Although Crystal Ball Run is primarily a college football-themed website, we couldn’t help but take notice a few weeks back when the good folks at SI released an in-depth report on the UCLA basketball program. Teased as a “shocking, tell-all report” the story turned out to be a lot sizzle and not all that much steak, detailing problems that some of UCLA’s players had with drugs and alcohol, and the general oversights that coach Ben Howland had in steering the ship. It was bad stuff sure, but certainly not the shocking expose we were all expecting.
And when the report came out, we at Crystal Ball Run had ourselves a discussion and wondered aloud: Wait, doesn’t every college football program in the country basically have the same problems?
Well, apparently the answer is yes, at least during Urban Meyer’s last few years at Florida. Today the Sporting News put out a report detailing the rapid rise and very quick fall of the Gators football program, with most of the report centered around rampant drug use by members of the football team, a general disregard for coaches and fellow staff members, and above all, a sense of entitlement for the Gators best players.
Hmm? Where have we heard that before? Oh yeah, in pretty much every major college football program everywhere. Sometimes it’s reported for the world to know, and sometimes it isn’t.
Anyway, if you haven’t read the report, let’s first get to the particulars. Amongst the worst allegations as reported by the Sporting News are as follows:
– Several of Florida’s best players (including Percy Harvin, Brandon Spikes and Aaron Hernandez) were withheld from the 2008 season-opener for failing drug tests. According to unnamed sources all three were healthy, and had practiced that week, yet the drug tests went unreported.
– At one point Harvin “physically attacked” wide receivers coach Billy Gonzales, grabbed his neck and threw him to the ground. Whether it was due to the alleged attack or not, Gonzales left Florida for LSU at the end of that season.
– Harvin had another outburst during off-season workouts, refused to participate any further, and told the strength and conditioning coaches “This (expletive) ends now.” The workouts were allegedly changed the next day.
– Cornerback Janoris Jenkins- who had multiple arrests during his time in Gainesville- once walked out on a postgame speech, and was never punished. He was later kicked off the team when Will Muschamp arrived at Florida in the spring of 2011.
– To keep Florida at the NCAA’s 85 scholarship threshold, Meyer used questionable tactics in forcing out underperforming players. According to former defensive back Bryan Thomas, Thomas was forced to take a medical hardship against his will to make room for an incoming recruit.
So there are the facts, and with them the same question I asked at the beginning of this article: Is any of that all different than anything else that is going on at any other program in the country? Plus, given what we already knew about Meyer’s time at Florida, is any of this really shocking? Remember, when Meyer left Florida it was with a reputation as “Urban the Enabler.” To me, this article is nothing more than 2,000 words of stuff which we already pretty much already knew.
As a matter of fact, as I reflect on the Meyer era at Florida, I can’t help but think that most of the stuff in the story is actually less bad than things that we already knew? Is anything reported today worse than Carlos Dunlap’s arrest the week of the 2009 SEC Championship Game? Is any of it worse than Cam Newton getting in trouble for the theft of a laptop computer? Is it any worse than the “cloud” of weed related incidents that followed Janoris Jenkins around from virtually the second he stepped onto campus? I say not.
And even when players weren’t explicitly breaking the law, it’s also no secret that at best, Meyer wasn’t recruiting the best role-models, but instead the best football players. Will Hill’s character was called into question after some sexually suggestive tweets, and even worse, Jenkins’ draft stock has plummeted as details of his personal life have been revealed. Beyond just the marijuana, Jenkins has fathered four children by three different women, which has to be some sort of sad, pathetic record for a 23-year-old.
But beyond that, this piece doesn’t really speak to the “culture in Florida’s football program” as much as just “the culture on college campuses nationwide.” Many of us went to college, and all of us were 19, 20 and 21-years-old at some point. Most of us did stuff just as bad- if not worse- than what Florida’s players are accused of doing. Teenage kids use marijuana. They rebel against authority. Go to any college campus, in any part of the country, and all the same stuff is happening. If anything, you’d probably see worse things in any University of Florida frat house than you would in this report.
In the end, the Sporting News piece is definitely worth a read, and to author Matthew Hayes’ credit, it is in fact an excellent, well-researched, well-reported piece of journalism.
But if you’re expecting to be surprised by any of the content in the report, well, you’ll be sorely disappointed.
For updates on all his articles, insights and more, be sure to follow Aaron Torres on Twitter @Aaron_Torres.