Last Friday, Urban Meyer resigned as footbal coach of the University of Florida Gators. He is 45 years old. His career is one of the most storied in all of college football. During his five year tenure at Florida, he won two national championships. He was the personification of the intense, driven perfectionist, in a profession where the phrase, “What have you done for us lately?” is recited like a rosary by athletic directors and fat cat alumni. Meyer cited a need to take care of his health and spend more time with his family. Further investigation revealed that he had regularly visited hospital emergency rooms with chest pains. While tests showed no heart disease, it was obvious to Meyer that his stress was eating him alive.
Most of us seek achievement in our lives and careers. It fulfills our human need for recognition. It generates income for ourselves and our families. Generally we thrive on success. Meyer, perhaps more than any other coach in recent memory, raised expectations through the roof with his track record of success. He sought perfection and, alas, there is no such thing. It’s just one more concept with which we delude ourselves. When this month Florida lost the SEC Championship game to Alabama, Meyer again found himself in the emergency room.
Now Meyer has recanted. He is no longer resigning his position but merely taking a one year sabbatical to refocus and recalibrate his nervous system. I wish him well. He is a great coach and a wonderful advertisement for the university. But I wonder if he’s not deluding himself. Can he really change how he relates to challenge, to expectation… to “failure.”? When does striving become corrosive? In 2011 fans of college football will be waching to see if Urban Meyer can redesign his life and find fulfillment beyond success.