Commentary

Do Meyer's words leave wiggle room?

Updated: December 4, 2009, 9:51 AM ET
By Patrick Hruby | Page 2

To the stunned surprise of absolutely no one, Charlie Weis has been jettisoned from South Bend, leaving Notre Dame to look for a new football coach -- a search that can't possibly end with Florida's Urban Meyer.

Er, right?

[+] EnlargeUrban Meyer
Steve Mitchell/US PresswireUrban Meyer left a loophole to take the open Notre Dame job.

Meyer is a former Fighting Irish assistant. He once called Notre Dame his "dream job." Despite its recent pigskin ineptitude, the school retains both national cachet and its own freaking television network. But never mind all that. Addressing speculation that he might supplant Weis, Meyer told reporters last week that he's "going to be the coach at Florida as long at they'll have me." Which could mean the two-time national championship winner isn't going anywhere. Unless it means Meyer won't be wanted by the Gators after he signs a contract to coach the Fighting Irish.

Ah, semantics.

Here's the thing about coaches publicly discussing potential jobs: They don't always lie. Per se. They simply decline to tell the whole truth. Their pronouncements are designed for maximum wiggle room, stand as little verbal monuments to plausible deniability and depend on what the definition of is is. As is the case with politicians -- and really, the parallels are eerie -- there's always a catch. Sometimes retroactively. To wit:

Nick Saban

Position: Coach, Miami Dolphins

Pronouncement: "I'm not going to be the Alabama coach."

Outcome: Became Crimson Tide football coach shortly thereafter.

Wiggle Room: (A) Wasn't going to become Alabama's coach on the same day he made the statement; (B) was going to be the Alabama football coach, which is different than the track coach or the women's basketball coach, and if no one is going to ask Saban to clarify, why is that his fault?

Tommy Tuberville

Position: Football coach, Ole Miss

Pronouncement: Told fans the only way he'd leave Oxford was "in a pine box."

Outcome: Left for Auburn days later.

Wiggle Room: Interior cabin of private jet from Oxford to Auburn accented with pine.

Bobby Petrino

Position: Football coach, Louisville

Pronouncement: Signed 10-year contract worth up to $25 million, vowing that Louisville was "where I want to be, where my family wants to be" and following up on previous declaration that he planned for "all four of my children to graduate from high school in Louisville."

Outcome: Was coaching Atlanta Falcons six months later (and at the University of Arkansas 11 months after that -- but who's counting?).

Wiggle Room: Family perfectly free to stay in Louisville, and besides, since when is life all about what we want?

Larry Brown

Position: Coach, New York Knicks

Pronouncement 1: "Basketball started in this city, and I want to be here when it's finally time for me to stop. … I'm not here to retire."

Pronouncement 2: "I can't coach anymore. I want to run a team."

Outcome: Now coaching Charlotte Bobcats.

Wiggle Room 1: Can always move back to Gotham when he stops coaching; definitely wasn't there to retire.

Wiggle Room 2: Bobcats went 35-47 in Brown's first season and are currently 7-9. Who says he can still coach?

George H.W. Bush

Position: President, United States of America

Pronouncement: "Read my lips: no new taxes."

Outcome: Taxes. New ones.

Wiggle Room: Said, "Read my lips." Never said, "Listen to the words coming out of my mouth."

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