| posted by Joe Hice |

Urban Meyer and higher education

I talked about Urban Meyer’s resignation from the University of Florida about this time last year.  He had resigned but changed his mind and came back.  Today against Penn State he really did coach his last game at Florida so I’m at it again.

Urban Meyer was an interesting character.  Intense.  Focused.  Creative.  Smart.  Inspirational.  Devoted.  Everything you’d ever want in a coach and leader.

My first experience with the coach was coincidental.  I was meeting with UF President Bernie Machen and I could tell something was up. The office was a buzz and Dr. Machen interrupted our meeting to take a phone call.  I think I heard him say, “So, we’ve got a deal.”  Later that day we got the news that UF had hired Meyer as its head football coach.  Pretty cool I thought, to be in the president’s office when the deal went down.

Our office worked with athletics on a regular basis and the coach and all his players understood the student/athlete – university/athletics relationship.  They provided a window to the outside that we needed to help tell our story.  But that story wasn’t just about athletics.  The most important story was about the students and what the university meant to them and what they meant to the university.

Meyer was happy to help tell that story and you never saw him (or any of his coaches and players) do an interview or give a talk when he didn’t talk about the importance of that relationship and the students he was responsible for.

He “got it” and his support rubbed off on all the other teams at UF.  Before you knew it, all the coaches and players were talking about The Gator Nation and the importance of the university’s academic mission and its service to the state and community.

I remember talking with Meyer at a holiday gathering his first year on campus.  I introduced him to my wife and he introduced us to his wife.  He told her my office was responsible for creating the new television commercial for the university.  Together they said “We love that commercial.  It has such a great message.”  Then they proceeded to rattle off the script:

Go start a Fortune 500 Company. Go write the great American novel.   Go cure cancer.   Go to Mars.  Go Gators!”

It was a highlight of the year for me, but the message he and Shelley liked so much rings true today.  Higher education is a national treasure; it helps make all things possible and creates bonds that last a lifetime.

Thanks coach for helping us spread the broader message of higher education and college athletics.  Good luck in whatever you decide to do.

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