College Sports

Coaching turmoil rules at Sugar Bowl

NEW ORLEANS — Call it the Interim Bowl, the Bizarro Bowl or the Distraction Bowl.

Any of them would be appropriate.

Between Urban Meyer's health concerns and uncertain future and Cincinnati's lame-duck staff following the departure of Brian Kelly, the Sugar Bowl has more coaching chaos than any other postseason matchup. The No. 4 Bearcats (12-0) and fifth-ranked Gators (12-1) will try to restore order — if only for a few hours — tonight in The Big Easy.

"At least we know what direction our program's going," Cincinnati cornerback Brad Jones said. "We have a new coach. He's been in the background watching. He hasn't coached us, but we're good on our end. Those guys, it's kind of up in the air with them."

That could be an understatement.

Meyer resigned Saturday, then rescinded it less than 20 hours later. Instead, he is taking an indefinite leave of absence after the Sugar Bowl in hopes of finding a way to alleviate recurring chest pains. His decision leaves the Gators in coaching limbo.

Interim coach-in-waiting Steve Addazio will take over next week, and try to salvage the program's recruiting class and maintain some continuity. Although Meyer said he expects to be back next fall, several unanswered questions remain about his absence.

How long will he be gone? Can he really not be involved? What happens if he decides he can't return?

Meyer's health dominated news conferences all week. Sure, there was talk about Florida wanting to bounce back from a crushing loss to Alabama in the Southeastern Conference championship game, about quarterback Tim Tebow's final college game and about defensive end Carlos Dunlap's return from a one-game suspension that was punishment for his drunk driving arrest.

The Gators have had four weeks to regroup from a 32-13 loss to Alabama that snapped their school-record 22-game winning streak and ended any chance of repeating as national champions.

Florida insists its Sugar Bowl appearance won't end up like Alabama's trip here last year. Undefeated Utah thumped the Crimson Tide 31-17.

"We've got to show America that we're still one of the nation's best and we just had a bad day," safety Ahmad Black said.

Cincinnati may have even more to prove.

The Bearcats are making their second straight appearance in a BCS bowl and are looking for considerably better results than last year's 20-7 loss to Virginia Tech in the Orange Bowl. Tony Pike threw four interceptions in that one.

Cincinnati has a chance to complete the program's first perfect season, which would be a huge starting point for the new coaching staff.

Kelly accepted the Notre Dame job Dec. 10 and chose not to coach Cincinnati in the Sugar Bowl. Several players lashed out at his decision, but they have calmed down considerably since. The coaching staff, though, is still unsettled.

Offensive coordinator Jeff Quinn was named interim coach, but has since been named the head coach at Buffalo. Central Michigan's Butch Jones was hired to replace Kelly. He already has moved into his office, decided to retain just one assistant from Kelly's regime and is expected to attend tonight's game.

"It certainly does impose challenges in a lot of different ways," Bearcats passing game coordinator Charley Molnar said. "When you lose General Patton and replace him with a sergeant, there could certainly be a change in the discipline among the troops. ... Any time there's change, there's always questions."

"We've had a crazy, roller-coaster season, so it wouldn't be the same unless we had it like this at the end of the season and had something going into the last game," receiver David Nelson said. "We've been equipped to handle adversity."