Urban Meyer's Legacy at Florida Was Tarnished Well Before 2013

Barrett Sallee@BarrettSalleeSEC Football Lead WriterJuly 9, 2013

Over the weekend, the piling on Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer continued.

Meyer was forced to answer questions about the University of Florida football program he coached from 2005-10 after The New York Times reported that a staggering 41 of the 121 players listed on Florida's 2008 national championship roster had either been arrested while at Florida or after leaving there.

This was on the heels of reports of several incidents involving former Gators tight end Aaron Hernandez during his time in Gainesville, including a bar fight and a 2007 shooting. Hernandez was arrested last month and charged with first-degree murder in the death of Odin Lloyd in Massachusetts.

"Relating or blaming these serious charges to University of Florida, myself or our staff is wrong and irresponsible," Meyer said in a text sent to The Gainesville Sun.

The abundance of arrests from the 2008 title team and the seemingly constant enabling of Hernandez begs the question: Was Florida out of control?

Well, yes. Of course it was.

That's not new information.

In his six years at the helm, 31 Gators were arrested. That's right, 31.

Those arrests varied from standard incidents in any college town, like alcohol-related escapades, to more serious arrests—including Chris Rainey's stalking charge after texting "time to die" to his girlfriend, and Jamar Hornsby being accused of running up charges on the credit card of a Florida student who had died in a motorcycle crash six months earlier.

Simply put, the Florida football program kept lawyers like Huntley Johnson busy (h/t Wall Street Journal). Johnson is a Gainesville-based criminal defense attorney who, according to the report, has defended dozens of Gators football players in a variety of cases, including felony burglary. 

Does the Hernandez story and the laundry list of legal incidents tarnish Meyer's legacy at Florida? 

Of course not.

His legacy was already etched in stone as a coach who brought the program back to its national prominence with players who struggled with off-the-field discipline. Matt Hayes of Sporting News published a feature in the spring of 2012 detailing how broken Florida was under Meyer.

“The program was out of control," admitted former Florida safety Bryan Thomas.

Does that mean Meyer should be criticized for Hernandez's actions? No. 

Meyer's wife, Shelley, was right when she took to Twitter to defend her husband.

When will we start holding individuals accountable for their own decisions/actions and stop blaming any/everyone else? #liveyourliferight

— Shelley Meyer (@spinnershells) July 3, 2013

Could more have been done to put Hernandez on the right path during his time at Gainesville? Probably.

But hindsight is 20/20, and it's almost impossible to control the actions of 120 or more 18- to 22-year-old young men at all hours of the day. 

Meyer's Florida program was a juggernaut during his six-year run, including two BCS national championships, two SEC titles and three division crowns. The resume he posted during his short stint will go down as one of the most successful runs in SEC history.

But the arrest record is also a major part of that narrative and has been for quite some time.


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