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Spurning allure of Notre Dame, Ute coach will lead the Gators
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2004, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

So much for the Golden Dome, the Four Horsemen, Touchdown Jesus and Rudy.

Utah's Urban Meyer, who often said coaching Notre Dame was his dream, turned his back on that school's storied history Friday when he accepted a reported $14-million, seven-year job offer from Florida.

Meyer plans to tell the Utes about his decision at a 7 a.m. football team meeting today.

Both Notre Dame and Florida made offers to Meyer on Thursday; by Friday morning, Meyer had decided on Florida over Notre Dame.

Bud Meyer, his father, told gatorbait.com that the decision came after Meyer discussed his situation with "a number of colleagues in the coaching profession."

Asked if his son had sought his advice, Bud Meyer said, "My input was if he wants a great coaching job - if he wants to win - he needs to go to Florida. If he wants to work on building an aura, go to Notre Dame."

Urban Meyer spent five years at Notre Dame as an assistant coach, so he understands the situation. So does Bud Meyer.

At Notre Dame, he said, ''. . . you have to buy into the entire program. That's not just an ordinary coaching job. It's almost like a religion.''

Urban Meyer, who was at his home in Sandy on Friday afternoon, was reportedly upset that word of his decision was leaked so quickly in Florida. As a result, none the involved parties had much to say about the situation.

At Utah, spokeswoman Liz Abel said school officials would not comment on Meyer's decision and said any announcement would have to come from Florida.

However, Abel confirmed that Meyer would meet with his Utah players before today's 8 a.m. practice and inform them he's taking a job that will reportedly pay $2 million annually through the 2011 season.

Meyer was unavailable for comment Friday, but his sister told the Palm Beach (Fla.) Post that picking Florida over Notre Dame wasn't easy.

"It took me by surprise, to be honest," Gigi Escoe said. "But after hearing all his thoughts, it made sense. . . . It wasn't a slam dunk. He'll probably tell you it was the hardest decision he's ever made. I thought, 'Oh God, I'm glad I don't have to make that decision.' But he knows how to make these big decisions."

Escoe, a dean at the University of Cincinnati, first heard Meyer was going to Florida after getting a call from their father.

"Dad said, 'I just talked to Urban. We're Gators,' " said Escoe, who reached her brother about 5 p.m.

"I called and congratulated him," she said. "It was like choosing between a diamond and a ruby. He said it was a hard thing to do because he has such a great love for that program" at Notre Dame.

"We're all really excited for him," Escoe continued. "What else can you be? Now we're ready to buy a great big boat and have some fun."

Utah athletic director Chris Hill won't be joining in the Meyer family merriment.

He has work to do.

Hill, who hired Meyer away from Bowling Green just two years ago, has started searching for a successor. Utah offensive coordinator Mike Sanford and defensive coordinator Kyle Whittingham are considered candidates for the job. So is Boise State coach Dan Hawkins.

Meanwhile, Meyer's decision to turn down what he has often described as his "dream job" has become a nightmare for Notre Dame.

The Irish abruptly fired coach Tyrone Willingham on Monday, presumably so they could swoop in and hire Meyer.

Now, Notre Dame and its football program have been exposed.

At least one high profile coach - Meyer - does not think it's possible for the Irish to win as quickly or consistently as a school such as Florida, where the facilities are better and the academic requirements are less stringent.

Notre Dame athletic director Kevin White's new list of candidates might now include Jeff Tedford of California, Tommy Tuberville of Auburn and Hawkins.

USC offensive coordinator Norm Chow could also end up in the mix, one source said.

What happened Friday

Urban Meyer began telling family members on Friday morning that he was going to accept an offer to become the head coach at Florida. It is believed Meyer, who was at his home in Sandy, informed school officials at Florida of his decision sometime Friday afternoon, about the same time news organizations throughout the country started reporting it. At 4:15 p.m., Utah sent out a news release regarding Meyer's selection as the Home Depot National Coach of the Year.

What's happening today

Meyer will meet with his players at 7 a.m. to inform them of his departure and then oversee the team's practice. As usual, he will talk to the media after practice about 10 a.m. At 11 a.m., Meyer is scheduled to help auction off a car at Nate Wade Subaru in Salt Lake City. Proceeds from the event will benefit the U. Football Hall of Fame. Presumably, Meyer will spend this afternoon and evening preparing for his takeover in Florida, perhaps by starting to organize a new coaching staff and contacting Gator recruits.

What's happening next

On Sunday at 2 p.m., Meyer is expected to attend a Bowl Championship Series selection party at the Spence Eccles Field House. Utah could get a bid to the Jan. 1 Fiesta Bowl. Meanwhile, athletic director Chris Hill will likely be busy putting together a list of possible replacements. Utah offensive coordinator Mike Sanford and defensive coordinator Kyle Whittingham are possibilities. Meyer is not expected to make his first appearance in Florida until early next week.

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