd love to watch that Tebow-Mickelson round, I would have been fascinated to watch Tiger and Manning on the course together.

---Governor Crist also has appointed Tim Tebow to his Council of Physical Fitness. Is there any doubt that Tim Tebow is going into politics someday?? If he ever ran for office, the fundies would be handing out "Tebow for Governor" literature in every church in the state. It would be the biggest event for the evangelical Christian movement since JC was born. I'm going to go ahead and predict that we'll see Tim Tebow holding court in the US Senate someday representing the state of Florida.

---Interesting to see that Urban Meyer is promising the toughest offseason in the history of Florida football. I know these coaches say a lot of nonsense to the media, but that's probably the right mindset to take with such a loaded team. A lot of these guys have already won two national titles!! At this point, the only fear is that they've already done everything in college football and won't be as hungry heading into this season.

As crazy as it sounds, I gotta think that anything less than a national title for the Gators would be a mild disappointment. They have a shot at a dynasty here, so I can see why Urban Meyer would want to keep them grounded heading into the season .

---How about this story about Mark Richt wanting to move the site of the Florida-Georgia game out of Jacksonville possibly to Atlanta or even Charlotte??

Here's his quote to a booster club:

“When people ask me the question, ‘Do you really think [Jacksonville] is a neutral site?’, I say, ‘No, it’s not neutral,’ ” Richt said. “When you play in the state of Florida every year — we fly, they drive; it’s hotter for us, it’s cooler for them. It’s played in a stadium that [used to be called] the Gator Bowl,” Richt continued. “I wouldn’t feel bad having a ‘neutral site’ game in Georgia — in the Georgia Dome.”

I know he's gotta do what he's gotta do to give his team an edge here, but these reasons are absurd. The travel thing is nonsense. It probably takes the Georgia team less time to fly to Florida than it does for Florida to drive there. The stadium is 50% Florida fans and 50% Georgia fans, so I don't see how there is an advantage in terms of the fans.

As for this heat thing, come on Richt! That's a load of garbage. Half of your roster is from Florida. And it's Jacksonville!! Is there really that much of a difference weather wise between Jacksonville and Athens, Georgia?? Jacksonville is barely even in Florida. They play this game in October. The weather is probably in the 60s and 70s range for this game every year. Arguing that it's "too hot" in Jacksonville for the Georgia players is absurd.

With that said, I can understand why he would want to move this game to Atlanta for part of the time. His team would probably play with more confidence in the home state with a lot of supportive Georgia fans in the vicinity. It's just better karma. When there's a good vibe in the whole city, your players are going to feel better. Maybe the Georgia players get psyched out down in Jacksonville and feel like they are in hostile territory.

Georgia is 3-16 against the Gators since 1990, so it makes sense that Richt wants to take a look at the setup for this game and see if he can do something to shake up the rivalry. They seem to be spooked about playing in Jacksonville. Moving the game to Atlanta every once in awhile might give them an edge.

As for moving the game to Charlotte, I wouldn't understand that one. You're going to move the Georgia-Florida game to Charlotte??? ACC Country?? Why?? You're going to completely inconvenience your fans just to get the game out of Jacksonville? It's a conference game! It's not like this is some intersectional game or something. The Georgia-Florida game should be played somewhere in SEC country. That would be a bizarre move.

If this neutral site thing isn't working out, why not just turn it into a home and home like every other conference game?? Then Georgia could play Florida in Athens and have the homefield advantage working for them. If you want to change up the rivalry, just request to scrap the whole idea and play the games on campus. I prefer to see games on campus anyway.

---I've always enjoyed Steve Spurrier's antics through the years, but this latest stunt of spreading rumors that Urban Meyer is going to Notre Dame after this season strikes me as petty jealousy stuff out of the Ole Ball Coach. I know he loves to stir the pot, but why would he say something like that about the head coach of his alma mater and a school that he supposedly loves?? He singlehandedly created uncertainty around the Florida football program. With friends like that, who needs enemies?? It would be the equivalent of Lou Holtz saying on air that Charlie Weis should be fired.

