How Florida ended up landing Urban Meyer

Published: Wednesday, Dec. 15 2004 12:00 a.m. MST

There were a lot of restless nights. In Salt Lake City; in Stowe, Vt.; in Gainesville. Jeremy Foley knew there would be a process, but he didn't know it would be this exhausting.

In the end, it was worth the mornings when his alarm went off at 3 o'clock.

How Foley got from Point A (the firing of Ron Zook on Oct. 25 two days after the Florida football team lost at Mississippi State) to Point B (the hiring of Urban Meyer on Friday) is chronicled in dozens of thick notebooks locked away in his office desk. In those notebooks are scribblings that detail everything Foley and his staff could find out about 15 football coaches who made up the pool of candidates for the Florida job.

To that end, Foley brought in four of his staff members at the University Athletic Association to form a search committee that developed contacts and began checking backgrounds.

Foley and his staff did their homework. One of the things they needed to find out about potential candidates was their level of interest in the Florida job.

To do this, Foley did not contact the coaches directly because of the pledge he and UF President Bernie Machen made Oct. 25 not to talk to coaches until their regular seasons were over. Instead, Foley talked to agents, lawyers and close friends of the coaches on his list.

In some cases, he found out they were not interested in being on the list. Iowa's Kirk Ferentz was one of those coaches. So was Bobby Stoops, despite reports that the Oklahoma coach was offered a $3.5 million contract.

Foley never got an indication either way on California coach Jeff Tedford.

There was a level of interest shown by Cleveland Browns coach Butch Davis early in the process, but on Nov. 27 Foley was told by two people close to Davis that he was no longer interested.

After Davis was fired on Nov. 30, Foley checked back to make sure he still didn't want to be part of the process, but was told the former University of Miami coach planned to sit out of coaching for a year.

By then, the Florida athletic director had already been to Urban Meyer's house.

Here's a look at the days leading up to Meyer accepting the Florida job:


On Nov. 20, Meyer coached Utah to a 52-21 win over Brigham Young to complete a perfect regular season and secure a BCS bowl berth for the Utes. Two days later, Foley spoke with Meyer for the first time, calling him to try to set up a meeting for later in the week.

On Nov. 24, Foley left Gainesville for the house he owns in Stowe, Vt. On the morning after Thanksgiving, he boarded a plane at the Burlington Airport for a 5 a.m. commercial flight to Salt Lake City.

At noon, he met Meyer for the first time. At the Meyer house, Foley and Meyer both had a lot of questions for each other during the 4-hour meeting. Meyer wanted to know about Foley and UF; Foley wanted to know about Meyer's philosophies on offense, defense, assistant coaches, weight training and discipline.

Foley's mission was to let Meyer know the University of Florida is a special place. Meyer made it clear that Utah is as well.

In the middle of that initial face-to-face discussion between Foley and Meyer, the Utah coach had to excuse himself to do a previously planned interview. During ABC's television coverage of the Texas-Texas A&M game in Austin, Meyer was interviewed via telephone by the network.

When he was done, Foley told Meyer, "You could have really caused a stir if you told them who was sitting in your living room."

Foley left the meeting impressed with Meyer. Meyer indicated he had an interest in the Florida job, but he still had some homework of his own to do.

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