Yes, it would have been better if Urban Meyer had left the can of worms closed.
Now that Meyer has defended himself and the University of Florida football program in connection with the background and history of Aaron Hernandez, Meyer has invited increased scrutiny of the players he recruited. As pointed out by Greg Bishop of the New York Times, at least 31 players were arrested during Meyer’s run from 2005 through 2010 as the Gators’ head coach.
The types of alleged crimes extended far beyond the garden-variety hell-raising stuff, with one player accused of making 70 charges on a credit card belonging to a woman who had died in a motorcycle accident, and another player stealing a laptop and throwing the computer out the window when police arrived. (Yep, that guy currently plays quarterback for the Panthers.)
The Hernandez situation, which has shed new light on an unsolved shooting from 2007, highlights a bigger question: How many players avoided arrest, thanks to local law-enforcement officials who didn’t want to undermine the football program?
A spokesman for the Gainesville Police Department told Bishop that Gators players did not receive special treatment under Meyer.
“Any time an athlete is arrested, it makes the news,” Ben Tobias told Bishop via email. “We recognize that and understand that.”
Tobias is right; and if the arrest can be avoided, news is never made.
All indications are that, arrests or not, Meyer didn’t care, as long as the team was successful. It’s a reality that Rams cornerback Janoris Jenkins, who was tolerated by Meyer but kicked out of school by his successor, Will Muschamp, astutely recognized in 2011.
“If Coach Meyer were still coaching, I’d still be playing for the Gators,” Jenkins said at the time. “Coach Meyer knows what it takes to win.”
The Gators indeed won. But the program and its former coach are now losing, and it feels like it’s quickly getting worse.