Meyer takes leave instead of retiring

Published 1:24 am Monday, December 28, 2009

NEW ORLEANS — It took an emotional team meeting, a sleepless night and about an hour of practice for coach Urban Meyer to change his mind about resigning at Florida.

With his health and his family still major concerns, Meyer withdrew his resignation Sunday and decided instead to take an indefinite leave of absence. He will coach the fifth-ranked Gators in the Sugar Bowl against No. 4 Cincinnati on Jan. 1, then take some time off in hopes of alleviating recurring chest pains.

His announcement capped a wild and weird two days for Florida. He stunned college football twice in a 20-hour span, first by saying he planned to walk away from coaching and then by revealing he expects to be back on the sideline next season.

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“I do in my gut believe that will happen,” Meyer said.

Flanked by athletic director Jeremy Foley and quarterback Tim Tebow, the 45-year-old Meyer stoically responded to repeated questions about his health, his heart and his head. With his wife and three children seated a few feet in front of him, Meyer declined to reveal much detail about his condition.

He acknowledged the possibility he might need a procedure to alleviate chest pains that started four years ago, but would not say if he had a heart condition. He insisted he didn’t have a heart attack and refused to say whether doctors told him he needed to step away.

“I’d rather not get into that,” he said.