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July 21, 2010

Urban Meyer


THE MODERATOR: We are ready for our final coach of day one, which will be Florida's Urban Meyer.
Coach, welcome back to Birmingham. If you could give us some opening statements on the upcoming season and we'll take questions.
COACH MEYER: It's great to be here. Thanks for coming. It's year six for myself and members of my staff. There's a little bit of newness and freshness in Gainesville now with the loss of some great players, but I think we have some great players coming up through the ranks. There's an air of excitement in Gainesville, and justifiably so.
I'll certainly answer any questions for you.

Q. You briefly announced your resignation at the end of last season. Do you regret you didn't wait to announce that before you were sure?
COACH MEYER: I haven't really thought about it. I think some things went on maybe behind the scenes that led to that. So, no. Is there any regret? No, none whatsoever.

Q. We've already heard from Mike Slive and Nick Saban in this room about the difficulty of policing agents. Nick said that if an agent affected an player's eligibility, to be suspended for a year. First, do you agree with that? Second, how do you determine who these runners are? How difficult as a coach is it to figure out who is responsible for the runners?
COACH MEYER: You got to be clear about it. You can't. For a coach to figure out who a runner is at a nightclub at 2:30 in the morning, I've been asleep for four hours. The coaches can't do that. I've tried to. At Florida we have security for one reason, and it's not so much for the fans, it's for people we don't want around our players.
So to say how do you keep -- I heard a comment about keep the agents off campus. Arguably one of the most ridiculous statements I've ever heard because they are off campus. They're not on our campus. If they are, they're hiding behind bushes.
In the history of civilization, without getting overdramatic here, if there's a problem, to fix a problem, there's a set of rules and violations, rules and laws. If you violate a rule or a law, you have to pay a serious price for people who break or violate those rules or laws.
On a student-athlete losing a season of eligibility or games, that's significant. That affects their livelihood, name, reputation, the school's reputation. The other end of that has to be severely punished, as well.
I understand there's 36 and 38 states in the country that have a significant penalty out there for a predator that's out there waiting to get involved. Obviously, that has to happen. There's no plea bargaining or anything. If somebody violates that law, they need to be punished to the extent of the law. Or the NFL, like Coach Saban mentioned, has to get involved and not allow them to be agents.
It's an epidemic right now. I think it's always been there from what I understand. I've been in coaching 20-plus years. It's always been there. I think we've reached the point of the size of college football, the magnitude of college football, is really overwhelming. I think you really have to keep an eye on it. You have guys like Mike Slive, Commissioner Goodell, high-character people in leadership positions that are going to be involved in this.
We just have to do the right thing.

Q. What was your reaction when you heard the allegations about Marquis? Do you believe any of it at all? How involved have you been in the investigation?
COACH MEYER: I want to say five or six weeks ago. We have a great setup at Florida. Jeremy Foley's office is right next to mine, Jamie McCloskey, our compliance guy, is right down the hallway. Whether it's an accusation with a recruiting rule, a phone call, simply I hear it. I go right to our compliance, they go through the right channels, then I'll go to the source. I make a phone call, called a staff meeting immediately, Who made this call? Did they make this call?
I went to Maurkice. He said that didn't happen. I certainly didn't investigate. We have people that do that.
I have not been this concerned. I don't like our pictures going across the ticker and everything else. If something happened, he should be punished severely. If it didn't happen, then that's nonsense.
Everything I hear, I heard his denial today, and we stand by Maurkice Pouncey.

Q. The relationship last year with Tennessee was pretty well-documented. Do you expect those things to improve now? Is there value in league coaches getting along, maybe being on better terms?
COACH MEYER: No question, there's value. On game day, that's a whole different animal. We're all in this profession together.
For example, there's something going on with this agent. We all have to work together to get this done. I have a lot of respect for the new coach on Tennessee. I spent a lot of time talking to him. You can tell he has everything in order. He's a high-character guy. That's nice to see. I have a lot of respect for that coach.

Q. We all know Alabama is usually not on your schedule. They reappear in October. Talk about that game. Do you have that game circled because of what happened in Atlanta last December?
COACH MEYER: Miami, Ohio is in the Mid-America Conference and we play South Florida the following week. That's our focus right now.

Q. Can you talk about the fact that you've been in the league five years and you're second in tenure in this league. Does that say something about how tough it is in this conference?
COACH MEYER: I think it's everywhere. I'm finding high school coaches have the same issues, college coaches. I think, once again, be careful what you wish for. A lot of people, when we first started with business, when I first went in 20-some years ago, college football, I don't think it was what it is today. There's been some great coaches, administrators involved. But it is the sport right now as far as the country watching it.
With that comes a lot of money. With that comes a lot of exposure. With that comes a lot of pressure to perform. I think everybody knew that. When you get in the SEC, you understand that. I think it's much deeper than the SEC. I think it's throughout America right now.
You don't have time to build a program. That's well-documented. Those days are done. You have to go perform, win some games immediately, or you've got a problem.

