Scroll to the bottom of this story for updates.
From ESPN, in its entirety;
Urban Meyer is stepping down as coach of the Florida football team, athletics director Jeremy Foley announced Saturday afternoon in a release.
"I have given my heart and soul to coaching college football and mentoring young men for the last 24-plus years and I have dedicated most of my waking moments the last five years to the Gator football program," Meyer said in statement. "I have ignored my health for years, but recent developments have forced me to re-evaluate my priorities of faith and family.
"After consulting with my family, Dr. Machen, Jeremy Foley and my doctors, I believe it is in my best interest to step aside and focus on my health and family.
"I'm proud to be a part of the Gainesville community and the Gator Nation and I plan to remain in Gainesville and involved with the University of Florida.
"I'm very appreciative for the opportunity I've had to be a part of a tremendous institution - from Dr. Machen to Jeremy Foley and the entire administrative staff at UF. I'm also very thankful for the chance to work with some of the best assistants in college football and coach some of the best college football players and watch them grow both on and off the field as people. I will cherish the relationships with them the most."
Meyer will coach his last game for Florida against Cincinnati on Jan. 1 at the Sugar Bowl.
[Update 7:05pm] From The Palm Beach Post, Jeremy Foley's reaction;
"Coach Meyer and I have talked this through and I realize how hard this was for him to reach this decision," said Foley. "But, the bottom line is that Coach Meyer needed to make a choice that is in the best interest of his well being and his family. I certainly appreciate what he has meant to the University of Florida, our football program and the Gator Nation. I have never seen anyone more committed to his players, his family and his program. Above all, I appreciate our friendship."
The Post also makes the point that Meyer's brain cyst (and it is speculation that that is the "health reason") is supposed to flare with stress. However, it is inoperable.
[Update 7:15pm] From The Orlando Sentinel, UF President Bernie Machen's reaction (Machen hired Meyer at Utah and UF);
Said UF President Bernie Machen, who helped hire Urban in 2003: "Urban Meyer's integrity, work ethic and commitment to his players are some of the reasons we asked him to become head football coach at the University of Florida. As a Gator, Urban has done everything we asked of him and more. He leaves a lasting legacy on the field, in the classroom and in the Gainesville community. I am saddened that Urban is stepping down but I have deep respect for his decision."
[Update 7:25pm] There are two immediate questions that need to be answered; when did Meyer make the decision to quit? And, is Florida already looking for a successor? In the first case, it has been three weeks since Meyer was hospitalized following the Alabama game. Was that more serious that originally thought? If Meyer made the decision this week, was Florida working back channels to find a new coach? Is this why Charlie Strong is running in place in his first few weeks at Louisville? Also, and this has to be considered because of our tabloid culture; is Meyer quitting as a way to get out of a contract or because of family concerns? Do we have to wait for the presser at the Sugar Bowl?
[Update 7:35pm] From the prespective of a media person, WHO ISSUES A PRESS RELEASE THE DAY AFTER CHRISTMAS? Why is this decision released now? Was UF and Meyer hoping to avoid a ravenous Florida media? Meyer has always played head games with the press, but this is no time to do this. The University of Florida and the Florida Gators are an institution that is eternal and Meyer is just a part of that. The health and well being of those institutions must be considered, as well as Meyer's apparent health issues. You cannot drop bombs about your school and program at a time when it could slide out of sight. The night after Christmas is no time to do this.
[Update 7:45pm] Maybe this is nothing, but note the changes from the news on December 6 of Meyer's hospitalization compared to what the Sentinel's Jeremy Fowler wrote today. First, his Dec. 6 blog post;
Florida coach Urban Meyer is "better today and back at work" after Sunday's hospital visit for dehydration, wife Shelley Meyer said in a text message.
Meyer checked himself into Shands Medical Center early Sunday morning for dehydration. Meyer will begin preparations for the Sugar Bowl and meets with his team Tuesday. Meyer was back home by Sunday afternoon after his hospital visit.
Now Fowler's story today, bolded for emphasis;
Meyer admitted himself into a Gainesville hospital the day after the Southeastern Conference Championship Game because of chest pains.
Fowler would not miss something like the difference between dehydration and chest pains. And Shelley Meyer is a nurse, she knows things. If Meyer felt chest pains, and not dehydration, was he scared straight, so to speak? If so, what was the decision making process after that? More questions that need to be answered.
[Update 7:55pm] ESPN's Chris Low sticks with the Meyer is sick line;
He admitted as much several times as the season wore on. You could also see it in his face and see it in how much weight he’d lost...There were warning signs right after the SEC championship game when he checked himself into the hospital early that next morning for what Florida officials said were dehydration issues. But Meyer had also experienced chest pains.
