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Florida fans vent frustration about Urban Meyer at Gator bowl

Cody Cousino / Photo editor

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — EverBank Field in Jacksonville, the site of the 2012 Gator Bowl, provided University of Florida football fans with a forum to express their frustration about former Gators coach Urban Meyer becoming the new head coach at Ohio State.

Florida won the game 24-17, but that didn’t stop some upset Gator fans from venting.

Meyer was introduced as the 24th head coach in OSU football history on Nov. 28, less than a year after departing Florida due to health concerns and to focus more on his family. Reactions among Gators fans to Meyer’s hire were mixed, but some couldn’t pass on the opportunity to release lingering animosity.

Tasha Hyder, 28, of Jacksonville, was busy with TV interviews and whipping Gators fans into frenzied anti-Meyer cheers. Donning a smile all the while, Hyder held a sign that read: “Meyer is a liar.”

Hyder’s sign also featured an image of Meyer’s face placed inside the jaws of the Florida athletics logo — an open-mouthed alligator.

“I think (Meyer’s) a liar, obviously — the sign tells it all,” Hyder said. “I mean, who says that they’re leaving to spend time with his family and medical problems. A year later, he’s back at Ohio State coaching for $4 million (annually). Really? I don’t know, sounds like a liar to me.”

To be sure, not all Gators fans share Hyder’s hate for Meyer.

William Jones, 32, of West Virginia, graduated from UF with a degree in finance in 2006. Jones said the Florida fan base is probably split on the subject of Meyer’s return to college football.

“If he’s back in college football, and it’s the right fit for his family, I don’t have a problem as a fan with it,” Jones said. “He’s from Ohio, and that’s his dream job. He won (Florida) two national championships and he gave us good years, so I don’t have a problem with him getting back into it. It’s fun to get into the semantics of it, but as long as he’s fine.

“I hope (Meyer) does well,” Jones said with a smile, “Just as long as Florida beats him.”

The mere mention of Meyer’s name at some Florida fans’ tailgating sites elicited boos and jeers.

Lee Geiger, 19, a Gators fan from Linwood, N.J., withheld from heckling Meyer, for the most part.

“Meyer recruited all the kids on Florida’s team,” Geiger said. “I don’t like him, but I understand he had to leave.”

Hyder was hardly shy about continuing to voice her dislike for OSU, and its new head coach.

“They both suck,” she said.

Meyer will assume control of OSU football after the Gator Bowl. Luke Fickell, head coach for the bowl game, will be retained by Meyer as the assistant defensive coordinator.

After the loss, some Buckeye fans said they thought the transitional state of the program hampered the team.

“What I noticed most about the bowl game was probably the conflict with having a new coach coming in and with having a young quarterback and it just seemed like a lot of inexperience,” Nate Jordan, a third-year in political science at OSU said. “I’m hoping for a better next year with Urban Meyer.”

Dan Hope contributed to this story.

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