Urban Meyer Sugar Bowl Press Conference

When the Gators take the field during tomorrow's Sugar Bowl, head coach Urban Meyer will walk the sidelines for the last time before officially beginning his leave of absence. Meyer met with the media one more time before tomorrow's game and discussed the senior class and his playing days at Cincinnati.

THE MODERATOR: And now we welcome Coach Urban Meyer, head coach of the University of Florida.

COACH MEYER: Well, thank you very much. I really want to thank the Hilton that we're staying at and thank the city of New Orleans and the Sugar Bowl staff for treating our -- first of all, treating our players and our staff like royalty. They've done that. And the practice facility at the Dome has been phenomenal. I made this comment early in the week that there's some positive, positive things, some great things about the BCS system the way it's set up, and we were fortunate enough in 2006 to be part of the one game that was separated away from the other games, and that was a great experience.

What happens at times is a great bowl like the Sugar Bowl, people look at it as a second tier. And the best thing that's happened this week is our players have not done that at all. Our players have attacked this thing I have great admiration for the way they've done that.

And we gave them a little history lesson on the proud history of the Sugar Bowl, about New Orleans, and they've responded very well.

So with that said, I do want to show our appreciation for the way we've been treated and we're anxious to play a national championship caliber team like the University of Cincinnati.

Q. We talked to Tebow yesterday about the things he has learned from you, this being your final game. Talk about what you have learned from Tim Tebow.

COACH MEYER: It would be hard. If we had a couple of hours, maybe a couple of days to tell you. Tim has taught me about priorities in life. He's taught me about giving back, about if there's any way possible to make someone's day brighter, have an opportunity to do that, you do that. He's taught our team that. I think he's taught the college football world that.

There's other great young men in this country. I hear more and more talking about things that Tim -- I just remember the young man who won the Heisman for Alabama, and it sounded like Tim a little bit. And that just tells you -- I hear Colt McCoy and I hear all these other players, and not saying that didn't exist in the past, but maybe not to the same extent that it does right now.

Q. Before you decided to have a change of heart on Sunday when you were at the point where you wanted to finalize the resignation, what was the timing of it all? Why did you guys decide to go through with it before the game as opposed to after?

COACH MEYER: I think there will be an appropriate time to address some of those situations. Today would not be the day. This is about a celebration of a great football game with two really good teams, one undefeated team and one team that was undefeated until the SEC championship game. So the focus -- and we've done a good job on that. The focus is on doing the best job we possibly can to go win that game. And at the appropriate time I know we'll get some questions about that. But I'm not -- it would be really inappropriate to have any other discussion other than our football team, our football players, and trying to go win a tough game.

Q. Been going back through some old video and trying to identify what number you were at UC. I've got some -- somebody's chasing Bernie Kosar around in a game against Miami years ago. And what uniform number did you wear?

COACH MEYER: I wore No. 49. I was not a very good player. I tried real hard. I loved Cincinnati. Met my wife at Cincinnati. And we were not a good football team. But I was 49.

Q. That was you?

COACH MEYER: I wasn't playing too much against Bernie Kosar. I played a little bit against the Gators, but that was a long time ago.

Q. The 911 tape was released yesterday. You talked about it last week, Shelley on the phone talking about heart problems. The report three weeks ago was dehydration. Why was that misinformation three weeks ago? Why not just be forthright about it then instead of now?

COACH MEYER: I will make a comment about that, because Steve and I did talk about that. This will be the only comment I'll make, is that I think when you're dealing with family members, I have three children that mean more to me than anything. I have a football team that means more to me than anything, and to -- I didn't want it to get out at all.

And then we were very careful. I didn't want anyone alarmed. And I think at some point, whether you're a football coach, whether you're a lawyer or whatever, you think at some point there would be a lot of respect for families involved and children and 11-year-old boys and 16-year-old girls and 19-year-old girls that -- do what you have to do to protect them.

If that means not coming clean with full details about something very personal, if you can't understand that, then, first of all, I think you've got to recheck yourself. And then second of all, I think at some point you certainly will understand that.

Q. With your sister, Erika, firmly entrenched in the administration out at UC, how are the family rooting ranks working for tomorrow?

COACH MEYER: Well, first of all, it's my older sister, Gigi, she's the assistant provost at Cincinnati. But she's my sister. So that's why she's been avoiding all interviews at all costs (laughter).

Q. If you guys had beat Alabama, do you think you would have had this health episode at all? Did it stem from that loss?

COACH MEYER: I don't know.

