Examining Urban Meyer's Indefinite Leave Of Absence

The University of Florida's head football coach reversed his decision to resign and said that he would instead take an indefinite leave of absence. Urban Meyer had cited health issues for his original reason to quit. Jeremy Fowler of the Orlando Sentinel talks about Meyer's decision.

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ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.

Work, health, family, retirement. This weekend, Urban Meyer has had people thinking about all of that, people with an interest in college football, especially at the University of Florida.

On Saturday, Meyer, who is the incredibly successful head coach of the Florida Gators, announced that he was quitting football at age 45 for health reasons. He said this: I have ignored my health for years, but recent developments have forced me to reevaluate my priorities of faith and family. Well, then on Sunday, Meyer said instead of quitting he's taking a leave of absence. What's going on?

Well, Jeremy Fowler is the Florida Gators beat writer for the Orlando Sentinel. And he joins us now from New Orleans, where Florida plays the University of Cincinnati Bearcats on Friday in the Sugar Bowl. Welcome to the program.

Mr. JEREMY FOWLER (Sports writer, Orlando Sentinel): Thank you very much.

SIEGEL: And, first, what do we know about those recent developments that Urban Meyer spoke of?

Mr. FOWLER: Well, right now there's still some uncertainty because we don't know all of his future medical proceedings. From what we know, that he's had major chest pains, we don't think he has to have any kind of surgery, but he's taking an indefinite leave of absence. Nothing is really guaranteed at this point, whether he will return to the Florida Gators, although his gut feeling is that he will be the coach in 2010. It will be interesting to see when he's feeling healthy enough to return and if the time off has served his family well.

SIEGEL: But it's been about chest pains is what we think?

Mr. FOWLER: Yeah. Major chest pains. That's for sure. That's brought him to the hospital in Gainesville at least once, and from what I've heard, numerous times in the month of December for chest pains. And, you know, he even - there's been rumors and reports that he has collapsed in front of his family before, nothing with a heart attack, from what Urban Meyer says, but it's been pretty serious. And actually, he's had chest pains for numerous years. It just kind of amplified in recent months.

SIEGEL: I guess being a big-time college football coach is a pretty demanding job. How would you describe Urban Meyer's mood or attitude when he's coaching the Gators?

Mr. FOWLER: Well, he's got that Type A personality where it's aggressive, go, go, go all the time. And it's intense for every college coach all across the country that's making big money, and they have to produce and try to win for their university. It is high stakes and high pressure. But there has to be a balance of delegation, you know, how you manage your program as opposed to micromanaging it, which a lot of guys do. And maybe Urban Meyer needs to be a little bit more hands-off just to take care of his health because he's obviously gotten in over his head a little bit.

SIEGEL: On the other hand, he has been phenomenally successful. How would you measure his success as coach?

Mr. FOWLER: He's arguably the brightest college football mind out there. You know, he's revolutionized the offensive game in college football with his spread offense. He's won two national titles and almost a third this year when they lost to Alabama. He's won almost 100 games in nine seasons as a head coach, which is really impressive and pretty unprecedented at this point. So, you know, he's right up there at the top with probably Alabama's Nick Saban and USC's Pete Carroll as the best coaches in college football.

SIEGEL: I gather the sports blogosphere, heartwarming, friendly place that it is, has been ripping into Urban Meyer, calling him a drama queen and attention hog, all sorts of things.

Mr. FOWLER: Yeah. That has been out there. And some criticism is fair, certainly at this point, considering that this has been kind of a PR mess. You know, it maybe could've been handled better. There are just a lot of questions medically about what he's really dealing with. There's something we don't know, and so the public wants to know. Gator Nation, you know, with this coach they have, they want to know about their future and how secure it is. And right now you can't say that it's 100 percent secure.

SIEGEL: Well, Jeremy Fowler of the Orlando Sentinel, thanks a lot for talking with us.

Mr. FOWLER: Thank you very much.

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