Monday, December 28, 2009

Urban Meyer: I Retire ... Yoink!

Yesterday I was all primed to write about Urban Meyer's sudden retirement; how courageous it was, how he was able to walk away from his career at the prime of his life to spend decades with his family. As I was on the road I decided to let the issue rest a bit until I could get on more familiar ground, and I guess I'm glad I did.

I don't have a problem with Meyer taking a leave of absence rather than resigning. This isn't a Brett Favrish on/off again retirement. This is a decision that (obviously) has been tearing at Meyer and his family for years. He is - quite literally - working himself to death. He's had chest pains for several years now and blacked out during the Alabama game, subsequently undergoing 9 hours of tests.

Reports are vague. Meyer has a heart valve problem? He had a heart attack? So far everything has been denied an Meyer only said

"I saw it as a sign from God that this was the right thing to do," Meyer told The Times of his daughter's reaction. "I was worried about letting people down. I was feeling so awful and concerned about my health. That was among several other signs that said it's time to back away.

I have given my heart and soul to coaching college football and mentoring young men for the last 24-plus years and I have dedicated most of my waking moments the last five years to the Gator football program," Meyer said in a statement. "I have ignored my health for years, but recent developments have forced me to reevaluate my priorities of faith and family."
Bo Schembechler wrote about how difficult it was to leave coaching. He had heart problems for difficulties, his first heart attack coming on the eve of the Rose Bowl following his first season at Michigan. He wrote about conversations with Bear Bryant, about how Bear worked until he could no longer get out of bed he was so ill, that both he and Bear shared the same feeling of responsibility for their respective staffs. Bo discussed how the livelihoods of more than 50 people depended on him being Head Coach, that a new coach would bring in a new staff, new trainers, new secretaries even. Bo found a way by working as athletic director for a couple of years to organize his own succession.

So now Meyer. Another man who is working himself to a point where he will ultimately leave his family fatherless unless he alters everything. And he can't stop.

We discuss health in football, and post career trauma quite a bit. High level football might be the most demanding and crippling (legal) profession in this country. Even during war the military doesn't suffer casualties at the rate that big time college and professional athletes do. Coaches regularly work 100 - 120 hour weeks at the expensive of everything.

I have no pithy conclusion to insert here, only the certainty that there will be more.


  1. Joe Gibbs used to have a cot in his office (during his stint in the 80s), and he would often sleep there during the week. He stepped down to spend more time with his family, twice. Maryland coach Ralph Friedgin tries to trim down in the offseason, but when the season starts he packs on the lb's again.

    I dunno if you follow college hoops, but 10 or 12 years ago Mike Krzyzewski was suffering exhaustion-type symptoms, and wound up stepping aside for a whole season. (According to John Feinstein, it took K's wife threatening to leave him, to finally get him to back off.) Late that same season, Gary Williams was hospitalized for pneumonia, leading to the only game in ACC history where neither head coach was in attendance.

    Of course it was a football coach, Dick Vermeil, who brought the concept of "coaching burnout" to our consciousness, almost 30 years ago. Interesting that you never hear about this with baseball guys. You'd almost think baseball was therapeutic.

    Then there are some guys who seem to absolutely thrive on it. Shula. JoePa. Dean Smith. Interesting.

  2. My gf and I were talking about this stuff this past w/e a lot. About how Vermeil was the first and took about *15* years off, comes back and wins the SB which is like ultra-insanely great. Vermeil routinely slept in his office almost every nite during the season, iirc.

    Gruden is/was another notorious workaholic, I remember coaches/owners both in PHL and Oak saying 'You stopped by his office at 2am, he was in, you called him at 5am, he was back already, etc.'

    Course, Chucky is younger so maybe it would have hit him later, or maybe he slowed down after winning the SB in Tampa? I dunno.

    I think NFL and MLB are different because in the NFL it's such a short season and you only have 16 games, it is really, REALLY hard to pull out of an 0-3 start - virtually impossible. Baseball, the best teams routinely lose ~65 games or so, if you go 3-2 every week you're a genius.

    Also, NFL is much more of a 'team' game imho, you need 22-44 guys going 100% for 60 minutes or you get crushed. Some days in MLB you trot out Cliff Lee, Pedro in his prime, Big Unit, Clemens, Orel, Fernando, Doc, Guidry, Lefty and the other 8 guys can basically sleep through the entire game and you still win [esp guys like Lefty who could aso hit.]

    NFL if you have one player having a very good game and the rest're Detroit down 38-3 before you can blink.


  3. btw, its not just football coaches that work 100-110 hour weeks and get burned out. I know people in all walks of white-collar biz life who do that and ended up similarly, incl myself. You quickly realized you have no life, no friends, don't have time to spend your money of meet people, what's the point?



About This Blog

Twitter: oblong_spheroid

  © Blogger templates The Professional Template by 2008

Back to TOP