My guess is that Spurrier is starting to worry that Urban Meyer will stay at Florida for another decade and surpass him as the greatest coach in the history of Florida football. Even though he's been gone for years, I still think of Spurrier when I think of Florida football. He's the Ole Ball Coach!! And he put them on the map. He also was a legendary player there. I still think he casts a large shadow over Florida to this day. Heck, Tim Tebow is the most famous person associated with Florida football these days. He's significantly more recognizable than Urban Meyer.

But now that Urban Meyer has built this program into a juggernaut again, at what point could he distance himself from Spurrier and start to get some historical consideration of his own?? If Urban Meyer ends up winning 4-5 titles at Florida (let's be honest, that very well could happen), he would dwarf Spurrier's accomplishments at Florida. If Spurrier is the guy who built Florida football into a powerhouse, Meyer would be the guy who made them the premier program in America.

I think that makes Spurrier a little jealous. I think he loves being Mr. Florida Gator, and now Florida has this hotshot coach who is threatening to win a 3rd national title in four years.

Why else would he have said what he said?? These coaches aren't stupid. They know that everything they say in the media is going to be blown out of proportion, and Spurrier talking about Urban Meyer going to ND like he has some inside information is obviously going to generate some headlines. Spurrier didn't say this stuff by accident. It was a deliberate plant. Part of it is that he's a rival head coach in the SEC who just loves to needle people, but I'd bet an equal part of it is that he's worried Urban Meyer will take the mantle from him as the face of Florida football (and the SEC for that matter).

This quote from Spurrier to explain himself is laughable.

"I already talked to Urban about it," said Spurrier, who is in Baltimore to attend today's Preakness. "I told him not to worry about all that crap. I didn't worry about it when I was there.

Are you kidding me?? You told him not to worry "about all that crap"??? YOU PLANTED THE RUMOR!! Spurrier is acting like the media is making stuff up about Meyer when Spurrier was the one who said it!! Meyer wouldn't be dealing with "all that crap" if Spurrier hadn't thrown him under the bus like that. If Spurrier hadn't said that, no one would be talking about these rumors again.

---As for Urban Meyer and the Notre Dame rumors, I'll start by saying that it's strange to hear people openly discussing this rumor when we already have a head coach!! Last time I checked, Charlie Weis is the head coach of this team and has this team on track to win 9-10 games next year. In order for Urban Meyer to be the head coach at ND in 2010, wouldn't Charlie Weis have to be fired?? Weis is not going to get fired if he wins 9-10 games next year. Heck, I'd say he'll stick around for 2010 if he goes 8-4. In my mind, Charlie Weis is probably going to be the head coach at ND for a number of years.

Second, even though he's made some statements about his love for ND, I haven't seen even one hint that Urban Meyer is seriously interested in the ND job any time in the near future. Look at the recruits he's already bringing in for 2010. He's already got 12 commits with one five star and 9 four stars coming in. The Gators are well on their way to the #1 overall class in the country. All he has to do to pull in a top 10 class is head over to I-75 and start driving around the state. In terms of winning national titles, he's got everything he could possibly need.

He's also got a pretty young family that doesn't seem to be in any hurry to leave Gainesville. When you look closely at his situation, there aren't any signs that realistically point to Urban Meyer becoming the head coach at Notre Dame in the next five years.

There are a couple things that give me pause and make me wonder though. The first is cultural. Even though Urban Meyer is probably admired among the Gator Nation, he's not a southerner!! Does he really fit in down there?? REALLY???? With all those hillbillies and rednecks?? When I think of SEC country, I think of good ole boys like Spurrier and Bowden and Mark Richt. Guys with the big twang who understand that culture. Urban Meyer is just there to win football games. He's not a mercenary or anything (he could probably coach at Florida for life if he wanted to), but it's always been a business move for him more than a dream job. He went to Florida because he knew he could win there. He had no ties to Florida or the south for that matter until he got there. A lot different situation than Jim Tressel at Ohio State or even a guy like Bob Stoops ending up at Oklahoma (he had all kinds of heartland ties as an Iowa alum and a former Kansas State assistant).

I guess you could say that there are other examples of coaches who are hired guns. Nick Saban is an Ohioan just like Urban Meyer, and yet he's now working at his second SEC job and probably will be at Alabama for the rest of his career. Mack Brown had no ties to the Big 12 or Texas, and he's now an institution at Texas. Rich Rodriguez is in Ann Arbor of all places. Not exactly the best cultural fit.

