Can we officially defrock Coach Urban the Pious at this point?
During Urban Meyer’s tenure at Florida, no one in college football did a better job of protecting his athletes from the press. Remember this scene?
In case you’ve forgotten, the reporter Meyer berated had dared to quote a Gator player verbatim in a story. Jeremy Fowler, you bad guy. Meyer later apologized for his over-the-top reaction to a man doing his job.
Under Meyer, his Gators also got protection from the long arm of the law… at least when it came to punishing his players for their illegal activities. More than 30 players were arrested during Meyer’s reign. The number of suspensions and dismissals from the team was somewhat smaller.
Meyer said upon taking his current job that the arrests had more to do with stupid mistakes than “bad kids.” Possibly. But was it just a mistake when speedster Chris Rainey texted a woman the message “Time to Die Bitch” and found himself behind bars for it? Meyer would probably say so since he reinstated the player to the team.
In a real show of appreciation, Rainey himself said after Meyer’s departure that the coach and some of his assistants “were scared” of certain members of the UF team. The players under Meyer also knew that he would let them get away with failed drug tests and arrests. When Janoris Jenkins was booted from the Gators by new coach Will Muschamp over a marijuana-related arrest, the current NFL defensive back said: “If (Meyer) was still the coach at Florida, I’d still be there.”
The theme of Meyer’s tenure seemed to be “everybody wins on the field; anything goes off it.”
But did Meyer’s protection of players — from both the press and lengthy suspensions and dismissals — help the athletes in question? Former Gator Aaron Hernandez is now in jail, charged with murder in the first. While at Florida, NFL sources said last week that he’d failed up to six drug tests. UF officials said he didn’t fail six, specifically, so it might have been five. Or four. Either way, Hernandez missed all of one game while at Florida. And it was claimed at the time that he was being held out for an injury. Meyer didn’t even want anyone to know Hernandez had broken an unspecified team rule.
Failed drug tests weren’t the only trouble that the star tight end found himself in. Hernandez was arrested as a juvenile during his first year in Gainesville following a fight at a local bar. He was also questioned in connection with the shooting and wounding of two men in 2007.
Now, the website TMZ.com has posted a 2009 photo of Hernandez proudly posing with a Glock while a member of the Gator football team. Whether he was a legal gun owner is questionable because a lawsuit filed against the player just last week for yet another shooting claims that Hernandez “was not legally licensed to have” the gun he allegedly used in that shooting.
And regardless of whether or not the gun was licensed to Hernandez, this isn’t the kind of photo schools want to see associated with their football program:
At this point, can everyone admit that Hernandez has always had a knack for being in the wrong place at the wrong time… at the very least? And that his coach did the bare minimum from a disciplinary standpoint to help teach him right from wrong? Instead of having Hernandez’s best interests at heart, Meyer had his back.
Now, maybe Hernandez would have turned out to be a hoodlum even if he had been disciplined. We’ll never know. What we do know is that the player danced between the raindrops while at the University of Florida and Meyer was running close behind him with an umbrella just in case one ever struck him.
That’s turned out a lot better for Meyer than for Hernandez. While his former player sits in jail, the coach is preparing for a BCS title run. He already owns two thanks to looking the other way time and again at Florida. The irony is that he probably wouldn’t have won the crowns in 2006 or 2008 without Tim Tebow, the cleanest-cut kid to ever lace up a pair turf shoes.
The further we get from the Meyer era at Florida, the worse it looks. The wins were there, sure. But with each story that comes out and with each ex-Meyer player who speaks out those wins become more and more sullied.
Now that photo of Hernandez with his firearm — a firearm that could possibly be at the bottom of a North Attleboro, Massachusetts pond or creek today — provides art to go along with the stories and the quotes associated with Meyer’s runaway program.
Whether the coach likes it or not, Hernandez’s photo will pop into the minds of many a football fan the next time they hear Meyer talking about running a tight ship and teaching young men. History shows that’s all just a bunch of baloney.
Turns out Jeremy Fowler wasn’t the bad guy in Gainesville. Aaron Hernandez was. And Urban Meyer was his enabler.