North Carolina football coach Mack Brown was awake recruiting and contacting potential assistant coaches, when he got a call from a friend at 6 a.m. Tuesday morning.
It was Ohio State football coach Urban Meyer.
Meyer, 54, who has spent the last seven seasons with the Ohio State program, including winning a national championship in 2014, was calling to tell him that he was stepping down. Meyer has dealt with a number health issues throughout his coaching career — some that had returned this season. He was also suspended the first three games of the season after the school conducted an investigation into the behavior of one of his assistant coaches.
Meyer is expected to formally announce he is stepping down at a press conference at 2 p.m. Tuesday.
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Brown said he became close to Meyer when he was coaching at Texas and Meyer was at Florida.
“He explained to me privately that he has the health issues and that’s the total reason that he’s stepping away,” Brown said, “but it’s time for him to do that, and time to move forward.”
Meyer took a leave of absence from Florida in 2010 after suffering from chest pains. Meyer, who also has a cyst on his brain, has suffered from severe headaches in the past, and had brain surgery in 2014.
“He told me that he couldn’t be animated at the level he needed to, to energize his team and stay healthy,” Brown said. “That’s the problem. He said if I can’t coach like I need to coach, then I’m not going to coach.”
Brown, who was hired to coach the Tar Heels last week after spending five years off the field, said Meyer’s decision has put things into perspective for him. Brown, 67, will be 68 years old when the 2019 season kicks off.
“This will keep me healthier than not, because I’ll have to get back in better shape, and I’ll have something to do every morning,” he said. “I won’t be watching morning TV. I won’t be sitting around staying up all night, at night with nothing to do. And I won’t be trying to figure out where I’m going to eat because that was one of the most exciting parts of my day, and Sally (his wife) and I talked about that.”
Brown said he loves and admires Meyer, and will miss him in coaching.
“But I also told him, he’s got to come down and help me some this Spring,” Brown said.