July 8th, 2013 01:00 PM║ Posted By: John Pennington ║ Permalink
║ Schools: Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, LSU, Mississippi State, Missouri, Ole Miss, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas A&M, Vanderbilt
Tags: Gators, NCAA, NFL, SEC, UF
It’s one of the oldest and most successful dodges in all the world. It can be used in various settings from political debates to press conferences, newspaper columns to blogs, and tweets to family arguments.
It’s as simple as this:
Person A asks a question.
Person B takes that question, exaggerates it, and then shoots down the exaggeration in an effort to avoid the actual question.
And that’s the end of the initial question. At least in theory.
We bring this up because we’re reading a lot about how former Florida football coach Urban Meyer is being “blamed” for the crimes allegedly committed by former Gator tight end Aaron Hernandez. Meyer has said it’s “irresponsible” to blame him. Meyer’s family has taken to Twitter to defend their paterfamilias as well. Even in-your-face CBSSports.com columnist Gregg Doyel has jumped in to take Meyer’s side and accuse people of “blaming” the UF coach (and/or Patriots’ coach Bill Belichick) for Hernandez’s alleged crimes.
The trouble with all of the blame talk is pretty easy to spot. Or not spot, as it were. Meaning: I have not found anyone — at least not anyone who’s ever been handed an actual press credential at some point in their life — who has said Meyer was “responsible” for the death of Odin Lloyd (and possibly others).
Not one serious column or opinion piece has claimed that Lloyd (and possibly others) would be alive today if Meyer had handled things differently with his former star tight end.
I have seen people ask what the hell kind of ship Meyer was running while in Gainesville. But that’s been going on since Meyer was actually running said ship in said city. When you have 31 players arrested between 2005 and 2010 you can expect some questions. When the majority of those players don’t miss serious playing time, you can expect even more queries.
I personally pointed out on June 27th that — in my opinion — from a disciplinary standpoint it sure looked like Meyer had more interest in keeping his players on the field than in teaching them life lessons. I called that “enabling.” Pat Dooley of The Gainesville Sun quickly responded that Meyer had held Bible study sessions with none other than Hernandez right in the coach’s very own domicile. Why, at that point I almost felt bad about questioning the Gators’ discipline under Meyer.
But then I remembered that love, hugs and Bible studies can also be provided for suspended players, too. And when a player fails multiple drug tests, is arrested in a bar fight at age 17, and is questioned as part of an investigation into a shooting — call me crazy — but a meaningful suspension from football might be in order.
At Florida under Meyer, that wasn’t the case for Hernandez. Now, he did have to sit out one game as part of the school’s official drug policy, but as I pointed out in this site’s previous column on the topic, Meyer didn’t want anyone to even know that his guy had been suspended. Rather than admit that Hernandez had broken an unspecified team rule, Meyer claimed that Hernandez just hadn’t gotten himself ready to play that week.
Folks, look up “players’ coach” in the dictionary and you’ll find a photo of the ex-UF and current Ohio State head coach smiling back at you.
But is writing any of that actually blaming Meyer for what happened with Hernandez a few years later in Massachusetts? I don’t think so. I think it’s stating that Meyer liked to spare the rod on the disciplinary front. I think it’s questioning — questioning, mind you — whether that tack is the best approach to take when dealing with repeat offenders, of which there were several at Florida under the Meyer regime.
To suggest that asking questions about Meyer’s tenure at Florida is blaming him for Hernandez’s actions later in life is an exaggeration that simplifies and misrepresents what I and so many others are now writing. (See: The beginning of this column.)
This is a site that has covered the Southeastern Conference objectively for five years. Hernandez played at an SEC school under a coach who had a reputation for looking the other way when his players got into trouble. I can assure you, I would have written the same things had Hernandez gotten into his current mess after playing for any other SEC coach whose program had been the subject of so many off-the-field scrapes with so little punishment handed out in response.
It’s not unfair in the least to question what a coach knew about his players’ activities and how he responded to them. Did the coach use a look-the-other-way policy to keep his players on the field? See? That’s a fair question. Here’s another: Did the coach try to teach his players right from wrong by taking away the one and only currency that matters to NFL wannabes at big-time programs — playing time?
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