To use a phrase from my childhood, this is total chaos.
[Update 8:00pm] Via Darren Rovell, Pat Forde told ESPN News that Charlie Strong only has a term sheet, not a contract at Louisville.
[Update 8:08pm] Pat Dooley on ESPN News, says this might have happened over the last week as Meyer was in California for recruiting visits. He also mentions how each loss ate away at Meyer and led to stress. I swear to Robert Cade, if someone turns this into Florida fans driving out a coach (which is a favorite meme of Spurrier's exit), I will flip out. Mark Schlabach also says that Meyer has made more than one hospital visit concerning chest pains, but everyone says it is not life threatening.
[Update 8:15pm] Jeremy Fowler on ESPN News puts the hospital visits at two, plus nausea and headaches for Meyer all this month. He also notes how Meyer has been on media blackout, which is why it seems like everyone was asleep at the wheel on this information. Fowler also notes Meyer's weight loss. One of the jokes this season we used was that it seemed Meyer was sick all season, but because of the offense. Meyer's press conference will be at 4:30pm Eastern tomorrow from New Orleans, so your Sunday is booked up.
[Update 8:22pm] More on the possible Meyer heart defect;
Meyer has been to the hospital multiple times since suffering chest pains after the SEC title game, a Florida source told ESPN. He has been diagnosed with a heart valve muscle defect, the source said.
The problem is not life threatening, a Florida source with knowledge of the situation told ESPN's Chris Mortensen. The same source said Meyer will remain in Gainesville in a non-coaching role to be defined later.
How is that not life threatening? I keep imagine Meyer's heart sounding like a Ford Pinto instead of a Mustang.
[Update 8:25pm] From Fowler on the timeline of Meyer's decision;
The coaching staff did not know of Meyer's decision to step down until Saturday night, the source said.
What would be the opposite of a Christmas Miracle? Because this is it.
[Update 8:30pm] Time for every Gator fan's new favorite parlor game; Who Is The Next Gator Head Coach? My preference is for Charlie Strong, as he has the easiest contract (or lack of one) to break. Steve Addazio would be the Zook-like choice. Also, we're not Notre Dame, so be realistic with your picks. Jon Gruden and Mike Shanahan are not coming to Florida. Bob Stoops? Ehhh, I don't think so. Remember, Jeremy Foley has success with up and coming coaches.
[Update 8:35pm] Jeremy Fowler goes back to an interview he did with Machen about Meyer, which is now come to be true;
"I think what will happen to Urban is he won't go somewhere else, he'll just burn out and quit," Machen said. "He'll reach the point he can't do it any longer at the level he demands of himself. Hopefully it's not for 10 years."
Unreal. Also, more on Charlie Strong at Louisville or not at Louisville, from ESPN;
Louisville media relations director Rocco Gasparro said Saturday night that Strong had signed a term sheet with the school, but not a formal contract. It is unclear whether the term sheet would be a sticking point should the Gators turn to Strong to replace Meyer.
I think you go to Strong first, at least to give him the option of the job. Strong continues the defensive system and can maintain the offense. Strong is also experienced in the SEC. Plus, we are familiar with him. Yes, he has no head coaching experience, but this isn't Ron Zook.
Chris Fowler is also on ESPN News and is talking about how players might of reacted. That gives us a reason for why Meyer waited until today to announce; he had to tell his players first. Today was the first day they were all together since the end of classes. He also places the blame on pressure from fans. Et tu Chris?
[Update 8:50pm] Until a new coach is hired, everyone is throwing crap at the wall and seeing what sticks. ESPN's Chris Low throws out Dan Mullen, Bobby Petrino, Bob Stoops, Boise State's Chris Petersen. I like Mullen, but I think Strong is a better recruiter. Petrino is a snake and Stoops has a pretty good gig. Petersen is a choice in the original mold of Meyer from Utah, but Florida does not need a regime change like they did Zook to Meyer. I'd hate to mention Miami, but they offer two good examples of regime change and succession; Howard Schnellenberger to Jimmy Johnson to Dennis Erickson were all regime change, where Butch Davis to Larry Coker (who won a National Championship and played for another before losing the team) was succession.
[Update 9:00pm] Pat Dooley tries to stake his claim to knowing about all this stuff before you did. In its entirety;
The trip to the hospital the night after Florida's loss to Alabama in the SEC Championship Game "scared" Urban Meyer to the point where he spent much of the last two weeks soul-searching and led to his decision to step down after the Sugar Bowl, according to a source. "He just doesn't have anything left in the tank," the source said.
