Head coach Urban Meyer ran a very loose ship at the University of Florida that coddled its stars, had little regard for injured players if their roster spot was needed for a new recruit, and generally threw every off the field issue under the rug.Those are the biggest takeaways from Sporting News’ long expose accusing Meyer’s not-so-squeaky-clean ways of derailing the Florida Gators football program.
Throughout his six seasons at Florida many of Meyer’s players got caught up in off the field problems.
They were usually treated as separate cases, however. NOT as an overarching program-wide issue.
The lengthy piece from Matt Hayes gleaned information from multiple sources to refute that notion.
Here are some of the more damning details:
- During the 2008 National Championship season Meyer had a so-called “Circle of Trust” that could do no wrong and was routinely given preferential treatment. For example, wide receiver Percy Harvin, linebacker Brandon Spikes, and tight end Aaron Hernandez all sat out the season opener due to “injuries” when they were actually being disciplined for failed drug tests.
- Prior to the 2007 season, the whole team was running stadium steps until Harvin complained, telling coaches, “This s— ends now.” The next day conditioning drills turned into basketball games.
- Harvin, the key trouble maker in the expose, attacked his wide receivers coach in 2008. Harvin had to be pulled away by coaches and players. He was never disciplined.
- Meyer never penalised cornerback Janoris Jenkins for numerous team violations like being arrested for drug possession or getting into a bar fight. The problem was left for current Florida head coach Will Muschamp to deal with when Jenkins was finally kicked off the team for yet more run-ins with the law. Jenkins even admitted that had Meyer still been around, he wouldn’t have been dismissed from the football team.
- Safety Bryan Thomas suffered from injuries during his time at Florida, but when he was healthy and ready to return in 2009 he was told to “move on” because he wasn’t in the team’s plans. The coaching staff needed his roster spot for a new recruit. Thomas refused because he was completely healthy and on-track to graduate. The next day he was put on medical hardship, which let Thomas keep his scholarship but made him unavailable for the following year. Thomas eventually transferred to North Alabama.
- The problems with the rosters Meyer assembled came to a head once Muschamp took over. Too many of the players Meyer recruited to Florida refused to “buy in” to Muschamp’s way of doing things, a.k.a. no preferential treatment, so 13 scholarship players were let go last year.
- The drug problems at UF during Meyer’s tenure were so rampant that New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick spoke to current Gators about how the poor decisions of their predecessors severely affected their NFL futures.
Most of Hayes’ sources remained off the record out of fear for what Urban Meyer could do to their NFL prospects. Thomas is the only named source.
Meyer has already been accused of shady recruiting practices since he took over at Ohio State a few months ago. The same kind of shadiness he spoke out against while working as an ESPN analyst just last season.
The Buckeyes are in the middle of serving sanctions for off the field problems under their old coach. If Meyer continues to devalue character like he did while at Florida, things could get even worse for Ohio State going forward.
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