Q. The reports about your health persist, especially with your heart. Did you at any point during this season have what doctors told you was a heart attack of any sort?

COACH MEYER: I'm going to talk about our game and I'm going to talk about the Sugar Bowl and our football team.

Q. Will you talk about the legacy of this senior class, the ones that are finishing up?

COACH MEYER: We have a ritual we started five years ago and it's called Senior Tackle. And as I introduced the seniors, I think it's the epitome of what Senior Tackle is all about. It's complete devotion of giving of yourself to a good order or for a cause. And that cause was to take Florida to the highest possible level with dignity and respect and doing it the right way.

That's what my admiration for them was. Whether there's bump along the road quite a few of them. Did they perform at a high level maybe not meet expectations of this crazy monster that we fed. In some people's opinion, maybe they have. But I'm proud of where they made this. It's they. It's not a coach. It's not coaches. It's they.

They came together for the good of the order and the good of the order was let's perform at the highest possible level.

So when you read -- everybody asks about it, when you have a chance to reflect -- and I have -- a couple times on the plane someone hand me something and I'll read it, in this day and age in the Southeastern Conference, and it's all cyclical. There's the Big Ten and the Pac-10 and all great conferences, the Big 12 last year and certainly see the way Nebraska played last year. Great teams and great conferences, but it would be hard to argue that the last four, five years the Southeastern Conference has kind of been the strength of the -- which is all relative, but to think that they've done that, what they've accomplished in that conference, it's rather remarkable.

And very proud of that.

Q. Could you talk about Coach Addazio, your relationship with him, how comfortable will you be with him in charge while you're gone?

COACH MEYER: Steve Addazio I believe is one of the finest coaches in America. I've got a strong relationship with him. We think alike. I know he stands for the right stuff. I know our players have great respect for him. And I think he'll do a great job.

Q. Your defense, Coach, where did it improve the most? If you could maybe mention a player or two who you thought accelerated from the start of the year to where you are now?

COACH MEYER: We finished the season last year with you doing our game against Oklahoma, our defense was hitting its stride very well by the time that season finished and a lot of players coming back. And to name some players, a guy like Ryan Stamper solidified himself as one of the finest players ever played for the Gators, leadership-wise and getting guys lined up, which is critical. You saw two corners develop to be two of the best corners in the country in Joe and Janoris. So I don't want to leave too many guys out. But a lot of very good football players, a lot of guys that played real hard.

To say one or two, I can't really give you that other than they played very well.

Q. Couple of your players have said this week that they are worried about you. Do you think that's affected their preparation or your preparation this week at all?

COACH MEYER: I don't think so. I mean, all I can go by is we're very close. We created a program of family-first mentality. And I worry about them. They worry about us.

They worry about -- I guess that's what families do. A team just goes plays. But a family has legitimate concern for one another. I think that's why we've had so much success because there's legitimate concern on everybody's part.

But I know what I see and that's all you can go by. Everything is judged since the first day we arrived at Florida is our practice on Tuesday and Wednesday. And I can tell you on Tuesday and Wednesday we were very focused, very up-tempo. Very enthusiastic practice about getting better and getting ready to face a heck of a team.

So I don't believe it has affected them.

Q. First off, Urban, how are you feeling this week, and have you felt any better? The second thing to follow that up, would you talk about the six guys who are what's left of when you first came there, you had four you signed and then two guys you added on, Joey and Cade walked on, you gave scholarships, would you talk about those guys and what they meant to the program?

COACH MEYER: I'll just talk about that. What they've done -- at senior tackle, Joey Sorrentino has been accepted into dental school. Cade Holliday is as valuable. If I had an MVP vote, it might be Cade Holliday, what he's done for this program and how powerful he is in the locker room and on special teams for us. And the other ones were like Stamper and David Nelson, is that who you're referring to? Stamper and David Nelson are both graduates of Florida. They're going to have great lives. I believe those two will get NFL opportunities. But we all know the NFL shelf life of an NFL football player is minimal.

And one of the things we take great pride in, making sure that these guys are set beyond football. And that's what Florida does for you and that's what -- this coaching staff goes way out of our way to try to make sure they understand that you go play as long as you can because you're blessed. You're like an artist. You're like a doctor. You've been blessed with this ability, go do it as long as you possibly can, but then also remember that you've got a great life ahead of you.

And those names we just mentioned are going to have great lives. Great husbands, great fathers, everything in order.

