When it was announced earlier this week that Urban Meyer had been hired as a full-time college football analyst by ESPN and would continue in an unspecified — but paid — role at Florida, some raised both eyebrows and concerns over the potential conflict of interest.
As it turns out, a higher authority was one of the concerned and, as a result, the former head coach is no longer formally attached to UF.
According to Mike Bianchi of the Orlando Sentinel, concerns over potential NCAA recruiting violations have forced the university and Meyer to break their financial ties. Wrote Bianchi: “Meyer had remained on UF’s payroll in an undefined role since resigning as coach in December. But earlier this week when he signed a deal to become a college football analyst for ESPN, it raised red flags with the SEC and NCAA. After UF contacted those organizations about the potentially problematic situation, the wheels were set in motion for Meyer to being taken off the university’s payroll.”
Both Meyer and the school later confirmed Bianchi’s report with a pair of statements.
“The University of Florida has been a big part of my personal and professional life for the past six years and while I will no longer be able to continue a professional relationship with the University, I will continue to support the many friends I made during my time there,” Meyer said.
“We are happy for Coach Meyer that he is getting a chance to stay involved with college football – he has so much passion for the game and the players. He will provide great insight and background for ESPN’s audiences,” UF athletic director Jeremy Foley said in his statement.
“We were pleased to provide Coach Meyer with an opportunity within our athletic department, but the chance to work for ESPN was a perfect fit for him and his family. He will always be welcome here and we are forever indebted for what he accomplished and how he represented the University of Florida. He gave every ounce of energy to this program for six years and we certainly share a special bond with him. We will always remain close friends and I look forward to seeing him enjoy the next chapter in his life. Coach Meyer will always be a Gator.”
Trace Armstrong, Meyer’s agent, told the Sentinel that Foley “did it as a favor” and that “[n]obody anticipated this would a problem with the NCAA.”
Apparently, the concern of both the NCAA and the SEC is that Meyer, who’s appearing on ESPNU’s marathon 10-hour signing day coverage, would be speaking about potential recruits even as he’s still a paid employee of the University of Florida. Obviously, that could very much be construed as a violation.
This is all probably for the better as slicing out the UF portion of his “retirement” from coaching will allow him to spend more time with his family. After all, that was the reason he stepped down in the first place, right?