December 27, 2009
If you had any doubts about the sincerity or severity of the health concerns forcing Urban Meyer out at Florida at the height of his powers, read no further than the New York Times' account of Meyers late-night hospital trip on Dec. 6, the one that was downplayed at the time as "dehydration" (emphasis added):
The night that Florida lost to Alabama in the Southeastern Conference title game, Florida Coach Urban Meyer awoke in the middle of the night with severe chest pains.
He had suffered from severe chest pains the past two years, but this time was different. He lost consciousness, went to a hospital in an ambulance and underwent more than nine hours of testing.
There's something to be said for the tenacity of a man in his mid-forties who worked for years through the occasionally debilitating pain caused by a brain cyst; kept going even as, in his own words, "the chest pains were controlling my life" for years at Florida; and still pushed it to the hilt for three full seasons even after the death of Wake Forest basketball coach Skip Prosser, whose fatal heart attack in 2007 Meyer cited Saturday as a wake-up call. He kept going right up until the pains caused him to black out before he could begin to decompress from the thudding finish to his greatest regular season.
A brief debate broke out Saturday night among a few leading college football writers on Twitter about the nature of Meyer's burnout -- was it the external pressure of the job, or the inner pressure the man put on himself? -- but when you combine the emerging details of his ailments with what we already knew about Meyer's relentless approach to the job, it's hard to argue with the verdict of Sports Illustrated's Andy Staples: "[Meyer] would have burned himself out as a high school coach."
There's something to be said for his luck, too: At 45, he walks away with no permanent heart damage and no immediate threats to his long-term health if he manages his stress. He doesn't get the fairy tale ending in Gaineville, the third national championship that would have encased his legacy there in solid gold for at least the rest of his children's and grandchildren's lives. At least now he gets to see his grandchildren.