Matt Hayes of The Sporting News is taking former Florida coach Urban Meyer to task today for creating a culture at UF that “gutted what was four years earlier the most powerful program in college football.”
The lengthy piece claims that Meyer’s lassez faire attitude led to the players taking “complete control of the team,” according to one former, anonymous Gator. The three-month investigation revealed — in Hayes’ words — “just how damaged the infrastructure really was and how much repair work second-year coach Will Muschamp has had to undertake in replacing Meyer.”
Among the juiciest tidbits:
* Meyer — now at Ohio State — allegedly told a recruit’s family this winter that he would not let his son go to Florida due to character issues in the school’s locker room. Meyer denies the charge and it does seem like an odd recruiting ploy… seeing as how Meyer was the one who recruited most of the UF team.
* Meyer’s resignation was tied to the roster that he’d built. “Left in the wake of Meyer’s resignation were problems that can destroy a coaching career: drug use among players, a philosophy of preferential treatment for certain players, a sense of entitlement among all players and roster management by scholarship manipulation.”
* Former Florida safety Bryan Thomas told The Sporting News that “The program was out of control.”
* Ex-Gator Percy Harvin was supposedly given preferential treatment on a repeated basis. When he failed a drug test, the coach told the press he was injured. When he allegedly physically attacked then-receivers coach Billy Gonzales, he wasn’t disciplined.
* New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick — who became friends with Meyer and drafted Brandon Spikes and Aaron Hernandez from UF — reportedly knew so much about the team’s drug use that he warned the current Florida team this offseason to put the marijuana down and “don’t be like” those previous Gator players.
It goes on from there. Thomas — it should be pointed out — was told by Meyer to “move on” because knee injuries began to hinder his career in 2009. So one of Hayes’ sources clearly has a bone to pick with his ex-coach.
However, many of the things Hayes writes of today have been hinted at, suggested, and rumored to be true for a long while. If you’ve followed Florida’s football program closely over the years, there’s nothing above that should stand out as an “oh, my goodness” shocker.
Taken as a whole, The Sporting News report tells us three things:
1. Ohio State probably made a bigger gamble with Meyer than most Buckeye fans realize. We said that at the time of his hiring, too.
2. Muschamp did not inherit a stable situation at Florida. Some talent? No doubt. But some diva attitudes and outlaw personalities to go with it.
3. Meyer’s greatest successes at Florida should be traced back to Tim Tebow, not Meyer.
As we’ve written before, Tebow proved in Denver this past season just what kind of impact he can have on a locker room and the confidence within it. We believe he deserves credit for UF’s national titles under Meyer, not the coach. For even with the coach playing favorites, the players smoking pot, and character issues all around, Florida still managed to go 39-7 (27-5 in the SEC) with Tebow on the roster, on the practice field and in the locker room.
Without Tebow’s presence on the team, Meyer went just 17-8 overall and just 9-7 in the league. Coincidence? We at MrSEC do not think so.
Reading Hayes’ piece and seeing the work Tebow did in getting a 1-4 Denver squad into the NFL’s final round of eight last season, it’s even more clear that the real leadership in Gainesville from 2006 to 2009 came from Tebow, not from his head coach.