Urban Meyer and Aaron Hernandez have been irreversibly linked to each other for years now since their days at the University of Florida. With Hernandez being charged with first-degree murder, that link was put under the microscope by just about anybody and everybody.
But the latest piece of news could potentially be the most damaging to Meyer's reputation.
A new Rolling Stone piece on Hernandez alleged that the former Gators star evaded any public punishment for multiple positive drug tests and any involvement in an assault and shooting while at Florida.
The alleged incidents in this report aren't anything new, as reports of these actions have been around for awhile.
Rolling Stone attempted to tease the article as a scathing rebuke of Meyer's handling of the troubled star while at Florida, but a reading of the article fails to come to the same conclusion.
Instead, the article seems to shed light on Meyer as someone that did more than most in Hernandez's life to get him on the right path during his time in Gainesville.
For most, their minds are already made up about Meyer. There is rarely a gray area when it comes to the polarizing coach. Either you already think the latest twist is just further proof of Meyer's shortcomings, or you think Meyer did what he was hired to do—win football games—and he can't be expected to control or police every single one of the 120-plus players in the program.
Allegations aside, the Rolling Stone article tried to balance the issues.
An excerpt from the article highlights former assistant John Hevesy's take:
Meyer had a rep for reforming players who’d had trouble elsewhere with the law. And he tried, God knows, to convert Hernandez; did everything short of an exorcism. “But there’s only so much you can do in three years,” says John Hevesy, Hernandez’s position coach with the Gators and now a coach at Mississippi State. “Bristol had him for 17 before he came to us. In the end, I guess, that trumped what we put in.”
Reading that, one comes away with the impression that Meyer ultimately knew exactly who he was dealing with and attempted to give Hernandez as much attention and guidance as one person could.
That hardly paints Meyer as some uncaring, football-first monster some have portrayed him to be.
However, the Rolling Stone article also points out the allegation that coaches and Gators administrators tried to handle an issue Hernandez created by settling with the victim of a Hernandez attack instead of letting the cops take care of it:
He (Meyer) assigned Mike and Maurkice Pouncey, twin All-American linemen, to baby-sit Hernandez, and detailed Tim Tebow, the truest of believers, to be his life instructor. But even Tebow couldn’t save him from himself once Hernandez got a few beers in his system. The pair went out that April to a bar near campus, where the underage Hernandez had an argument with a waiter and punched him in the head as he walked away. Michael Taphorn suffered a ruptured eardrum, but didn’t press charges on Hernandez, telling the cops he was talking to Florida coaches, according to a police report. The matter seems to have been settled quietly out of court, which was fine with Gainesville cops and the DA. They treated the punch-out as a juvie offense, giving Hernandez a deferred prosecution on the hush.
Perhaps the biggest problem for Meyer is that some might reasonably infer that the school's and his actions had more to do with keeping a talented football player on the field to help him win a National Championship than doing what was right for the kid and his future.
True or not, there is no doubt the continued allegations and discussion of Meyer's tolerance level is very damaging to the reputation of a man who tries hard to show publicly that he's a good person and should be trusted with the well-being of kids heading off to college.
These latest allegations, however, shouldn't do too much damage to Meyer's reputation, because his reputation was already seriously scarred.
Ultimately, it will be the parents of the kids Meyer is recruiting that will be the judge, jury and executioner of Meyer's reputation. To this point, the previous allegations appear to have had little to no effect on his ability to attract top talent to Ohio State, where he is putting together a stellar 2014 class and already has commitments from top 2015 recruits as well.
Will the newest revelations make some of those being recruited by Meyer think twice, or will they see a coach who showed concern for a clearly troubled individual and allow their sons to play for him? Only time will tell.
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