Urban Meyer’s wife, Shelley, sat down with Bucknuts.com for an in-depth interview. The piece, titled “Meet The First Lady Of OSU Football,” is a fantastic peek behind the curtain of Shelley’s life as Urban’s partner, their journey from Gainesville to Columbus, and several other topics.
Of course when it comes to anything involving the Meyers, the juicy details typically surround his departure from the University of Florida and hiring at Ohio State shortly after. For most Gator fans, it was a hard pill to initially swallow. For some, it still is. Florida fans are known to be some of the most passionate and critical in the nation, something that Shelley Meyer addresses in the interview.
She says the chest pounding among the Gators and Buckeyes is pretty even, however Florida’s fan base is home to a more hostile environment. It’s something that is common across the SEC.
“No, I would say it’s equal,” she said. “I just didn’t know it was this rabid here. But it’s less hostile here than at Florida. I mean, the SEC as a whole is a more-hostile feeling to me. I thought that ever since we went down there. It’s just meaner.
“Now, I know ‘The Team Up North’ versus Ohio State game is pretty mean; everybody is pretty mean when that game rolls around. It’s extremely competitive, but it’s just not as mean (as the SEC). Not as dirty and mean. I hate to say that, but that’s just how it is in the South. College football is everything down there.”
Shelley expanded on her view of Florida fans and what she experienced as things began to go wrong under Urban’s watch in Gainesville.
“Well, what I learned was that Florida fans, there’s a lot of them and people want to brag on their team,” Shelley said. “They want to be able to brag on their team. Now, when we first went down there and we were winning and we were winning those national championships, Urban was the best thing ever.
“But when it’s not going good or something doesn’t go the way they want, they will turn in a second. Now, to be fair, there’s a lot of fans across the country that are like that – and I’m sure there’s some Ohio State people that could do that, too.
“But, here is my perception (about Florida fans): I think they feel like they were kind of left at the altar.”
“They feel a betrayal, even though they were so mad at him about how our last season (2010) went,” she said. “You can’t please them. You can’t please all fans anywhere; you can’t. And I’ve just accepted that and I love when our fans are behind us and support us and I love that they love their team, but we can’t take it personally.
And while there is a popular conspiracy theory that Urban faked being sick so he could line himself up for the Ohio State job, Shelley insists that wasn’t the case.
“Because, not one person that is close to us (from their time in Florida) has ever come up and said anything bad. ‘Why did you leave? You faked it. You weren’t sick. You had this Ohio State thing lined up the entire time.’ I would hear that all the time and I was like ‘Uh, no.’ Because I was not coming here. So, trust me, that was not planned.
Having graduated from the University of Florida during Urban Meyer’s tenure I witnessed the highs and lows. While some may continue to believe that Meyer’s departure was planned, it wasn’t. The pressure of maintaining a championship-level program was something that was new to Meyer, and it broke him down. He stepped away from the grueling task of coaching, picked up an ESPN gig, and not long after the Ohio State job opened up. For a man who devoted his entire adult life to coaching, that’s something Meyer couldn’t pass up.
If there is a gripe to have among Florida fans regarding Meyer, it’s the condition he left the program in and how he exited.
As far as hostile fan bases go, they live throughout sports. I personally recall less-than-welcoming Buckeyes in Phoenix for the 2006 national championship game. The SEC is definitely a little more off-the-rocker than the rest of the country when it comes to college football, but Big Ten schools, and every other conference, still have their fair share of fans that are just as mean and dirty. The north also has a larger population of NFL diehards than the south, which could be a theory for why there isn’t as passionate (and crazy) of a following for NCAA teams.
The entire interview from Dave Biddle is well worth a read.