Urban Meyer is stepping down as head coach of the University of Florida football team, Athletics Director Jeremy Foley announced Saturday afternoon.
"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," said Meyer. "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 UF in the Gators' Sugar Bowl match-up vs. Cincinnati on January 1st in New Orleans, La.
"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."
"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," said Machen, who hired Meyer at the University of Utah in 2003, the year before he came to UF. "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."
Meyer captured two National Championships in his five years at Florida (2006 and 2008), two Southeastern Conference Championships (2006 and 2008), three SEC Eastern Division crowns (2006, 2008 and 2009) and led UF to five straight January bowl games, including three BCS bowl games. He was recently named Sporting News and Sports Illustrated "Coach of the Decade."
He is the only coach in the nation to win two Bowl Championship Series National Championships and the only coach in the history of the SEC to win two outright National Championships.
The three-time National Coach of the Year, is currently the nation's most active winningest coach, posting 95 victories against just 18 losses for a .841 winning percentage in his nine seasons.
His .848 winning percentage at UF is the best in school history. Meyer's five-year record at Florida is 56-10, including a school-record stretch of 22 straight consecutive wins, the fourth longest ever streak by an SEC team and the longest in the conference in 15 years. His teams have currently won 14 straight SEC games, the second longest streak in school history. Meyer was 15-1 against UF's traditional rivals (Tennessee, Georgia , Florida State and Miami).
Meyer, 45, holds a 32-8 (.800) mark in SEC play at Florida, which is the top career SEC winning percentage among head coaches who spent five years or more in the conference.
Since the SEC's inception in 1933, no coach had begun his SEC career faster than Meyer. With this year's win vs. Arkansas, Meyer collected his 50th win as an SEC head coach, reaching that mark in just 59 games. That ties Frank Thomas of Alabama for the fastest to achieve 50 wins as an SEC head coach.
In 2008, Meyer accomplished the unprecedented feat of knocking off the BCS No. 1-ranked team in consecutive games, downing Alabama in the SEC Championship Game before dispatching Oklahoma in the BCS National Championship Game. Add in the 2007 BCS National Championship Game victory over Ohio State, and Meyer is the only coach to have defeated three BCS No. 1-ranked teams in his career.
Meyer owns a 54-4 (.931) record at home in his career, including a 32-2 (.941) in The Swamp. Meyer was 11-3 vs. top 10 teams at UF and his Gator teams have been ranked in 82 consecutive polls, including 63 weeks in the top 10 and 16 weeks at No. 1.
There have been 17 Gators selected in the NFL Draft under Meyer, including four first round picks. No team in the nation had more players selected than Florida's nine in 2007. Overall, Meyer has coached 62 players who have signed NFL contracts.
Seventy four of his players have graduated at UF and two were named among UF's Outstanding Senior Leaders on campus (Chris Leak, 2006 and Tim Tebow, 2009). One hundred and seven of his student athletes were named to the SEC Academic Honor Roll at Florida, including a league-record 37 in 2008. More than 37 percent of his scholarship players earned above a 3.0 GPA in the Spring of 2009 and Tebow recently won the William V. Campbell Trophy, also known as the Academic Heisman.
Meyer is one of two active coaches to win a pair of outright national championships (2006 and 2008), coach a Heisman Trophy winner (Tim Tebow) and coach a first-overall draft pick in the NFL Draft (Alex Smith).
Meyer also connected with the fans, student body and the Gator Nation. He initiated the Gator Walk, a pre-game tradition that had the players enter the stadium through a tunnel of enthusiastic and vibrant fans two hours before kick off. He began the tradition of players signing the school fight song to the student section at the conclusion of home games. Meyer invited former players back with open arms and had Captains' Legacy Weekend – inviting all former UF captains back for Homecoming weekend.
Meyer also spearheaded the plans for a $28 million expansion of the football facility which features an expanded weight room, new football offices and the Bill Heavener Football Complex. The state-of-the art building pays tribute to Florida's proud tradition, championships and all-time great players.
