Sun Sentinel Columnist
10:14 PM EDT, July 7, 2013
Urban Meyer inhabits a strange parallel world where nothing bad that happens involves him, where others are accountable in a manner he isn't and where critics take potshots without regard to facts.
Here is what Meyer texted in response to growing questions about his treatment at the University of Florida of former tight end and current murder suspect Aaron Hernandez:
"He was an athlete at Florida 4-to-7 years ago and there are some comments being made that are not correct,'' Meyer, the former Florida and current Ohio State coach, texted this weekend to the Gainesville Sun. "Our staff, myself and our families worked very hard to mentor and guide him …
"Relating or blaming these serious charges to Univ. of Florida, myself or our staff is wrong and irresponsible."
If only it was that simple. If only Meyer — or any coach — could wash his hands with a simple text saying people are accountable for their own actions. Which is true, of course.
Meyer is right there. People are accountable for their lives. Not coaches. Not teams. But there are two issues involved here, and Meyer took the easy one to absolve himself of blame and protect his brand.
The second issue is trickier for Meyer to text his way out. Ask a University of Miami fan. They operated under a national cloud for years after their era of arrests, titles and image issues.
The same stain is there for Florida in the Hernandez saga. It involves the culture Meyer developed. It's told more easily and less tragically by involving Janoris Jenkins, a cornerback whose height of petty offenses under Meyer was resisting arrest.
That made Jenkins one of 31 Gators arrested under Meyer, a number now repeated as much as his era's 65 Southeastern Conference wins. After Meyer left, Jenkins was arrested twice in the span of a few weeks for marijuana.
That's not a capital offense. But new coach Will Muschamp judged the repeated arrests with Jenkins' previous problems and kicked him off the team.
"No doubt, if Coach Meyer were still coaching I'd still be playing for the Gators,'' Jenkins told the Orlando Sentinel a year later from North Alabama. "Coach Meyer knows what it takes to win."
Jenkins intended it as a compliment. It rings with condemnation, though, saying exactly how Meyer overvalued winning to the point of allowing the school's name to be stained, to the point of keeping Hernandez despite behavior generously called problematic.
Hernandez was questioned by police after two Gainesville men were shot, admitted to police he punched a bar employee (breaking his ear drum) and also tested positive for marijuana at least once. That's the official docket.
It was enough for the Dolphins to take Hernandez off their draft board, according to a source. They weren't alone. Indianapolis took him off their board, too, former Indianapolis General Manager Bill Polian said on ESPN.
That's how a first- or second-round talent dropped to New England in the fourth round. From purely a football standpoint, drafting Hernandez was a great decision. How many fourth-round picks ever score 18 touchdowns and make a Pro Bowl?
This underlines why Bill Belichick and Meyer are questioned today. They aren't responsible for Hernandez's arrest on a murder charge. They're responsible for seeing a world no larger than a football field.
In Belichick's case, that gets written off more quickly. It's the pros. It's only about winning. But how New England replaces his talent and deals with the salary-cap concerns are why other teams avoided what they saw was a ticking human problem.
Over the years, the Dolphins invested various amounts in dozens of players with issues legal and emotional. Only two worked out: Irving Fryar and Ricky Williams. And Williams took a while.
Maybe that's why coach Joe Philbin is quick to kick anyone with repeated issues off the team.
Surely, though, that's why Meyer needs to get a grip today. He's not responsible for Hernandez being arrested for murder. He's responsible for a culture at Florida where players learned to play football and little else.
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