Machen Not Surprised By Meyer's Success

If Bernie Machen is wearing a very satisfied grin on his face these days, it's for good reason. With academics heading to new heights daily, research grants being awarded in record numbers and the football and basketball teams holding the national championships, life is very, very good for the president of the University of Florida.

Billy Donovan brought home the basketball championship in April 2006 and just last week, Urban Meyer brought home the football championship with a stunning, 41-14, win over previously unbeaten and number one ranked Ohio State at the Tostitos National Championship Game in Glendale, Arizona. Donovan was already in place and already one of the hot young coaches in the country when Machen arrived at Florida from the University of Utah in 2004. When Ron Zook was fired as Florida's coach midway through the 2004 season, Machen knew exactly where to turn to find a successor.

He had already hired Urban Meyer once with spectacular results. Machen felt there was no reason that Meyer couldn't produce championship seasons at the University of Florida.

"There is something about him," said Machen Friday night as he watched Florida's third-ranked gymnastics team dismantled 12th-ranked Oregon State at the Stephen C. O'Connell Center. "He has the ability to lead young people and they will follow him."

When Machen went searching for a football coach after a disappointing 5-6 record at Utah in 2002, he saw what he was looking for at Bowling Green State University where Urban Meyer had gone 17-6 in two seasons. The year before Meyer arrived the Falcons were 2-9.

At Utah, Meyer turned the Utes' fortunes around with a 10-2 mark and he followed that up with a perfect 12-0 season in 2004 that included a win over Pitt in the Fiesta Bowl. With that Fiesta Bowl victory, the Utes became the first team from a non-BCS conference to win a BCS bowl.

There was no doubt in Machen's mind that Meyer would succeed on a grand scale at Florida. Given all of Florida's advantages in terms of academics, facilities and fan support, he felt Florida and Meyer were the perfect fit.

"His resolve … the way he builds a team … the way he builds character," said Machen. "The drive he has for excellence is what I saw when we brought him to Utah, which is why he was the right person for the University of Florida."

Machen expected Meyer would compete for national championships at Florida and he's not particularly surprised that his hand-picked coach delivered in just his second year. After all, Meyer does have a history of turning programs into big winners in his second year on the job.

"The record speaks for itself at Bowling Green, Utah and here," said Machen. "He was going to get it. It was just a matter of time when he was going to do it. Knowing him and the way he operates, you knew he was going to get it."

Meyer's Utah team in 2004 steamrolled everybody in its path on its way to a perfect season. The 13-1 national champion Gators of 2006 had a few blowout wins, but most of the games were won in the fourth quarter by a team that had the ability to win the tough, close games.

"A lot of things had to fall for us," said Machen. "We had a lot of very close games that were decided by a handful of plays. Good things happen when you build a team that doesn't give in to adversity."

That ability to hold a team together in the most difficult of circumstances and come away with a victory is one of the reasons that Machen hired Meyer the first time and it had everything to do with hiring him at Florida. In the three years prior to his arrival, the Gators were known for their inability to close out tight games in the fourth quarter. Machen felt Meyer wouldn't fold under any amount of pressure.

"This is exactly what I saw when we brought him to Utah," said Machen. "Of course, he didn't have nearly as much pressure there as he has here, but I had no doubt he would do it. He thrives in pressure situations."

Machen is quick to credit Athletic Director Jeremy Foley for building and maintaining an athletic program that is known for excellence in every way. That the Gators are the national champs in football and in basketball at the same time --- the first time that's ever been done in the history of college sports --- isn't a shock to Machen.

"It really is a tribute to Jeremy and his excellent people in the athletic department that were in place long before I got here," said Machen. "Give them all the credit for a job well done because what they do really complements what we are doing on the academic side. We want excellence in everything that we do. I think Jeremy's record speaks for itself. He's the best there is."

With an athletic department that is annually ranks among the top five nationally and academics that have the University of Florida considered one of the "Public Ivy League" schools by such publications as Princeton Review, Machen has what he considers an ideal situation.

"The reputation for excellence for academics and athletics feeds upon itself," he said. "People that only know us in one thing begin to appreciate what they see in the other. They see them both out there, successful and excellent. It's a good situation."

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