GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- At last year's Outback Bowl, Urban Meyer joked that he was leaving the Florida Gators to take a job as Joe Paterno's graduate assistant at Penn State.

Now that Paterno is out of a job, Meyer could be headed to Penn State as head coach.

He had already been considered a top candidate to replace Paterno, 84, before the recent scandal involving former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky alledgedly committing sexual abuse against a child. Paterno might have retired at the end of this season anyway, simply due to age, but the university fired him Wednesday.

Meyer, who currently works as a broadcaster for ESPN, also linked to the opening at Ohio State. He grew up in Ashtabula, Ohio and worked as an Ohio State 1986 and '87.

''I am committed to ESPN and will not pursue any coaching opportunities this fall," Meyer said in May, when former Ohio State coach Jim Tresel resigned. "I have thoroughly enjoyed working with the people at ESPN this spring and remain very excited about my role with the network this fall."

Luke Fickell currently works as the interim coach at Ohio State.

In August, Meyer said he was considering a return to coaching in 2012, but had not decided yet.

''I'm in a little bit of an evaluation phase in my life," he said then. "I'm trying not to look too far in advance.

''There's big part of me that hopes I love what I'm doing (at ESPN) and really enjoy witnessing some of the things of my kids growing up. But I do miss coaching very badly, so I don't know."

There have been unconfirmed rumors of Meyer meeting with officials at Ohio State and Penn State, and also purchasing homes in those areas. A records search by The Palm Beach Post showed no properties bought near Penn State's campus under Meyer's name or his wife's maiden name.

Meyer coached the Gators from 2005 through 2010, winning two national championships. Last September, he reached his 100th career win faster than any coach in the modern era.

He resigned in 2009 due to health concerns, then changed his mind the next day and came back for the 2010 season. He stepped down again last December, citing family reasons, and there were reports that he still suffered from health problems.