According to a source close to the situation, Meyer had been considering leaving coaching for more than a week, going back and forth on the decision.
Meyer told The Sun on Dec. 7 that his trip to the hospital was because of "major chest pains" and that he needed "to take better care of myself."
Florida could hire a replacement for Meyer, who won 56 games in five seasons, very soon after the game against Cincinnati or even before, according to another source.
Thanks Pat. You've been a great help.
[Update 9:05pm] Herbstreit got Urban on the phone and Meyer talked about chest pains and that while it is not life threatening, it may later impact him. This is Dick Vermeil leaving the Eagles territory, the first case of a coach quitting due to stress. But Vermeil did not have documented health issues. Also, Herbie talks about how upset Meyer and the rest of the team was. The more we learn, the more we realize that Meyer had to wait until tonight because of having the team together one last time before going to New Orleans. Herbie says that Meyer does not have plans to coach even Pee Wee games. Of course, Herbie also notes that maybe Meyer will go back to coaching, just like Vermeil did nearly 20 years later.
[Update 9:10pm] Now we're in the crazy zone folks; WKMG Local 6 in Orlando says that Meyer had a heart attack during the season. I think that's bull shit, but let's go to the story.
A source confirmed to Local 6 sports director David Pingalore on Saturday that Florida head coach Urban Meyer, who is resigning, suffered a heart attack during the season...According to Pingalore's source, Meyer did not inform the team about the issue during the season...Tears were shed when Meyer informed his team about the decision, according to Pingalore's source.
I'm sorry, but I cannot believe that. You don't casually fight off a heart attack.
[Update 9:20pm] New theory is that Foley and the administration knew ahead of time and have been planning for it. I hope that's the case because the Gators need to move quickly.
[Update 9:30pm] We go back to Jeremy Fowler;
A Florida staff member close to Meyer told me that Meyer visited the hospital at least twice for chest pains, nausea, sickness and headaches. Nothing was life-threatening, but Meyer became scared for his future.
"He’s really worried he’s going to lose his family," the source said. "He’s had a huge weight on his shoulders of, ‘Am I going to drop dead one day?’"
A Florida spokesman said a report of Meyer being diagnosed with muscle-heart-valve-defect is inaccurate. The team does not have an official medical diagnosis for Meyer.
Florida offered Meyer future time off in order to keep him, but the decision was solely Meyer’s.
Also, to note is that Urban wants to stay involved some how and remain in Gainesville. Does that mean you go to a Meyer guy? Or, does Foley believe in the power of the brand (and not the power of Meyer) and bring in his own man? Foley is not a "Florida guy" which has made him a great athletic director. He is also aware of how epically wrong he was in picking Zook, but how right he was in going outside and getting Meyer and Billy Donovan. How he plays this, with the possibility of Meyer remaining in town, is going to be the next story.
[Update 9:35pm] Dan Mullen on ESPN News gave the non-denial denial, saying that he and his family are committed to Starkville, Mississippi. He did not say if he was contacted, but he was not asked. Only asked if he was interested.
[Update 9:40pm] Lou Holtz, God Bless him too, spoke to Meyer who referenced family's issues as a motivation as to why he had to step down. I'll be honest, I feel better that Meyer is leaving because of illness and not running over a fire hydrant and having sex with women in every American city with a PGA Tour stop.
[Update 9:50pm] I'm sticking with Charlie Strong and Dan Mullen as the top-2 candidates to replace Meyer. Both know the systems at Florida and both know the recruits. Because you damn well know that as soon as Meyer announced he was leaving, Lane Kiffin was on the phone harassing recruits and sending hot blondes to small Southern towns to chase down high school kids who run 4.4 forties.
[Update 10:00pm] For those of you hoping for Mike Shanahan, Pat Forde busts your bubble. Florida has a lot of money, but nothing that matches NFL money (at least Redskins or Cowboys money). Stoops maybe, if he wants a new challenge, but I just don't see it happening. By the way, the news coming out seems to have slowed down. That means the Sunday papers should have everything we've seen tonight and we're all waiting for tomorrow's press conference.
[Update 10:10pm] Of the top-20 Google searches, 16 of 20 are related to Urban Meyer.
[Update 10:15pm] Gator Bait ($) as apparently called every recruit and asked if they are staying at Florida. Most guys are too shocked to make any real statement, but a few admit that this will reopen their recruiting.
[Update 10:30pm] ESPN gives a recruiting update that you don't have to pay for. Pretty much the same as Gator Bait. Of course, a coach resigning to health issues is different than Brian Kelly's decision or Steve Spurrier's many moons ago. But you have to understand how the most important decision of a high school senior's life can be complicated by this.