Q. Do you see this new proposal that would make it so you can't offer a kid a scholarship till July 1st after his junior year as a good rule or is it one that's going to be impossible to enforce?
COACH MEYER: It will be difficult to enforce, but I think it's a great rule. Like any rule, whether you're dealing with a football team or college coaches or whatever you're dealing with, every new rule, let's put a bunch of rules in, then you have to enforce them. All I'm saying is if that rule is in place, enforce it. If you enforce it, I think it's a great rule, because you don't need to do that stuff.

Q. You've played Julio Jones and Mark Ingram twice in the last two years. What do you remember they bring skill-wise?
COACH MEYER: That's a coach's dream, is to have the ability to have that speed, where we have that out wide, with Louis Murphy, Percy. The make a decision, Julio you have a problem because he's so big and fast. If you double him, you've left a gap in the running game against a runningback like the two runningbacks that Alabama has, great players, Ingram and Richardson.
It's not just the one guy. If you just had one, you could stop one player. That's been proven. It's hard to stop when you have balance. And they have tremendous balance.

Q. Have you determined any changes to your regular season routine in order to manage the stress that it puts on your health?
COACH MEYER: Well, I think the stress of a job like we have, and I'm sure a lot of guys in this room has, that wasn't the issue. The issue was knowing there was something wrong and what was that. That's been solved. The wear and tear of being a football coach, I've just got to be a little smarter.
The issue was not coaching at Florida. The issue was what's going on and we're not finding it. We found it in January, so...
That stress of knowing there's a health issue has been relieved. That's the biggest issue.

Q. With all this agent speculation, what do you think about the proposal of a regulation board where the NCAA comes together with all the pro leagues and basically puts together a board to sanction agents who break rules against young people? It seems as though the agent industry needs some type of regulation.
COACH MEYER: I think that's a great -- I haven't given it that much thought. The one thing I have given thought, the last thing you said, there has to be regulation on both ends. I do believe the NCAA does a good job. Our conference does a great job. If you commit a violation as a player, you sit, you don't play.
What happens on the other end? If one end is being punished, the other is not, that's not right, it's not fair, it's not going to work. Somehow that has to be figured out. I think your idea was a good idea.

Q. As John gets ready to take over at quarterback, do you try to prepare him for being the guy after Tebow, or do you let him deal with that on his own?
COACH MEYER: If he was a freshman or sophomore, we'd give a lot of thought to that. We have a real clear understanding of what John Brantley can do. It's the guys around him. We have a lot of talent. I can't list you the top six or seven play-makers in order. I know we have them. Instead of all the focus being on John, it's certainly not our focus, we're very well aware what he can do, it's the personnel around him.
One common characteristic of a great quarterback is the personnel around him. I think we have it, but it's not been identified yet. So it's going to be a big job for us in training camp.

Q. There's a lot of teams in this country using versions of the spread offense. I know you've tinkered with yours. Where do you see the offense evolving both at Florida and college football, not just the spread, but people going away from the spread?
COACH MEYER: That's a great question. I think it's going to continue to have a cyclical movement like it has since the beginning of football.
Ours is not going to be dictated as much by the quarterback. I know what he can do. It's the people around him. I think everybody is looking for that Percy or the guy that can do both. In the spread offense, if you got a guy, then there's more traditional offenses. We had a guy named Aaron Hernandez. He was an extremely valuable player because he was a player who could extend. They had to figure out who is going to cover him.
You take a guy like Chris Rainey, he's a valuable player for us. Andre Debose, if you lined up and do both? If he can, our style is very effective. If you don't have that, then you'll see more traditional. Once again, we know what John can do. It's what these cats can do around him is going to be the key thing in the next month.

Q. You have only two original staff members left in five years. Talk about the changes. New defensive coordinator. How do you make that transition seamless?
COACH MEYER: We lost one of the great coaches in the country in Charlie. We didn't lose him. He obviously was well-deserving of a head coaching position at a great school, Louisville. We hired a guy I'm excited about. We spent a lot of time talking football in the spring and summer. He's a great family man. I'm really excited about Teryl Austin. Chuck Heater -- the nuts and bolts of our staff, really, Chuck and Coach Addazio, they're the original members. What I found out is how much I really appreciate. I don't want to say the program runs by itself because it doesn't, but our video staff is intact, our strength coach is intact, most of the key components are intact. We adapt, we don't change. The new coaches have done a great job of coming in and adapting to Florida style. I feel really good about the staff.

