GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Standing behind the same podium where quarterback Tim Tebow delivered his now-famous promise 14 months and 21 wins ago, coach Urban Meyer vowed Monday to be at Florida "as long as they'll have me."
With rumors swirling about Charlie Weis' future at Notre Dame, Meyer squashed any potential speculation about leaving Gainesville for South Bend, Ind.
"I'm ready to dispel it," Meyer said. "I'm going to be the coach at Florida as long as they'll have me. So I want to make that clear."
Meyer was an assistant at Notre Dame from 1996 to 2000, working under coach Lou Holtz. Meyer got his first head-coaching job a year later, turning around Bowling Green and doing the same at Utah two years later.
He was Notre Dame's top choice to replace Ty Willingham in 2004, but Meyer chose Florida over the Fighting Irish. He later acknowledged that Notre Dame was still his "dream job."
Five years at Florida have changed his feelings.
In his most emotional news conference since shedding a few tears following at loss at LSU in 2005, Meyer paused three times when talking about the final home game for a senior class that includes the 2007 Heisman Trophy winner.
He paused about a half minute the first time, staring down the entire time and thumping the podium twice.
"No more interviews this week, man," said Meyer, who is 55-9 at Florida and has won two of the last three national championships. "This is going to be a tough week."
It got even tougher when asked about Michael Guilford, a walk-on who died in a motorcycle crash in Oct. 2007. Guilford would have been a senior this year. Meyer, following another pause, said Guilford's family will be honored with the rest of the seniors before Saturday's game against rival Florida State.
"He's a part of this group," Meyer said. "That really stung this football team. He's got a terrific family. We're going to try to do the best we can to make that family feel at peace with what he did here. He was a phenomenal young man and a phenomenal member of this team. So he'll be part of senior day."
Meyer paused one more time, composing himself after he was asked about the impact Tebow has had on him. Tebow inspired Meyer to take his family on a mission trip to Central America.
"The one thing about Tim is his unselfishness, and his mission outside of college football is unparalleled as far as I'm concerned," said Meyer, holding back tears. "The impact that he's made, it's almost like selflessness is now a cool thing. Kids realizing to give back and if you can brighten someone's day, you do it. The impact that he's made on this team is phenomenal and as coaches. It's very noticeable behind closed doors, more than probably what you guys see. It's a significant impact."
Tebow wasn't nearly as emotional when talking about his final home game. But he was adamant that Meyer would be in Gainesville a long time.
"I don't think he'll be at Notre Dame. I don't think that's anything he'll do now. I don't think he'll do that ever," Tebow said. "I don't think he's really interested. I think he's enjoying his time here. I think he's enjoying being the head coach at the University of Florida and enjoying this senior class and being undefeated; we've won 21 in a row.
"He loves his players, and I don't think he wants to go to a place where he has to start fresh."
Tebow added that he would consider coaching at Florida down the road, once his playing days are over. Meyer first mentioned the possibility a few years ago.
"He actually always gives me a hard time about that, saying one day how I'm going to be in his seat and coaching here," Tebow said. "I don't know. That's something that intrigues me ... being able to coach them as far as life experiences and football.
"I like being able to correlate the two. ... I think I'd enjoy it. That door will never be closed for me."