Paying a college football coaching visit to the variety store...
Coming off a second BCS National Championship in three years at the University of Florida with a 24-14 win against Oklahoma, Urban Meyer is about to begin the 2009 season not only as the coach of the team favored to win it all again, but also with a lot more green headed his way.
Meyer, a 1982 St. John High School graduate, recently was rewarded by the university with a six-year, $24-million contract extension.
The extension, which is a raise of $750,000 for Meyer, makes him the Southeastern Conference’s highest-paid football coach in 2009 and the No. 3 earner nationally.
Alabama’s Nick Saban has an eight-year, $32-million deal that will escalate into the $4 million-plus range after this season. LSU’s Les Miles makes a reported $3.751 million per year.
USC’s Pete Carroll makes a reported $4.4 million per year, followed by Notre Dame’s Charlie Weis at $4.2 million and then Meyer. Oklahoma’s Bob Stoops will make more than $6 million this year, but about half that total is a longevity bonus of $3 million for coaching at OU for 10 years.
Meyer is 44-9 as the Gators’ coach, highlighted by a 12-1 record against rivals Georgia, Florida State, Miami and Tennessee.
“My family and I are dedicated to Florida and are excited to be a Gator for another six years,” Meyer said on his Twitter page. “It’s great to be a Florida Gator!”
The feeling is obviously mutual.
“Coach Meyer has certainly proven to be one of the top college football coaches in the country and should be compensated as such,” UF athletic director Jeremy Foley said in a statement. “We are proud he is our coach and we appreciate all that he has done for the Gators.”
Florida President Bernie Machen concurs.
“I believe that Urban Meyer is the best at what he does,” he said in a statement. “He demands excellence of his players on the field and in the classroom. Not only did the University of Florida win a national championship in January, but all 13 seniors received degrees and the 2008 football team tied an SEC league record with 37 players named to the SEC Academic Honor Roll.
“We’re proud he’s a Gator.”
Meyer’s new contract runs through the 2014 season. Meyer had four years left on a previous deal that paid him $3.25 million per year plus incentives. Meyer made $3.625 million last season after meeting most of his incentive stipulations. The contract, according to a report by foxsports.com that did not cite sources, also would include a $500,000 buyout if Meyer were to leave for another job.
In conjunction with the deal, Meyer has committed to giving back $1 million to the Florida Opportunity Scholars Program over the duration of the contract, a school spokesman said. Opportunity Scholars was created by Machen to provide financial help to first-generation, financially disadvantaged students. The program’s goal is to raise $50 million.
The University Athletic Association has contributed $17.3 million to UF academics since 2005, including logo revenue.
Meyer is 83-17 as a head coach, including stops at Bowling Green and Utah before taking the job at Florida, where he will begin his fifth season Sept. 5 against visiting Charleston Southern at Ben Hill Griffith Stadium, better known as The Swamp.
One final nugget — Florida football has never recorded a perfect record in its 103 seasons. The closest performance came from coach G.E. Pyle and the 1911 Gators, who finished 5-0-1 with a 6-6 tie against South Carolina. With 21 of 22 players on its two-deep roster on defense returning, and seven of 11 starters back on offense, expectations are understandably off the charts in Gainesville.
“The goal’s always been to go to Atlanta. That’s it. We’ve got to move on,” Meyer said after the team’s late practice Thursday. “I look forward to the day when (the players are) off limits (to the media), and that might be sooner than you think. We’ve just got to take care of our business and practice hard. That’s what counts. Not what people say.”
However, his players are more than aware that a perfect season has never been accomplished by Florida.
“(Undefeated) is something that we want,” Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Tim Tebow said. “That’s not our goal, we’re not positing that. But when we step on the field, we want to win. That would be special, the first time in Florida history.”
Here’s hoping Meyer and his guys take care of that this fall.
In the Hood
A bit north of Meyer, Dean Hood is about to embark on his second season as head coach at Eastern Kentucky University.
A 1982 Harbor High School graduate, Hood led the Colonels to an 8-4 season in his first campaign at the helm, including a 7-1 mark en route to winning the university’s second straight Ohio Valley Conference championship.
The biggest task Hood faces this fall is filling the shoes of standout quarterback Allan Holland, who led the Colonels to the OVC championship the past two seasons.
Cody Watts, who caught 23 passes for 386 yards last season as a sophomore wide receiver last fall, and Trevor Hoskins are battling for the starting spot.
In going for the third straight OVC championship, Hood & Co. will be out to be the first school in the conference to turn that trick since EKU did so in 1986, 1987 and 1988.