In addition to his on the field accomplishments, Meyer has also championed efforts in community service in Gainesville.
A new initiative beginning in 2009, UF football players performed more than 400 hours of community service each year, as each student-athlete attended at least two Goodwill Gator events per semester.
In the spring of 2009, the "Swamp Field Trip" was available to local middle schools as a reward for their students who achieved good grades, were involved in community service, had major improvements, etc. The students had the opportunity to speak with a group of players and had a special tour of the football facility given by the players.
The UF football team held the inaugural Gator Charity Challenge in August of 2008 at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in front of approximately 1,800 people. The fundraiser featured the 2008 Gators challenging each other in a series of strength competitions to raise funds and awareness for six charities that were selected by the football program and are affiliated with Shands, a University partner. The charities were the American Cancer Society, American Diabetes Association, American Heart Association, Children's Miracle Network, March of Dimes and the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation. The Gator Charity Challenge was held in association with Uplifting Athletes.
In the spring of 2008, Florida Coach Urban Meyer initiated a mentor program for young at-risk males. Working with the African-American Accountability Alliance of Alachua County task force, the program BLAQUE (Bold Leaders, Achieving Quality, Unity and Excellence) was developed. The program partnered 15 area middle school children with a Gator football player and a community leader. The goal is to affect change in the lives of at-risk black youth.
In the spring of 2005 and 2006, Meyer worked closely with student-body leaders on campus on a community service initiative surrounding the annual Orange and Blue Spring Game. Student leaders sold Orange and Blue spirit bands prior to the Spring Game with proceeds benefiting the Children's Miracle Network. Fans that purchased the bands were then asked to assist members of the UF coaching staff and football team in the planning of more than 400 crape myrtle trees on Radio Road on campus.
Meyer's goodwill efforts have extended beyond his football family. Inspired by Tim Tebow's missionary work, Meyer and his family spent time in the Dominican Republic on a missionary trip in June of 2008.
Meyer has mentored seven coaches who have gone on to become Division I head coaches. Six of the seven served as coordinators under Meyer. Former Florida defensive coordinator Charlie Strong was hired as the head coach at the University of Louisville on December 9th. In 2003, Gregg Brandon succeeded Meyer as head coach at Bowling Green, while 2005 saw Kyle Whittingham take over for Meyer at Utah. Also in 2005, Mike Sanford took the reins at UNLV. Tim Beckman was named head coach at Toledo in December of 2008. This season was Dan Mullen's first as head coach at Mississippi State following his time as offensive coordinator at UF. Most recently, John "Doc" Holliday, an assistant for UF in 2005 and 2006 was named Head Coach at Marshall December 17th.
Meyer came to UF from Utah, where Meyer closed out his stint in Salt Lake City with 16 consecutive wins. He began his UF career with four straight wins to extend his head coaching winning streak to 20 games. With its post-season bid to the Fiesta Bowl, Utah made history by becoming the first school from a non-Bowl Championship Series conference to earn a berth in a BCS Bowl. Utah finished as the outright 2004 Mountain West Conference champion to become the only back-to-back outright winners in the league's history.
Meyer began his head coaching career at Bowling Green in 2001, where he engineered the top turnaround in NCAA Division I-A football, showing a six-win improvement from the previous season. The Falcons rebounded from a 2-9 record to post their first winning season since 1994 with an 8-3 finish.
Meyer's 17-6 record at Bowling Green included a 5-0 mark against BCS teams and two wins over ranked opponents.
Meyer apprenticed at Ohio State (1986-87), Illinois State (1988-89), Colorado State (1990-95) and Notre Dame (1996-2000) before getting the head job at Bowling Green. The Ashtabula, Ohio, native learned the coaching trade from the likes of Sonny Lubick, Lou Holtz, Earle Bruce and Bob Davie.