GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Florida football coach Urban Meyer is stepping down after the Gators appearance in the Outback Bowl.
The 46-year-old Meyer led Florida to two national titles but began to show the strain of his high-profile job last season when he briefly quit in December but then returned the next day. He cited health concerns last year when he quit. He had been hospitalized with chest pains after the Gators lost to Alabama in last season’s SEC championship game.
This time he did not mention his health being an issue.
“At this time in my life, however, I fully grasp the sacrifices my 24/7 profession has demanded of me, and I know it is time to put my focus on my family and life away from the field. The decision to step down was a difficult one,” he said in a statement released by the school Wednesday. “But, after spending more than two decades motivating and celebrating the young men I’ve been so proud to coach, I relish the opportunity to cheer for my three terrific kids as they compete in their own respective sports.”
AOL FanHouse first reported the resignation.
“The world of college football will miss Urban,” Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said on a conference call Wednesday afternoon. “He did a great job coaching at Florida. He had major personal issues and health issues a year ago, and I’m sure that he did everything he could to fight it off. Now he’s making decisions that are probably exactly what he needs to be doing. ... He brought a lot of excitement to Florida football, the SEC and all that. Everybody’s going to miss him.”
Meyer was hired by away from Utah by Florida after he led the Utes to an undefeated season. In his second season in Gainesville, he led the Gators’ to their third national championship. Two seasons later he won another.
A bid for a third national championship fell short in 2009, and the day after Christmas Meyer surprisingly announced that he was giving up the job. Just like now, he said he wanted to spend more time with his family, though he also said that he had worries about his health.
Less than 24 hours later, he changed his mind and decided to instead take a leave of absence.
The leave of absence eventually turned into some extended vacation time. Meyer was with the Gators through spring practice and was up and running when the team reported for preseason practice in August.
But without Tim Tebow and several other stars who had moved on to the NFL, the Gators struggled this season.
Florida finished 7-5, the worst record of Meyer’s 10-year head coaching career, which began at Bowling Green.
“It’s been an honor and privilege to have Urban Meyer be our football coach for six years,” Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley said in the statement. “The championships, the mentoring of young men and his commitment to the University of Florida have indeed been special.
“It is a chapter in our history that is closing, but I know Urban wants to remain involved with the University and the Gainesville community. He absolutely loves the Gators.”