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Thursday, October 06, 2022

In an interview with The Orlando Sentinel earlier this week, UF president Bernie Machen said he fears football coach Urban Meyer will burn out eventually.

"I think what will happen to Urban is he won't go somewhere else, he'll just burn out and quit," Machen told the Sentinel. "He'll reach the point he can't do it any longer at the level he demands of himself. Hopefully it's not for 10 years."

After thinking about it for a few days, it seems incredibly plausible that Meyer could burn out trying to sustain the high level of performance he expects from himself and his players every day.

Spending an entire season merely interviewing and writing about Meyer and the players each day was time consuming enough. But to be in the locker room, on the practice field, staying up late every night watching film? There has to be a breaking point.

There are horror stories from around the NCAA and the NFL of coaches sleeping in their offices, working 100-hour weeks and seeing their families one day out of seven. The recruiting trail is as intense as it has ever been, and Meyer and his staff rarely get time off.

Sure, the thrill of victory and the feeling of winning a national championship have to be exhilarating, but after so many years, Meyer could question if it's all worth it.

There are examples of coaches quitting on top, for sure. Bill Walsh, after claiming three Super Bowls in eight years with the San Francisco 49ers, retired from the NFL after the third. But Pittsburgh Steelers great Chuck Noll coached his team to four Super Bowl victories from 1974-79 and then stayed on to coach the team until 1991.

Maybe Meyer is more in the same breed as Knoll than Walsh, but we won't know for years.

There's a great video on The Onion called "Tom Coughlin Retires From Family To Spend More Time With Team" that really highlights the ludicrous amount of time coaches spend with their teams. As the title implies, the video jokes about New York Giants coach Tom Coughlin "retiring" from home to spend even more time on the football field.

The video includes this gem from a fictional press release written by Coughlin: "The time constraints imposed by his family were distracting from his responsibilities as a football coach."

And that's really how it is in some places - coaches are expected to go team first, family second, sleep if they can squeeze it in.

Meyer strikes me as the kind of man who loves his family too much to keep this up for 20 years, or even 10 more, as Machen thinks. After every game, he's on the field with his wife, Shelley, his arm around her as he sings the UF fight song. His son, Nate, sat on his lap during the press conference after the Southeastern Conference Championship Game win in December. And during a conference in Miami before the national title game this year, Meyer had something to say about coaches who are in this business forever like Penn State's Joe Paterno.

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"There will be no chance I'll be doing this into my 70s or 80s," Meyer said. "Zero. None."

Don't be shocked if, six years from now, Meyer decides he won't even be doing this into his 50s.

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