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Urban Meyer Helped Create "Character Issues" He Left Behind at Florida

The Sporting News’ Matt Hayes published a piece today, implicating Urban Meyer for a competitive and moral decline at Florida. Meyer allegedly told prized recruit Stephon Diggs during recruiting “character issues” would prevent him sending his own son to play at Florida. Hayes believes the culture Meyer created engendered those issues.

Hayes alleges Meyer created a climate of favoritism, lumping talented players into a “circle of trust.” He purportedly masked these players from publicly failed drug tests through fake injuries and even went so far as to tailor training regimes to players’ whims. One former player told Hayes “the players had taken complete control of the team.”

In the season opener against Hawaii, Meyer said a few elite players (including wideout Percy Harvin, linebacker Brandon Spikes and tight end Aaron Hernandez) would miss the game with injuries. According to multiple sources, the three players—all critical factors in Florida’s rise under Meyer—failed drug tests for marijuana and were sitting out as part of standard university punishment…

During offseason conditioning before the 2007 season, the team was running stadium steps and at one point, Harvin, according to sources, sat down and refused to run. When confronted by strength and conditioning coaches, Harvin—who failed to return calls and texts to his cell phone to comment on this story—said, “This (expletive) ends now.” “The next day,” a former player said, “we were playing basketball as conditioning.”

This purportedly led to entitlement, indiscipline and drug use. Multiple Florida players had  their NFL careers affected by marijuana use. Percy Harvin allegedly was not disciplined for grabbing then wide receivers coach Billy Gonzales “by the neck and throwing him to the ground.” Will Muschamp had to eradicate the climate after his arrival in Florida. Janoris Jenkins testified to the different discipline standards.

When he was dismissed from the team by Muschamp, Jenkins told the Orlando Sentinel: “If (Meyer) was still the coach at Florida, I’d still be there.”

Hayes also reveals the specifics of Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema’s accusations about Meyer’s illegal recruiting at Ohio State. It was not just about the “gentlemen’s agreement.”

Wisconsin accused Meyer and his staff of using former Ohio State NFL players to call high school recruits. Wisconsin also accused Meyer and his staff of bumping into offensive lineman Kyle Dodson, who was committed to the Badgers but eventually flipped and signed with the Buckeyes. The practice of “bumping” occurs when coaches accidentally “bump” into players during recruiting dead periods.

Meyer’s motives aren’t clear, thus, we can’t really project how this affects his tenure at Ohio State. A foul climate at Florida developed. Some of Meyer’s actions contributed to it. What we don’t know is if he did this deliberately, if he made mistakes or if he did things he thought were wrong to succeed. Is this something hard-wired and essential to his success or something Meyer can and wants to do differently?

The accusations are blunted a bit by the anonymous, potentially biased, sourcing. We would also question how abnormal any of this is at a major program. Marijuana use is ubiquitous on college campuses, football players or not. He’s not the first to use the “we’re not going to call this a suspension” tactic. Four guys testing positive for marijuana or Bill Belichick mentioning it is not evidence of an epidemic or neglect. Though Harvin’s alleged attack of a coach, if it happened as described, is awful and inexcusable, talented people, in any walk of life, are held to different standards, especially when it involves direct competition.

[Photo via Getty]

 

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