Unless you live under a rock, you've surely heard by now that Urban Meyer is taking an indefinite leave of absence from his position as the head coach of the Florida Gators. Meyer plans to reevaluate his health at some point in the future and decide whether he wishes to resume his position. In the interim, Meyer has pegged offensive coordinator Steve Addazio as head coach.
Here's what all this means from where I'm sitting:
If Meyer eventually resigns, Steve Spurrier to Florida is unlikely. Some people will tell you it's never going to happen, but I'm not so sure. There are a few factors working in Spurrier's favor. First of all, despite what some schadenfraude-inclined UGA fans might have you believe, Spurrier is still considered a talented coach. He may not have won many games here in Columbia, but he has been mildly successful considering the program's historical performance. He could compete for championships if he again had Florida's tools at his disposal. His offense still works when he has the right players in place and he has shown that he can still recruit. Second of all, although some younger Florida fans may not have a lot of respect for Spurrier, there are still lots of older Gators out there that remember him as a player and coach that brought Florida its first serious glory. Many of those Gators are boosters and could lobby Jeremy Foley to consider Spurrier for the job. Finally, although I've generally believed Spurrier when he's said he plans to retire here and wouldn't consider another job, we all know that Florida, unlike Alabama and LSU, isn't just another high-profile job to Spurrier. He still loves the University of Florida and would surely consider the opportunity if it came his way.
All of that said, there's a lot working against the move. First of all and perhaps most importantly, Spurrier isn't getting any younger. The Gators would surely prefer a somewhat younger coach who would be around to lead the program for more than five years or so. Foley might consider Spurrier if he can't find a qualified coach that fits that bill, but I think that's unlikely. Florida is perhaps the job to have in terms of its ability to pay well and provide the tools necessary for success. The job comes with insanely high expectations that may scare some coaches away, but I'm sure the Gators will successfully woo a high-quality coach who is younger than Spurrier. Second of all, although I believe there is sufficiently large and influential contingent of Gators that would be happy to have Spurrier back on the sidelines to give Foley something to think about, I also believe there are enough tensions there on both sides that it likely won't actually happen. Some Gators resent that Spurrier left in the first place and then returned to the SEC to coach a divisional opponent, and Spurrier likely resents that Florida didn't beg him to come back when they had the chance. It's widely known that there is no love lost between Spurrier and Foley. Too many bad feelings here, in short. For these reasons, I doubt Spurrier will return to Gainesville, although you may hear some noise about the possibility if the time comes.
In the short term, a Meyer leave of absence is going to hurt the Gators. 2010 was already going to be a challenge for the Gators, who lose one of the best college quarterbacks ever, a talented defensive coordinator, and numerous talented players, particularly on the defensive side of the ball. The transition is going to be even tougher if Addazio indeed serves as interim head coach. Addazio was not successful this past year as the Gators offensive coordinator, and if he was in over his head as a coordinator, I see no reason to believe that he won't be as a head coach, as well, especially considering that the Gators will be breaking in a new defensive coordinator and, presumably, some position coaches. There's always going to be enough talent in Gainesville to net a winning season, but with UGA, LSU, Carolina, and even Kentucky projecting to field tough teams next year, a four- or five-loss season and a minor bowl aren't out of the realm of possibilities for the Gators next year. That would be a tough pill to swallow for a fanbase that literally expects nothing less than national titles and blowout wins over otherwise competitive opponents.
Essentially, the Gators are probably staring at a year much like 2007 was for them, but this time they'll be without Tebow, Meyer, Dan Mullen, and Charlie Strong. Uh oh.
That said, for the long term, the Gators should do what they need to do and suffer what they need to suffer for the chance to have Meyer back on the sidelines in 2011. Meyer is one of the, if not the, best coaches in the country. He's an offensive mastermind, a great recruiter, and is usually at his best on the biggest stages. His only peers right now are the likes of Nick Saban, Pete Carroll, and Bob Stoops. The only knock against him is that if he does come back, UF will have to worry about when he'll decide to pack up for good. Having Meyer back will be worth that wait, though. Almost any coach could be relatively successful at Florida, but Meyer will have them in the national title conversation every year.