GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Florida coach Urban Meyer is leaving one of the premier jobs in college football for the second time to spend more time with his family.
In a campus news conference Meyer said he wants to make being a husband and father his top priority.
"I have not seen my two girls play high school sports. I can't get that time back," he said.
The 46-year-old coach led Florida to two national titles but briefly resigned last December, citing health concerns, but returned the next day. He had been hospitalized with chest pains after the Gators lost to Alabama in last season's Southeastern Conference championship game.
"Last year was a knee-jerk reaction," Meyer said. "This year was just completely different."
Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley said he had no "second guesses" about how he handled Meyer's very brief resignation last year.
"He's at peace with his life," Foley said. "He wasn't at peace a year ago, and this institution helped him get there."
Meyer, who was 17-6 in his first head coaching position at Bowling Green (2001-02), called Foley on Saturday to tell him he was contemplating retirement. They met Tuesday to finalize his intentions.
"He's put his heart and soul into college football," Foley said. "He's not sick. This is a totally different situation than a year ago. He just wants to take a step back and spend time with his family."
Foley said the coaching search will begin immediately and hopes to have a new coach in the next 2 1/2 weeks.
Meyer's announcement caught players, fans, and the rest of college football by surprise.
He called assistant coaches, many of whom were on the road recruiting, earlier this week to relay the news. Quarterbacks coach Scot Loeffler told the AP he was "stunned" and that no one saw this coming.
"We'll be fine," said Loeffler, adding that Meyer was planning to meet with his staff Wednesday night. "It happens in this profession. We're just happy for him. He's doing it the right way."
AOL FanHouse first reported the resignation, and fellow coaches were quick to praise his efforts at Florida.
"The world of college football will miss Urban," said former USC coach Pete Carroll, who like Meyer was one of the decade's best college coaches but opted to leave his job -- in Carroll's case for the NFL's Seahawks. "He did a great job coaching at Florida. He had major personal issues and health issues a year ago, and I'm sure that he did everything he could to fight it off. Now he's making decisions that are probably exactly what he needs to be doing. ... He brought a lot of excitement to Florida football, the SEC and all that. Everybody's going to miss him."
Meyer was hired away from Utah by Florida after he led the Utes to an undefeated season. In his second season in Gainesville, he led the Gators' to a national championship. Two seasons later he won another, the third time overall the school topped the final AP Top 25.
A bid for another national championship fell short in 2009, and the day after Christmas, Meyer surprisingly announced that he was giving up the job. Just like now, he said he wanted to spend more time with his family, though he also said he had health concerns.
Less than 24 hours later, he changed his mind and decided to instead take a leave of absence.
He was diagnosed with esophageal spasms and was taking prescription medication to treat it.
The leave of absence turned into some extended vacation time.
Meyer scaled back in January -- he didn't go on the road recruiting -- but still worked steadily through national signing day. He returned for spring practice in March, but managed to take significant time off before and after.
He went to Hawaii with his wife, traveled to Rome and saw the Pope, visited Israel, took in the Masters with his daughter, and saw a Tampa Bay Rays baseball game.
Florida finished 7-5, the worst record of Meyer's 10-year head coaching career. It was the first time the Gators had lost five regular-season games since 1988.
Meyer's resume is one of the most impressive in college football.
He is 103-23 (.817) overall, the best winning percentage among active major college coaches with at least 10 seasons, and 64-15 (.810) at Florida.29.65195 -82.32318
Florida coach Urban Meyer is leaving one of the premier jobs in college football for the second time to spend more time with his family. In a campus news conference Meyer said he wants to make being a husband and father his top priority.