Q. With the season being so close now, where is your confidence level that the things that essentially led to your resignation before aren't going to bother you now when the stakes are higher than in the off-season?
COACH MEYER: Well, like I said, I'm not going into the season with the same concern I had last season. Last season, I walked in with my third year of dealing with some pain that was undiagnosed. It's been diagnosed.
I think the biggest issue as far as how I handle situations is going to be just maintain a balance I had for many years. I think it got a little out of whack. I think there's enough things in place to make sure that doesn't happen again.
But it's a different year. I don't have that same concern. You know, if you have a concern about your health going into a season, that's a problem, and it became a big problem.

Q. Do you perhaps see more great parity in the east this year?
COACH MEYER: Yeah, I see some unproven quarterbacks taking over programs. South Carolina obviously has the advantage of having a guy, a returning starter back, I think it's his third year playing. So I see a lot of parity.
I've seen it the last few years, the last several years. I don't know if there's ever been one much greater than the other as far as talent. It's about staying healthy, getting chemistry going on your team. I think the east is completely wide open.

Q. Dan Mullen has proven himself to be a pretty outspoken guy. Knowing him like you do, has that always been a part of his personality? How well do you think that serves him?
COACH MEYER: I didn't know that. Dan is outspoken? Dan is one of the most intelligent people, not coaches, intelligent people I've ever been around. If you ask, some people will look at that as outspoken. I think he gives direct answers, extremely well thought-out answers. I wasn't in here during his talk or whatever.
I think sometimes he comes across that way, but he's just a very intelligent person. When you ask him a question, he's going to answer you.

Q. Nick Saban referred to some of these agents, compared them to pimps, said he's entrapping students.
COACH MEYER: Ooh. I did not say that, make that clear.

Q. He said they're entrapping the players. What is your feeling on those agents?
COACH MEYER: Coach Saban and I visited briefly. He has much more awareness about the NFL than I do after coaching there. I'm not sure what else you can call it, though. I use the term 'predator' because they're there. Since my first day at Florida, I've never seen anything like it.
We have security for one reason, and that's to make sure that people are away from our players. That's only when they're with us, however.
The comment I made before is if you're allowed to go do things that you're not supposed to do without punishment, you're going to continue doing it. As a matter of fact, you're rewarded for it. That's not just talking about agents. It's talking about violations of NCAA rules. If there's a law or rule in place, you punish it to the full extent if you can. That has to happen with the agents.
I think the SEC and the NCAA, because we've been involved, we've seen the investigation in the way they go after the one half of it. Now the other half has to be stopped.
I think association between the National Football League and the NCAA and college coaches, because I have a lot of confidence in Roger Goodell, that's from a personal experience of watching him work, also meeting with him. I think he recognizes, I have not spoken to him about it, but I think it's an epidemic right now. That epidemic has to get fixed. I think there's so many qualified people at the top areas, quality people that can get that fixed.

Q. You mentioned earlier that agents have long been a part of college football. We have Southern Cal getting in all this trouble. Now there's a rash of things coming out. Why do you think that's happening now?
COACH MEYER: Well, I think it's more exposed now because everything's exposed. In this day and age of technology and Internet and everything, there are no secrets anymore. To say that wasn't going on 20 years ago, first of all, I don't know that. I know it was going on three or four years ago. I heard about it. It didn't receive the exposure.
I think the exposure is there. There are no secrets. I think the intensity of competition of trying to get these players is so severe that they're starting to, whether you want to say, tell on each other, whatever is going on out there, I think that's legitimate. I've heard that comment that that's what is going on and I would agree with that. The intensity to get these people with these ridiculous contracts that are being signed, I think that's probably unprecedented as far as the aggressiveness of these agents to go secure players.

Q. As far as recruiting goes, when it came to the health issues, how many times were you questioned by players or families about that? Early on when you weren't traveling as much, was it hard to instill that trust in them?
COACH MEYER: I was asked quite often. But the good thing is, most of our relationships were already solid with those guys and we ended -- I mean, I love this class. They're already on campus. The relationships were already pretty much there.
But how many times I answered that question is non-stop. We're still dealing with that non-stop.

Q. What is the status with the team, Frankie Hammond Jr.?
COACH MEYER: He's off of scholarship at Florida. If he tries to come back and play, which I understand he will, he'll have to pay his own way and earn a spot like any other member that would like to be a part of Florida football. There will be playing time taken away from him. He'll be on probation like other players that have made mistakes. If he does something again, it will be probable dismissal.
As of right now, he's not on the football team. He's training away from the team, off of scholarship. We'll see how he shows up and if he goes. If he goes, we'll make the adjustment as we move on.