But with Urban Meyer, I do get the impression that he would love to end up back in the Midwest someday. He may end up retiring at Florida, but I don't think that's how he sees his career playing out. Deep down, I think Urban Meyer probably still holds onto this dream of coming back to the Midwest and becoming the head coach at Notre Dame. He's got the Catholic ties, the Midwestern ties, and all those ties as a former assistant. How many times do we have to hear stories from Urban about how much he loves ND and how many ND type things he has incorporated into the Florida program?? Now that his reputation in college football is secure, is he ever going to want to scratch that itch to come up to South Bend and resurrect this program??

In terms of fit, you couldn't ask for a better fit than Urban Meyer. He's Ara Parseghian 2.0. A guy who has won everywhere and coaches his teams with such precision and intensity that it's almost impossible to keep up with their pace. When I watch Florida play, I'm astounded by how relentless they are. If you don't come out ready to play against them, you'll be down 21-0 in the blink of an eye. Isn't that how Lou Holtz's ND teams used to play?? ND would destroy these lesser teams and rise to the occasion in the big games. Look at what they did to teams last year!! They beat Kentucky by 58, beat LSU by 30, beat Florida State by 30, beat Georgia by 38, and beat South Carolina by 50. That's absurd! I'd turn on the CBS telecast after the ND game, and Florida would already be up 28-3. Bottom line, he's an elite coach and a mortal lock to be successful wherever he goes.

The other thing is the "legend" thing. This might come off as "typical ND arrogance," but there's a difference between a Florida legend and a Notre Dame legend. If you're a legend at Florda, your status is pretty much limited to the state of Florida. Urban Meyer could win 5 national titles at Florida and never have to buy another meal in the state of Florida. But even with those accomplishments, he still wouldn't even be as widely recognizable as Charlie Weis (who may never win even one national title). The only way a guy like Urban Meyer could ever become a national icon at Florida is if he pulled a Joe Pa or Bobby Bowden and stayed as the head coach for another 25-30 years. Everyone knows those two because of their longetivity. If Joe Pa wasn't 80 years old and working on his 50th year or whatever at Penn State, he'd be a regional figure. That's your ceiling at a place like Florida.

Look at Lou Holtz for example. He won ONE national title at Notre Dame, but he's a college football icon for eternity. Everyone in America knows Lou Holtz, and he'll be remembered forever for winning a national title at Notre Dame. Meanwhile, Urban Meyer has already won TWO NATIONAL TITLES, and he's not even the most famous person associated with Florida football these days.

As a Lou Holtz disciple and a former ND assistant, Urban Meyer knows that as well as anyone. He might want to shoot for that fame of the Notre Dame job.

So I do see why these rumors don't seem to go away. The question now is whether Urban Meyer actually thinks he can win big at Notre Dame. We already blew our shot at him one time four years ago, and it didn't help that we had hacks on NDNation bashing his offense and saying that they didn't think Urban Meyer was an elite coach (if there was ever a reason to be wary of the opinions on NDNation, that's probably about as good an example as any). I have no doubt that he turned down ND in 2005 because he knew that the issues with the football program went much higher than the head coach. The AD was a mess, the admissions were a problem, the academic culture holds things back, and there are too many sideshows and distractions in the program. At Florida, the only thing that matters is winning games. Go get whatever players you want, and focus on football. That's the job in a nutshell. At ND, winning games is important but only after you've taken care of all the non-football stuff. That's part of the reason why ND has become a graveyard for coaches in recent years. The reward can be extremely high (legendary status in college football), but the risk might be ever higher.

Until Charlie Weis gains a more secure footing at ND, we'll probably continue to hear these "Urban to ND" rumors. Stay tuned.

---This has nothing to do with college football or Florida, but I stumbled on this Youtube clip the other day of the end of the 1990 Indiana High School championship game at the Hoosier Dome. Aka The Damon Bailey game. How incredible is this crowd?? 41,000 fans going absolutely nuts. It's a high school game!! Absolutely amazing. If I was Damon Bailey, I would probably watch this clip every morning just to get fired up for the day.

No comments: