Mike Bianchi, Orlando Sentinel
7:38 AM PST, February 2, 2011
With concerns over potential NCAA recruiting violations, new ESPN college football analyst and former University of Florida football coach Urban Meyer has been forced to break financial ties with the Gators, the Sentinel has learned.
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.
It would have been a dicey situation for UF and possibly against NCAA rules had Meyer, who is appearing today on ESPN's coverage of National Signing Day, publicly discussed potential recruits as a paid employee and representative of UF.
"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 in a statement released by the university.
Said UF Athletics Director Jeremy Foley "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.
"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."
Foley originally presented the idea of Meyer staying on at UF as a paid consultant and/or fundraiser before the ESPN job came about. Foley made the offer as a goodwill gesture to the coach who led the Gators to two national titles.
"Jeremy did it as a favor; he wanted Urban to understand that he was still a part of the program," says former UF player Trace Armstrong, who is now Meyer's agent. "Nobody anticipated this would a problem with the NCAA. Usually, when a former coach is on ESPN, he has been fired and has broken ties with the school. This was a unique situation.
"In the end, we just thought this was the best resolution and the cleanest way to do it. This way, it removes any questions."
Read Mike Bianchi's blog at OrlandoSentinel.com/openmike and listen to his radio show every weekday from 6 to 9 a.m. on 740-AM. You can e-mail him at email@example.com.
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