Q. Now that you have your health stuff under control, will you go back to doing everything you did before you stepped away a little bit in the spring? Will you go back to traveling and recruiting, coordinating the punt block, all that other stuff?
COACH MEYER: That's a great question. The thing I am going to do is I'm going to evaluate if it's competitiveness that helps our team be competitive, then I'll do it. If it's not, I'm not. I'm going to spend time with family. What I did, I was trying to do everything. If that means I'm going to spend an evening at home with my family instead of travel and speak, unless that speaking is going to help the competitiveness of Florida.
Jeremy is onboard. We're all on the same page. So I think we just prioritized what's important to have us be successful on Saturdays, successful in the classroom. If we do that, then I'm going to do that. If it has nothing to do with that, there's a great chance that's not going to happen.

Q. Off-beat question. On a scale of 1 to 10, how important would you say your football program is to the identity the University of Florida?
COACH MEYER: Whether you like it or not, I think it's extremely important. I think the visibility of college football on television and the identity, the relationship between how that football team prepares, how they act, how they perform is a direct correlation to how people view your university.
That's a sincere obligation on our part to make sure we do a good job.

Q. You already touched on some of the turnover. You lose Billy Gonzales. Can you touch on some of the things he brought to the table when he was on your staff?
COACH MEYER: I made a comment earlier. I thought he was a great coach. He'll do a great job at LSU.

Q. At times, Steve Addazio was the interim coach. Can you clarify what role you hold and what role he holds now?
COACH MEYER: Yeah, he's associate head coach, which he still has a little more responsibility than he had a year ago. When he was in the interim position, he was a day-to-day operations man. Issues show up every day, whether it be academic, discipline, recruiting, whatever. He handled a lot of the situations.
He'll continue to handle, as will Chuck Heater, I've done with a lot of assistance from other people, some delegation on our staff. Everybody has some responsibility. But Steve as associate head coach will be responsible for a lot more than he probably has been in the past. That's just day-to-day operations of the program.
He's an offensive coordinator, offensive line coach.

Q. What are some of the questions you're looking to get answers for going into camp, specifics about your football team?
COACH MEYER: Toughness, from what I understand, is starting to get answered. It's getting difficult during the off-season. What I'm looking for, the biggest concern on our team is depth at linebacker and production. We have some really good young players, but not much depth and not much experience.
Then the number one thing I have to do, my job is to identify the play-makers on that team. I'm going to spend a lot of time. That's going to be my deal during training camp. Usually I have a handle. I no handle right now. I have an idea, but I couldn't list you the top seven in order. We have to have that done by the second or third week of training camp.

Q. Obviously taking time off and spending the time with the family, going places on vacation was a little bit of unchartered waters. Was it a little bit weird at first, adjusting to the time away from football?
COACH MEYER: Yeah, always in the summer I got away for two weeks. To take some time during the spring, that's never occurred before. You know, you get very humbled when you realize your oldest kid is in college, she's not home any longer, you have another one getting ready to go. You want to spend as much time with them as you can. I'm at that age where you want to spend as much time as you can with them.
And we did that. It was a great off-season.

Q. Are coaches rivalries as strong as ever or are they a little bit more a thing of the past?
COACH MEYER: Oh, no, I can only speak to the ones here. I think they're out of control. I understand that's been part of the history of the Southeastern Conference. No, I think it's fantastic. I think that's what makes this a great game. You don't see it at the pro level. I think that's what separates us. When we play a rival, everything changes at our place and I'm sure it changes the other place.

Q. Taking more time off in the spring, how has that impacted you? Has it recharged your battery? Could I ask you about Dan Mullen, what kind of job do you think he did and where do you think he's going to take Mississippi State?
COACH MEYER: The battery is recharged.
The second question was Dan?

Q. Yes.
COACH MEYER: Recharged, ready to go.
Dan, I love Dan Mullen. He's a great coach. He was my right-hand man. He was very instrumental in the development of what we do. I pull for him for every Saturday except for one this fall. The next year, I'll pull for every one of them.

Q. You had such a highly touted signing class this year. Can you say whether you're expecting them to contribute more than you normally would?
COACH MEYER: We went out with the intent. We changed that four years ago. There was no discussion about redshirting. If that comes up, we don't get that young man and move on. We're gonna play you. If you don't play at Florida, it's because you're not good enough to play, it's not because we're saving you for down the road. We kind of learned our lesson and I was educated down in Florida.
Here, I think we lost five guys as juniors this year. So we put on accelerated rate to graduate, accelerated rate to play. We understand that a young person who picks Florida, that's part of the process. Graduate, win championships, if blessed, go on to the NFL. We don't hinder that. Go do it. We'll get you on the field as soon as we can.
I think this freshmen class, you'll see a bunch of guys playing.

Q. Last year you were muzzled about what you could say about other coaches. Could you give us your honest reaction when you heard that Lane Kiffin and USC was hit with probation? Where were you? What did you do? Who did you give a high-five to?
COACH MEYER: I'll let the commissioner handle that one. How is that?
No, no comment. Sorry (smiling).
THE MODERATOR: Coach, thank you.
COACH MEYER: Thank you.

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