Last season’s success wasn’t enough to make Hood a household name, however.
Ace correspondent Jon “Little Red Man” Hall, our most vertically challenged contributor, spotted a snafu in The Sporting News’ 2009 College Football Preview magazine.
In a preview story penned by a sports writer from the Louisville Courier-Journal, Hood is twice referred to as “Dean Head” on page 171 of the magazine.
For what it’s worth, the writer tabs Hood’s Colonels to finish third in the OVC this fall.
EKU will begin its 2009 season on Thursday, Sept. 3 at Indiana.
Former Harbor High School great Jim Bollman returns as the offensive coordinator and offensive line coach for head coach Jim Tressel’s Ohio State Buckeyes — making it nine seasons together with the Scarlet and Gray.
Bollman, a 1972 Harbor graduate, Tressel and the rest of the Buckeyes will most likely go as far as sophomore quarterback Terrelle Pryor — and hopefully, an improved offensive line — can take them this season. Then again, the defense lost standouts James Laurinaitis and Marcus Freeman at linebacker and Malcolm Jenkins at cornerback.
Ohio State went 10-3 overall last season, 7-1 in the Big Ten, and dropped a hard-fought 24-21 verdict to Texas in the Cotton Bowl when Longhorns quarterback Colt McCoy took his squad the length of the field for the game-winning touchdown in the final seconds.
The Buckeyes will open their 2009 season Sept. 5 against visiting Navy at Ohio Stadium.
After spending a tumultuous season with Rich Rodriguez in 2008 at the University of Michigan, Scott Shafer has landed on his feet in the Big East.
The 1985 Riverside High School graduate is now the defensive coordinator at Syracuse University on the staff of new Orange coach Doug Marrone, himself a Syracuse product.
The Orange went 3-9 overall in 2008, posting a 1-6 mark in the Big East.
Bob Hunter, columnist for the Columbus Dispatch, reported that after Shafer resigned his post at Michigan on Dec. 16, he signed an agreement stating “that I will not issue any statements to the media or in a public or similar setting which demean or disparage the University of Michigan, the football program or any of their employees, in any way.” It sure looked as if he was about to unload on coach Rich Rodriguez.
In return for that concession, Shafer continued to draw his salary and benefits, including a courtesy car, until May 1, unless he found another job, Hunter said. He also agreed to release the school from any possible further legal action.
Shafer told the Detroit Free Press that he took “full responsibility for the demise of where Michigan’s program is at this time.” It was a curious admission, although there is no denying that the defense was one of the worst in Wolverines history, its 28.9 points per game setting a school record.
As Hunter pointed out, Shafer’s silence didn’t escape notice of Rodriguez’s critics, though. In his Free Press blog, Jamie Samuelsen wrote that “someone sure seems sensitive to criticism, don’t they?” and that “of all things that have disappointed me about Rich Rodriguez in year one, his thin skin is easily tops.
“He’s either being shortsighted or incredibly bullheaded — or both. He keeps acting like Michigan is some sort of reclamation project, like taking over at Indiana or Temple. It’s simply another in the long line of weird, awkward missteps in Rodriguez’s career at Michigan.
“What has gone right so far?”
Former Jefferson standout quarterback Angelo Mirando is about to begin his first season as offensive graduate assistant at Mississippi State University.
The 23-year-old Mirando, a 2004 Jefferson graduate, was offered the position in Starkville by Dan Mullen, the former offensive coordinator for Meyer at Florida, when he took the job Dec. 11. Mirando had been with Mullen on Meyer’s staff at Florida.
The Bulldogs went 4-8 last season, including a 2-6 record in the SEC under former coach Sylvester Croom.
However, Mullen, Mirando & Co. have apparently helped stoke some fires as a record crowd of 31,606 showed up for the Bulldogs’ annual spring game on April 18.
Mississippi State will open its 2009 season on Sept. 5 against visiting Jackson State.
Taken by Storm
In nearby Painesville, former Ashtabula star quarterback Sean Allgood will begin his second season as wide receivers coach at Lake Erie College when the Storm begins play as a Division II competitor.
Allgood, a 1990 Ashtabula graduate, and the rest of coach Mark McNellie’s staff will lead the Storm as they invade Gannon University on Thursday, Aug. 27. A year ago, Lake Erie went 7-2 against a combination of junior-varsity and club squads.
The former Panther was a standout wide receiver at Northern Illinois University, where he started for four seasons and was named team captain, graduating in 1995.
McCormack is the sports editor of the Star Beacon. Reach him at email@example.com.
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