As we near the start of the 2013 college football season, many of us need to come to the realization that Urban Meyer last coached the Florida Gators in 2010. Two full seasons have passed since Meyer ‘resigned’ as the head coach of the Gators’ football program. Since that time, Jeremy Foley hired a new coach–Will Muschamp–and that coach led the Gators to a BCS bowl following the 2012 season. While that particular game started and ended on a sour note, our focus should be firmly on the man in charge of the Gators now, yet we can’t seem to let go of the fascination with the man that used to coach the Gators. And that fascination is largely a negative one.
I’ll always remember Meyer fondly for two things–the 2006 national championship and the 2008 national championship. You could expand that to bringing certain players to Gainesville as well, but let’s stop with the championships because it’s difficult to accurately predict which players would have gone where had Meyer never taken the job as the head football coach at the University of Florida. Remember, some very bad coaches are great recruiters too. What Meyer did (although some would go as far as to give credit elsewhere even in these instances) is lead the program to two national titles during his six seasons at the helm. The Gators’ football program claims three titles today, two of which were won under Meyer.
There you have it; that’s where Meyer begins and ends for me these days. He was the coach for six seasons and brought two titles. The man now coaches the Ohio State Buckeyes. End of story. Or so you would think
Following the 2008 season, many fans began to sour on Meyer. Once offensive coordinator Dan Mullen left to become the head coach at Mississippi State, Meyer’s offense began to stall. He would produce a 13-1 season in 2009, but fans wondered just how good the Gators really were that year. The following season would be Meyer’s worst as a head coach. The Gators would finish 8-5 and before heading to the Outback Bowl, Meyer would announce he was resigning (for real this time).
Since he’s been gone, fans have continued to grow their hatred for the former Florida head coach. The championships do very little to put him in their favor. They feel he quit on them, on the Gators. If he had truly needed to get away from coaching for an extended period of time, fans may have accepted that, but after only one year off, he ended up in Columbus. Taking over for a program in its own period of turmoil. One season at Ohio State, one undefeated season at Ohio State, and the feelings haven’t changed–Urban Meyer has become the enemy.
The last week did absolutely nothing to get him back into the favor of Florida fans. Gators’ running backs coach Brian White was turned in for illegally ‘bumping’ a prospect–running back Curtis Samuel. The school that turned in White? You guessed it–Ohio State. But then the plot thickened. Not only was it the Buckeyes that turned in White, but it was also supposedly Urban Meyer. A ‘source’ said so, so it has to be true, right? Meyer has denied turning in White and has even gone as far to say he didn’t even know it had occurred, but those pesky sources say he was aware and, if he wasn’t the one that did it, he was at the very least in favor of it.
And we care. For reasons beyond explanation, we care. We care that a man that IS NO LONGER AFFILIATED WITH THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA supposedly (according to those ever-reliable sources) turned in a Gators’ coach for violating an NCAA recruiting rule. Why do we care? Are fans to expect better from someone they can’t stomach? And that right there is why they care. They want to continue to believe Urban Meyer is the bad guy and this story furthers their cause.
Then there’s Aaron Hernandez and a situation completely unrelated to a minor recruiting infraction. A situation in which we should actually side with Meyer. The media has been quick to place blame on what could have caused Hernandez to become the man he is today. The alleged murderer must have had something push him toward his accused actions. Something that couldn’t actually be his fault, right? Enter Urban Meyer.
Known for the high number of arrests during his time at Florida, Meyer was thought by many to care little about discipline when it came to his star players (or in some cases, all of his players). The reality could be that he was attempting to give his players second, and sometimes third, chances. There’s an argument for both sides and one that is raging on again with Hernandez not leaving the headlines in the near future. The truth could be either or a little bit of both, but to place blame on Urban Meyer, the Gators’ coaching staff, or the University of Florida is ridiculous and irresponsible (as Meyer himself has said).
Aaron Hernandez may be a very, very bad man. If he did what he is being accused of doing, Hernandez is not a good person. If that’s the case, the blame is on Hernandez himself. To say his time at Florida turned him into an (alleged) murderer is grasping at every straw you can find. Meyer didn’t cause this and the Florida Gators didn’t cause this. If Hernandez is found to be the one the did in fact kill Odin Lloyd, he did this. If we discover that he was the one that pulled the trigger, that’s a decision he made. The desire to place blame elsewhere is the media’s attempt to enhance the story to unbelievable levels. In other words, it’s a way to get more readers and more page views. It’s also a joke of the worst kind.
In most cases, we want Urban Meyer to be the bad guy. It makes it easier for us to go about our daily lives. He left when the going got tough and Florida fans don’t want to like him anymore. A source said he turned in the Gators. GREAT! Screw that guy! Ohio State loses a game in the future. WOO HOO! Go Michigan! But Aaron Hernandez? No. We must draw the line somewhere and it’s far before that point. The University of Florida isn’t to blame. The Gators’ football program isn’t the blame. Urban Meyer isn’t to blame.