Florida Gators' coach Urban Meyer calls it quits--right?
It's that time of year again. The great game of college football musical chairs is underway, as head coaches get fired or decide to resign and university officials scramble to fill the jobs. Only this year, there was a bit more of a screech when the music stopped: University of Florida coach, Urban Meyer, announced yesterday he was stepping down to spend more time with his family.
Meyer, who also quit for all of 24 hours this time last year, due to health concerns, may sound like he has a case of Brett Favre-itis. But he insists this time he has no plans to rejoin coaching in the "immediacy." Still, the rumor mill in the sports world was immediately skeptical. Just two days earlier, the Denver Broncos, which drafted Meyer protege Tim Tebow, fired its coach, Josh McDaniels, leaving that job open and Meyer a tantalizing replacement. The Associated Press is acknowledging the speculation that Meyer's quitting is really a first step toward the NFL. CBS analyzes the chances it could happen. And ESPN's Pat Forde hints at the question here.
Why this matters beyond the NCAA gridiron is simple. We seem unready to believe that truly successful leaders would ever put family before their careers. In the corporate world, resigning a plum CEO job to "spend more time with your family" is typically thought of as code for "the board wanted to fire me but we came to this agreement to help me save face." And in the high-stakes world of elite college coaching jobs, the same rationale is similarly questioned, if for different reasons: Something as lacking in ambition as quitting to spend more time with your family must be a stand-in explanation for something else.
Granted, the doubters have plenty of reason to do so. Meyer is only 46, and at the peak of his career. The timing of the two exits is either oddly coincidental or a little too uncanny. And Meyer did just lead the Gators to a 7-5 season this year, his worst as a head coach. That could make other jobs look a little more inviting right about now.
But at least during the press conference, Meyer did not betray any hints that he might have bigger ambitions up his sleeve. He called his two daughters, who he's never seen play in their own sports, his "best friends." He'll be walking away from millions left on his contract. And the man did have enough health issues that he tried to quit only one year ago.
I highly doubt Florida will have been Meyer's last coaching gig, or that it'll take him long to find his next one. But the pressure cooker that is any top leadership job is indeed stressful enough for one to want some time off to spend with the people they love but never see. Some CEOs are getting more comfortable with admitting the stress of the job, as Pfizer's Jeff Kindler did earlier this week. Why can't elite college coaches do so too?
December 9, 2010; 12:10 PM ET |
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