BREAKING: URBAN MEYER STEPPING DOWN

Via Florida's official site, Urban Meyer is stepping down as Florida's head coach due to health concerns.

"I have given my heart and soul to coaching college football and mentoring young men for the last 24-plus years and I have dedicated most of my waking moments the last five years to the Gator football program," said Meyer. "I have ignored my health for years, but recent developments have forced me to re-evaluate my priorities of faith and family."

"After consulting with my family, Dr. Machen, Jeremy Foley and my doctors, I believe it is in my best interest to step aside and focus on my health and family.

 "I'm proud to be a part of the Gainesville community and the Gator Nation and I plan to remain in Gainesville and involved with the University of Florida.

"I'm very appreciative for the opportunity I've had to be a part of a tremendous institution - from Dr. Machen to Jeremy Foley and the entire administrative staff at UF. I'm also very thankful for the chance to work with some of the best assistants in college football and coach some of the best college football players and watch them grow both on and off the field as people. I will cherish the relationships with them the most."

Meyer will coach the Gators in the Sugar Bowl. More as it develops.

[Note by Joel, 12/26/09 6:58 PM EST ] Okay, off the cuff reaction:

First, best wishes for Meyer. Hope the health thing isn't as serious as it sounds. As much as we've loved to get on the good old sports hate for Meyer and the Gators, I'm sure I'm not the only one at RTT who hopes he makes a full and complete recovery. They're saying now that there's no immediate health concern, but what are we to make of his decision being based in part on his health? We'll just have to wait and see on that.

Second, this will sound crass, but is it inevitable that folks will minimize Meyer's legacy at Florida because it coincides so nicely with Tebow's time there?

Third, the SEC East is wide open now. The Gators will still be talented. They'll also likely get a fantastic coach to replace Meyer. But change takes time. Look at Monte Kiffin's defense this year compared to John Chavis's last year. No matter how good you can be, change takes time.

Fourth, wow.

[Note by Joel, 12/26/09 8:16 PM EST ] ESPN is now citing a source in reporting that Meyer's health condition is a heart valve muscle defect. It's apparently not life-threatening, but certainly sounds serious, as it has caused Meyer to be in the hospital multiple times since the day after the SEC Championship Game when he was admitted for chest pains.

[Note by Joel, 12/26/09 10:49 PM EST ] Well, ESPN's news crawl is now citing Meyer himself for the point that all of Meyer's health problems are "stress-related" and that his heart is healthy. So again, we'll just have to wait and see.

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