Q. If you could rewind to Saturday night, is there anything you might have handled or done differently? And, secondly, Florida has failed to sell out its ticket allotment. What do you attribute that to and does it disappoint you?

COACH MEYER: Saturday night?

Q. When you announced that you were stepping down.

COACH MEYER: I'm not going to -- I'll just discuss the -- I didn't know that about the tickets. I think that's one of the things that -- I don't want to say puts me in some of the situations I get in, I worry about everything. If I could get the phone and start calling season ticket holders and say go buy these tickets, I'd probably do it (laughter). But believe it or not, I've done that at some other places I've coached. Let's go, man. I remember getting up at 6:00 a.m. -- getting up at 4:30 in the morning because I had to drive an hour to get on a train, a tram in Salt Lake City. Unbelievable. And to ride the tram back and forth selling tickets to people to come to the Utah football games.

So I'm all in it for doing it the right way. So if I could help, I'd help. But I think we're beyond that right now.

Q. In the past two days, has Steve Addazio's role been clarified a little bit? You were sort of uncertain of it when you addressed it two days ago. There was a report that one of your recruits said you had told him you would be back in August, you said two days ago that was your gut feeling. Could you clarify either of those two things for me, please?

COACH MEYER: At the right time I'll address the second part. Not now. Steve Addazio's role, that's going to be -- I think the focus was, and we made this decision as administration, as a staff, that anything other than going as hard as we possibly can to go get this team get ready to play would be an injustice.

So we haven't had discussion about that. We've had very intense meetings, very intense practice, very intense preparation, which is kind of it's the trademark of Florida football is the detail that we try to prepare at. And that was our focus, and I think we've accomplished that.

Q. Earlier in the week Chuck Heater expressed interest in maybe taking over as the defensive coordinator should that opportunity present itself. I wanted your thoughts on maybe doing an internal hire like that and what do you think about Coach Heater taking on that role?

COACH MEYER: We're very close. And he's obviously -- one thing you do you evaluate coaches fairly easy. It's statistical analysis. It's win-loss records. We're in a profession that's very easy to evaluate. So he's very proficient at what he does.

So that's certainly in discussion. That's something we haven't discussed while we're here, because once again that's not helping us to get these kids ready to go in this game. That will be all done after the game.

Q. You had somewhat of a relationship with the Cincinnati program. I believe that you've dealt with some of the coaches there. Obviously you played there when it was in the depths. Can they sustain the path they're on, and what do you think they need to do to sustain the path they're on as a program?

COACH MEYER: I think that's one of the great stories of college football. My dad was dealing with some health issues in Cincinnati, and I flew up there to see him at University Hospital, about half a mile from the stadium.

And Tim Hinton, one of my close friends, we actually coached together, called him and told him I was in town. He's very close with my family. Came over to see him. And then I got a phone call from Coach Kelly inviting me down to watch practice.

So I went down and watched practice and he actually had me speak to the team. And I looked at the facilities. I haven't really watched -- I haven't seen -- I just remember what it was and what it is. And it's amazing that I think it's true in life the commitment, if someone at the top makes a commitment -- because Cincinnati high school football is tremendous. Ohio football is tremendous.

The area is -- for the people -- maybe the Florida people aren't aware of the quality of high school athlete in that area and the resources that that university has. If utilized the right way, you could certainly become a power.

I didn't see that until when I went back there that day. Looked around the facilities. Took a tour. And watched them practice and watched the athletes they had. And that was BCS football.

I came back and told our staff, and that was real. And then Coach Kelly called and wanted the to send our staff down, I think it was this past summer. Their coaching staff came down and spent some time with us. I'm not sure if it was practice time -- I think they did watch a practice at the end of spring and we met at night, just talked football. It's one of the few times I allowed a staff to do that, but that was because of the respect that I had for what I saw that day.

I do believe they can sustain. Cincinnati is a great town. It's got great players. That's two prerequisites of having a good program.

Q. I assume you will obviously prepare as you will for any game as you face going into tomorrow night. But given the uncertainty that you face after tomorrow, have you been -- how have things been for you emotionally? Have you been more introspective, if you will, looking --

COACH MEYER: That's a good question. I'm probably not going to give you an answer that you want (laughter). I love my players. I'm not ashamed to say that. I love Florida. And I want to win this game in the worst possible way. Not for myself, not for our staff, not for Steve, not for whomever, but for our players. And so has there been a little bit of a good push, I think there's been a good push.

