The Great Debate: Will Urban head for a higher calling? (Smith)

When Florida fired Ron Zook last Monday, the national media went crazy with rumors that because of Urban Meyer’s former association with Florida President Bernie Machen, he would likely be at the top of the list to replace Zook. Meyer is widely regarded as the hottest name in college coaching, and those in the know consider Meyer to be a perfect fit at a program like Florida.

When contacted by The Associated Press about the potential relocation to a big-time program in a big-time conference, Meyer said that his name was often mentioned when new coaching jobs became available, but then declined to comment any further. I hate to be a journalist and read too far into a “no comment” comment, but it would have been pretty easy for Meyer to say that he was not interested in leaving Utah.

He could have easily quelled any speculation, at least in the short term, about his willingness to leave the U by simply saying, “I am staying at Utah.” But he didn’t. Instead, Meyer left the door open, not only for conjecture by the ravenous media, but also for his option to do whatever is best for his career when the season is over.

Admittedly, the discussion is premature when nothing official will happen for a couple of months. But the fact remains that Meyer is a man on the rise and it wouldn’t make sense for him to turn down an offer from a school in a BCS conference that could double or triple the amount of money the U could ever pay him.

Consider this analogy: Let’s say you were an aspiring journalist and after several stints at smaller newspapers, you finally got hired at the Denver Post making a good salary. After two years, you exceed all expectations and win the Pulitzer Prize for journalism and are promptly offered a job at The New York Times where you will make enough money to retire comfortably within a few years. You might love it in Denver and your children may have found several good friends while there, but would you even think twice about taking the job in New York? Of course not.

My colleague Joe Beatty insists that Huntsman will find a way to get Meyer the right benefits and to ensure he is appropriately compensated, but the bottom line is that the U will never be able to fork out more than a million dollars a year to a coach in any sport. Other schools have the kind of booster programs that the U does not have, and no matter how much U fans love Meyer, it will take a financial obligation beyond our means to keep him here.

People like Beatty are so delusional that they think Meyer has developed some kind of personal obligation to the state of Utah. But it just isn’t true. Meyer has a commitment to his career, as any self-respecting coach should-regardless of how painful it is to move his family again and say goodbye to players he has known for two seasons. Just look at his track record. Meyer has made a habit of moving when the right opportunity presents itself and there is really no reason to think that he has reached an acceptable pinnacle at the University of Utah.

Another issue commonly discussed among the local media is the question of timing. Meyer would be crazy to turn down a huge offer at the height of his coaching career, only to risk an injury to Alex Smith next year that could result in a mediocre season and a reduction in his market value. Meyer’s presence alone does not secure a winning record. Sure, he is an awesome coach, but things could unravel rather easily if just a few things go wrong. Something should also be said of the impact seniors like Morgan Scalley, Sione Pouha, Paris Warren and Grady Marshall have had on this program. These guys have as much to do with the U’s success as Meyer, and when they graduate it won’t necessarily be so easy for Meyer to keep his impressive track record intact.

Don’t get me wrong, Meyer is the best coach the U has ever had, hands down. But his market value as a coach will never be higher than it is right now. Because of that, it would be wrong of us to try to stop Meyer from moving on, especially considering the contribution he has yet to make to the entire sport of college football and possibly to professional football. Meyer is a coach that (I know this hurts) is literally too good to stay at the U for more than a couple of years. We should let him go in peace and thank him for turning around this troubled program.

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