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Kragthorpe: Meyer should leave for N.D. with blessing
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2004, and information in the article may be outdated.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 when Brigham Young visits Notre Dame next October, will Fighting Irish coach Urban Meyer refer to the Cougars as the Team Out West?

Is Meyer really organized enough to coach both Notre Dame in the Insight Bowl in Phoenix and Utah in the Fiesta Bowl four days later in neighboring Tempe?

And just how charmed is this guy, to have the Notre Dame job become available just when he happens to be 11-0 and one of the hottest properties in coaching?

It may not be a coincidence. It's entirely possible that Tyrone Willingham's biggest failure was his timing, that going 6-5 would be acceptable any other year than when other programs are interested in the Catholic coach with that inspired offensive scheme.

Tuesday was the day Ute fans have dreaded. Florida, Washington, Illinois . . . they could imagine Meyer turning down those offers.

But not Notre Dame.

Sione Pouha understands. The Ute defensive lineman and some teammates were watching television in the lobby of the Smith Center when they heard about Willingham's firing. "The whole room went silent," Pouha said.

Alex Smith understands. "It doesn't get any bigger than Notre Dame," the Ute quarterback said.

Meyer is everything the Fighting Irish could want. He's disciplined, charismatic, innovative and loves college football tradition, which - conveniently enough - makes Notre Dame everything Meyer could want.

This is the school where he coached the receivers in an old-style system, while he and current Ute offensive coordinator Mike Sanford would idly diagram plays they would love to use someday. And next season, they could actually be calling them in South Bend.

Not even Meyer could completely restrict himself to a no-comment. "I have great respect for that university," he said, while cautioning everyone not to read too much into the fact that his contract allows him to escape to Notre Dame without penalty.

So I'm not overreacting, except to say that Meyer's gone - with my blessing, even after I recently said he owed Utah another year.

This coach and that program are made for each other. And in a strange way, Tuesday's news should come as some consolation to Ute followers. Losing Meyer to Florida or Washington would have added to Utah's persecution complex. Notre Dame is another story.

His move to South Bend would not be about the Mountain West Conference's being left out of the Bowl Championship Series, or that winning a national championship is just about impossible at Utah. It would just be about Notre Dame, where Meyer seemingly was destined to return someday as a head coach.

Seriously, though, if you're Urban Meyer, can you believe this is happening to you? Here's a guy who struggled in minor league baseball, who hated playing football at the University of Cincinnati, who was part of a staff that was fired at Colorado State.

It's not as if everything has gone perfectly for him. But look at the last four years, from December 2000 to now: He goes to Bowling Green, wins a phenomenal 17 games in two seasons, comes to Utah, goes 21-2 in two seasons and leads the Utes into a BCS game.

And now Notre Dame wants him? Wow.

It's all going to make for a wild December around here, what Smith described as "unusual times." The Utes will learn their bowl destination and opponent Sunday, while speculation heats up about Meyer's plans and all of the accompanying possibilities.

Who would replace him? Would he coach the Utes in the bowl game? Which assistant coaches would go with him? Would Smith leave for the NFL?

As Smith said, "Who knows how this whole thing could shake out?"

kkragthorpe@sltrib.com

This job too good for Meyer to decline
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