Q. In preparing this team this week and coaching them in practice and all those types of things, have you tried any kind of maybe a little dry run to see if you can dial it back or throttle it back or do the types of things you've talked about going forward? Have you tested some things out about yourself this week, or has it been Urban Meyer as usual?

COACH MEYER: No, it's been -- I tried to be -- I can't tell you that because I haven't watched myself. But I've tried to do everything possible. We've had a lot of success. Our players and staff have worked very well together. We just try to keep it as strong as possible getting ready for this game.

Q. Can you just talk about how important it is for the program, no matter what happens in the future, to win this game and keep the momentum going that you've built up over the last five years?

COACH MEYER: I think it's college football, boy, you're -- I mean professional, college -- probably more college because the transition players, so I think it's critical. I don't think it's life or death, because I think Florida is that strong. And Florida is an elite program. And it's just a matter of -- it's about the football players. So I think it's critical. But Florida is Florida. And it will always be Florida. Even when it dips, it will come back real quick, just because the ability to attract great players, great institution.

You mentioned Cincinnati. You know, they have a coaching transition as well. And Cincinnati, the pieces are there in place. Now they are. They weren't. Now they are. So the pieces are in place in Florida.

Q. When you had the conversation with the players on Sunday telling them that you were going to come back but just take that leave of absence, how long was that conversation? Did you apologize to them for just kind of -- I guess the way things worked out a little bit or was that just a quick little "I'm coming back" type of conversation?

COACH MEYER: It was rather quick. I wanted to ease their minds that there are so many young people, old people, everybody just worries about what's next, what's next, what's next, and I think I wanted to ease their mind that let's just go stick together and what happens in the future will be to determined. It's not been determined and let's do our best to go win this game, and I think it eased their mind. Did I apologize? I did not apologize, but the reaction was very positive.

Q. I know your focus here isn't Tim and his NFL future. And we've talked a little bit about it in the past, but do you laugh when you hear about Tim as a fullback, Tim as a tight end, people doubting Tim and his NFL future?

COACH MEYER: I don't laugh because that's like a child. I don't laugh. I've seen some draft choices, I scratch my head and I don't understand it. But I think that's -- I hope he goes to the right place. I get very concerned about that.

There's no doubt in my mind that he can play quarterback in the NFL. What style of play, I think that's the -- the ability to adapt, I think, adapt from Josh Harris at Bowling Green to Alex Smith to Chris Leak to Tim Tebow, I think our staff has done a very good job. They're all different players, very, very different players. So the ability to adapt -- and some coaches are phenomenal at it.

Some programs in NFL, you watch them, and they just adapt to who they have. And they win. And so I'm hoping he gets to the right place.

Q. I was there that day when you were at Cincinnati for spring practice and talked to you afterwards, and I remember how impressed you were. I just wonder, how does that make you feel because it's your alma mater? Obviously are you proud of that? Had you been -- what were your thoughts of that program before having played there and how do you feel about it now? Is it something you take a lot of pride in?

COACH MEYER: There was a little bit of a disconnect. I didn't have a great experience there. I met my wife. I got a college degree and did not have strong feelings about the level of football.

However, when I went back there -- and it's been a series. You know, what's interesting about Cincinnati, because I do follow Cincinnati, it's been a series of good hires.

They've had a consistent run of good coaches come through there. Rick Minter -- it was Coach Murphy before Rick Minter, Rick Minter did a wonderful job building because you're building now. The next coach was Dantonio, and the next coach was Kelly, and the coach you just hired, Butch Jones. That's a very strong, whoever is doing the hiring there. I'm sure my sister was very involved in all those hires (laughter). But very strong personalities, very strong character, very strong support from the top. And that would be a good story someday about how that program has been developed over the years.

You can't just give one guy credit. It was a series of improvements. I could tell you stories about where we practiced, our weight rooms, and just it was not high-level football. And now it is.

Q. Obviously being a football coach takes endurance just like being a football player. Is there anything that older, wiser Urban Meyer would tell younger whippersnapper Urban Meyer from beginning days of Bowling Green to obviously from day one at Saint X defensive backs coach in 1985 about endurance and doing that?

COACH MEYER: That's a great question (laughter). You're waiting on that answer. There will be an answer. It won't be at 12:00 on whatever day it is today.

So, yes, I would. And I already have. I mean, for some reason a lot of people come talk to me and we've had some success and at some point I will do that. Thanks.


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