Urban Meyer Headed to Florida

Urban Meyer Headed to Florida

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Coaching Notre Dame is still Urban Meyer's dream job. It just isn't the one he's taking.

Meyer said Saturday the professional and financial opportunity presented to him by Florida was too good to pass up. And by the time Notre Dame called, Meyer already knew he was heading for The Swamp, not the Golden Dome.

"This was a family decision that was made prior to the other situation," Meyer said Saturday after the fifth-ranked Utes practiced.

Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley said Saturday in Gainesville, Fla., that Meyer's contract was for seven years, $14 million.

"He's got a presence," Foley said. "You walk into a room and you can tell he has a little something about him."

Meyer said he met with Notre Dame athletic director Kevin White on Thursday night after White and the school's new president flew to Salt Lake City. But Meyer said the meeting was out of respect for the school where he spent five seasons as an assistant.

"I heard people say it was your dream job. It still is," Meyer said. "It just so happens I have three children at a (young) age and a situation that was well into effect before that one was even on the radar."

Meyer told his players before practice Saturday that he was taking the Florida job, confirming what they already knew. By going 10-2 in Meyer's first season and 11-0 this year, the Utes vaulted Meyer to the top of many schools' wish lists.

And Florida, which fired Ron Zook in October, was apparently the first in line. Foley is looking good after luring Meyer, who has never lost more than three games in a season in his four years as a head coach. The Gators had been spurned three years ago by Oklahoma's Bob Stoops and Denver Broncos coach Mike Shanahan when Steve Spurrier left for the NFL.

Spurrier, who was considered an early candidate for the Florida job when Zook was fired, is the new coach at South Carolina, which plays in the same division as the Gators.

"You have to give that guy credit. He's had four fantastic seasons in a row at two different schools," Spurrier told ABC TV on Saturday. "When you're hot, you're hot as they say. He's hot right now."

Meyer spent five seasons as an assistant at Notre Dame and had an out clause in his Utah contract if the Irish head coaching job was available. It opened Tuesday when Notre Dame fired Tyrone Willingham, but Meyer was already leaning toward Florida.

So Notre Dame's search continues, although where it would lead was anyone's guess.

White was at the Notre Dame-Michigan basketball game in Ann Arbor on Saturday and only shook his head when asked if he was discouraged. He said he had no comment on the coaching search.

Meyer went 17-6 in two seasons at Bowling Green before being hired by Utah two years ago. He has established himself as a young coach who can turn existing talent into a winning team.

Now we'll see what he can do with one of the richest recruiting pools in the country.

"At the University of Florida, you have everything in place to make a run at the whole thing, and that was a factor," Meyer said. "I also recruited Florida for five years and I understand the type of talent that you're playing with."

Meyer's wide-open and creative offensive system should be welcomed at Florida, where Zook never satisfied fans accustomed to Spurrier's innovative scheme.

"Obviously you look at the job he's done at programs that have been less than successful," Foley said. "I think he does a great job with his players and has a tremendous work ethic."

Florida scheduled a news conference for Tuesday to introduce Meyer.

Florida went 7-4 this season, with three losses coming in the waning minutes. The Gators are scheduled to play in the Peach Bowl on Dec. 31. It is unclear who will coach Florida at that bowl, but it won't be Meyer.

Utah athletic director Chris Hill confirmed that Meyer will have one last game on the Utah sideline. The Utes learn Sunday where they're headed when the Bowl Championship Series pairings are announced.

"We want (Meyer) to coach us," defensive back Bo Nagahi said. "We started the season with him and we're going to end it with him."

Coaching the Fighting Irish would have entailed high expectations and tough academic standards, which Meyer downplayed in his decision. After firing Willingham, Notre Dame immediately targeted Meyer.

He will face equally high expectations with the Gators.

Meyer said he would meet his new team next week, then return to finish his tenure at Utah.

"I'm going to have a team meeting, talk to them about behavior, and (say) 'I'll see you in January'," he said.

(Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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