Media Scrutiny of Florida Falls Short of Precedent

Mike PettiganoCorrespondent IJune 17, 2009

MIAMI - JANUARY 08:  Dorian Munroe #20, Major Wright #21 and Ahmad Black #35 of the Florida Gators celebrate with the trophy after defeating the Oklahoma Sooners in the FedEx BCS National Championship Game at Dolphin Stadium on January 8, 2009 in Miami, Florida. The Gators won the game by a score of 24-14.  (Photo by Donald Miralle/Getty Images)

Remember the outrage that swept across the college football universe when Penn State football players were getting into regular legal trouble? There were calls that Joe Paterno lost control of his team, that he was recruiting bad eggs just to win games, and Penn State had lost its image of a stand-up football program. And anyone who came out to defend the program and its iconic coach was beaten down with accusation of homerism and just plain whining.

Funny how things change when the team in question just finished up winning its second national championship in three years.

Questions have come up recently about just how wholesome the Florida Gators have been under Urban Meyer. There have been several arrests since Meyer came on board in 2005, including several of players he recruited.

Well, as with any high-profile team, scrutiny is amplified in these situations. Yet for some reason, no one is telling the Florida homers that it's time to stop the whining

In a June 11 article, Kevin Brockway of The Gainesville Sun, wrote: 

"References were made [by rival schools' fans] to Florida as "The University of Felons," just as references were made to Florida State as "Free Shoes University" in the 1990s and Miami as "The Bad Boys" in the 1980s following the Hurricanes' repeated disciplinary problems. 
"This time there was a similar outcry from national news outlets for the reigning champion Gators to clean up their act. But is the recent controversy justified? 
"A survey of court records from The Sun has revealed: Florida players have been charged with crimes in 24 cases during Meyer's four years as coach; There have been 21 arrests, with three more players issued citations and later booked on charges; Of the 24 cases in which players have been charged, nine of those charges were for felonies; Charges involving eight of the 24 cases either were dropped or not pursued; The arrest rate for Florida players is comparable to the rate for the entire student body."

That's right, now that the tables have turned onto the Gator nation, complaints are circulating that the accusations of wide-spread delinquency within the program cannot be backed up or are being based off of twisted statistics.

Let me just say one thing to Gator fans: You don't know the half of it.

Where are the constant daily updates on sports media sites about your teams' criminal trends? Where is Outside the Lines with one of their trademark hatchet jobs? Where are the doubters saying that your program and its successes are just product of lower standards?

That's right, none of that is out there. So, stop whining.

So Florida has had 24 players charged the last four seasons, which averages out to six per year. The average number per year at Penn State from 2002-08 (the years in question by OTL)? 7.6, and that's going by the same metric as Florida: players charged, regardless of what happened later in the case.

Because, as many readers here know, if the number of Penn State players actually convicted is used, then the numbers are quite different:


"The court documents seemed to form the back bone of the investigation. ESPN trots out the 46 players charged since 2002 but only 27 have been found guilty. I'm not here to say that all 46 didn't do anything wrong, however, it isn't a good faith move to cite 46 charges but then bury the 27 convictions. If charges were dismissed it means that the person is in fact not guilty so why trot it out as a shock statistic. -- TINNOMJ, 7/28/08

According to Brockway's article, only 16 Florida players have been convicted since 2005, about fpur per year. What do you get if you divide up those 27 Penn State convictions over the six years uner the microscope? 4.5, which is actually more consistent with the average rate of conviction for Florida players under Meyer, as opposed to just players charged or arrested.

So, Florida homers, why the hell are you complaining about a little more attention being paid to your team's criminal run-ins? You have absolutely NOTHING to complain about.

Penn State was run through the media gauntlet because it had a half-player more than the Gators convicted per year.

Brockway asked in his article if the media attention was justified. Well, YES.

Excuses and explainations were shunned by critics when Penn State loyalists tried to defend their team, regardless of whether they were valid retorts or not.

Nine of the Florida players arrested were from Meyer's first recruiting class. The excuse for that? Well, Meyer only had a month to put that class together. Ok, so Meyer needed good players to win right away. I mean, he'd have the chance to recruit better character after he won, right?

Funny, because no one seemed to care when it was Paterno trying to win more games, then worry about the details later. And he was coming off a 7-16 run without the benefit of great recruting classes going in (Ron Zook was a great recruiter at UF, just not a great game coach).

Other schools have had much worse arrest records during the last four seasons. So of course, Floridians are crying foul for singling out the Gators. Georgia has had 30 arrests. Tennessee has had 21. What he heck? (Tim Tebow wouldn't approve of using curse words in that argument)

You know, I might take that argument against the media scrutiny into consideration, if it weren't for the TWO national titles won by Meyer in that timeframe. Georgia and Tennessee: Zero.

Florida is the highest of the high-profile programs right now. Yes, even higher than USC (C'mon, those Trojans are sooo 2004). And when you're the premier team in college football, on track to win three national titles in four years, then yes, you will be given much more attention in every respect.

It could be argued that not only did Penn State not deserve the lambasting by the media last year, but that Florida is being let off the hook. The stats are eerily similar, as are the situations and excuses.

And if I wanted to really throw off the balance of the two situations, I'd mention that Penn State had to combat the ruthless tyranny of a nut-job radical District Attorney, who was well-known to be on a political crusade against the Penn State football team. I doubt Florida coaches and players have to worry about fighting a corrupt justice department, in addition to the actual, valid criminal cases.

I suggest those out there who are outraged that Florida is being scrutinized so harshly by the media just stop whining, take a deep breath, then zip it. This is nothing new, and the Gators are hardly being given the worst of it. But we can't tell them that, because, I mean, it's Florida.