When Florida coach Urban Meyer got his first head coaching job - at Bowling Green State University - he called Michigan coach Lloyd Carr because he admired UM's program.
Phelan M. Ebenhack / AP Enlarge
ORLANDO, Fla. - Shortly after being named to his first college head coaching position at Bowling Green in 2001, Urban Meyer placed a call to Michigan coach Lloyd Carr.
Meyer, an avid Buckeye fan growing up in Ashtabula, hadn't had anything more than casual contact with Carr during his years as an assistant at Ohio State, Notre Dame, Colorado State and Illinois State. But Meyer liked what he saw in Carr's program and wanted to re-create the high-character environment present in Ann Arbor at Bowling Green.
"I was putting together a [coaching] staff, and he had a lot of consistency, guys not leaving Michigan," said Meyer, now in his third season as the coach at Florida. "I just wondered how he put his staff together and some advice he'd have. It was terrific."
Meyer had been an assistant under some of the greats in coaching lore, from Earle Bruce at Ohio State and Colorado State to Lou Holtz at Notre Dame.
And while he turned to his two mentors for advice, Meyer still found the need to reach out to Carr as well.
"I'd put him in the same category as an Earle Bruce and Lou Holtz, and the No. 1 thing that comes to mind when you're talking about them is they are high-character people that do it the right way," Meyer said.
"Coach Carr was very emphatic about doing it the right way and hiring high-character people."
Although they are at two very different points in their coaching careers - Carr at the end and Meyer in his prime - Carr still sees similarities between them.
"I respect him certainly as a football coach, but I respect him most for the way he runs his program," Carr said. "He's one of those guys that I think represents the positive things and the integrity of intercollegiate athletics. I like him and I appreciate him as a coach and as a person."
Meyer has taken every bit of Carr's advice to surround himself with good people over the years, even as he continued to climb the ladder of the coaching ranks.
A testament to that is the fact that three of Meyer's former assistants have gone on to become head coaches, including Gregg Brandon who is the coach at Bowling Green after serving as Meyer's defensive coordinator with the Falcons.
Two of his former assistants at Utah are also head coaches. Kyle Whittingham took over for Meyer with the Utes when he left for Florida before the 2005 season, and Mike Sanford is at the helm for UNLV.
Meyer has been able to replicate the low-staff turnover at Florida that he admired so much about Carr's regime at Michigan as well.
"This will be the third bowl game with the same exact staff," Meyer said. "That tells you a little bit about the power of Florida football. Guys won't leave unless they're going to become a head coach."
Meyer has yet to lose a bowl game with the Gators and has compiled a 31-7 record in three seasons heading into today's 1 p.m. matchup with Michigan in the Capital One Bowl, along with winning a national championship last season.
Florida recruiting coordinator and cornerbacks coach Chuck Heater first met Meyer more than two decades ago. The two even coached together at Colorado State from 1991-92 when Meyer was the Rams' receivers coach and Heater was the team's defensive coordinator.
Since the pair have been reunited with the Gators, Heater said he has seen similarities between Meyer and a different Michigan coach.
"He embodies all the right things in coaching," said Heater, a Tiffin Columbian and Michigan graduate who was also an assistant at Toledo from 1977-81.
"He's coaching the way I was taught with coach [Bo] Schembechler and my Michigan experience. They're both about the right things as well, so it's a nice, easy transition for me working for him."
Michigan offensive coordinator Mike DeBord, who also worked with Meyer as an assistant at Colorado State from 1990-91, said it was apparent early on that Meyer was a rising star in the coaching ranks.
"He was very hard, tough, and demanding of his players," DeBord said. "You could just see at some point he would get his time as a head coach because he was so organized.
"He was a great recruiter.
"It hasn't surprised me at all to see the success that he's had."
Contact Zach Silka at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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