Matt Hayes and the folks over at Sporting News did a three-month investigation into Urban Meyer, revolving around his time leaving Florida and the state of the program. It is a solid read for those interested and speaks to how things are not always as they seem with a program. While the Gators were seeing success on the field, things off the field were not going so swimmingly from a program standpoint.
The article reveals thoughts on Meyer's "Circle of Trust" in which certain players were favored over others. It talks about medical hardships to manage the roster and about claiming injuries were suspensions to avoid the public scrutiny over a failed drug test.
Basically, if you don't like Urban Meyer already, this is something to use to prop up your reasoning behind not liking the guy. If you do like Urban Meyer, then it is a chance to work on your "the media is out to get us" type of thought process. Ultimately, though, unless your head has been in the sand or you just don't know much of the inner workings of a college football program, there is not much to see here.
Yes, coaches play favorites. Yes, players get forced into roster management decisions. Yes, coaches lie to cover things up. Yes, teams have friction when they see one player treated differently than others would be.
In other words, the article reveals business as usual at Florida, at least from where I stand. Some players get to do things their counterparts would be instantly dismissed for. It is not an indictment of the coach or the system; it just is the cost of doing business. It isn't right or wrong. It just is.
The larger takeaway from this article is not what was going on at Florida. Rather, it is that people are still amazed by this—that people still buy into the public message of a coach based upon news clips and sound bites from a guy they have never actually met and do not know.
There are two standard principles that so many in college football would benefit from if they would just adopt them: 1) Your program is not that different, and 2) don't buy into everything your coach says.
College football programs from coast to coast, especially at the BCS level, have more in common than most folks care to realize. Yes, you, Big Ten, and you, Pac-12, have more in common with the SEC than you want to admit.
Every program has the kids who smoke pot. Every program has the kids who get drunk and do dumb things. Every program has kids who end up as the coach's favorites because of who their dads are, or the high school they're from, or because they score touchdowns at a rapid rate.
That's just what it is.
The players who are not the favorites—they know they don't have as long a leash. The players who are the favorites—they know it too. When you're on a team, you know where you stand in the hierarchy of the roster. The walk-on the coach likes more than a lot of scholarship guys—everyone knows it. The star that doesn't actually have to go to class—he knows it. This is not a unique Urban Meyer or Florida thing.
Now, as far as coaches go, stop believing every feel-good thing you see in your paper. If you have to believe that your coach is a good guy because he says he is, then perhaps college football is not for you. Take all of those high moral standings and the we-do-things-different rhetoric with a grain of salt. It's posturing at its finest—the selling of an image in an effort to elevate themselves above the mud they all so commonly wade in.
Would you be surprised to find out similar things happen at another school?
In an age where we've seen coach after coach after coach go down for something people didn't expect, the time is now to stop buying what they are selling. He is just a man, as fallible as any, attempting to do a job. His job is high-pressure, and he relies on 17- to 23-year-old young men to execute his vision. Anyone who has worked with that age group knows there are some kids you like and some kids you don't, some kids you give rope to and some kids who aren't worth the headache.
That's not based upon behavior or maturity level. That's based upon need. The ones you need and the ones you like get the little extra, and the ones you don't need as badly or don't like, they get the short end of things.
This is college football as it exists now, folks. To be quite honest, I'm a bit pleased with how some of what Meyer did went down. That medical hardship situation was a lot better than forcing a lifetime running back to the defensive line with an ultimatum of transfer or take the hardship.
As for the suspensions that were lied about publicly, he still sat the guys out per university policy. If he was really slimy, he'd have just played them, but he didn't; he just lied about why they weren't playing.
In the grand scheme of things, there is too much to actually be mad about in college football for this to be a sticking point. Get upset about how players get treated across the board, not just in this Meyer reveal. Be bothered by the NCAA president saying he wishes he got exploited like the players. Be mad that players have to sit out a year when coaches who change jobs can go on a whim and a bigger paycheck. One coach, acting like the rest of coaches, is not the thing that should get folks worked up.