Urban Meyer’s first public comment on the allegations against his former Florida player, Aaron Hernandez, came a week ago when he said: “I’m not going to talk about that.’’
Now, Meyer can’t shut up “about that.”
And that’s too bad, because he should. Meyer’s attempt to cover his ass is doing a disservice to the sport and higher education.
In texts to the Columbus Dispatch and the Gainesville Sun over the weekend, Meyer said this: “Relating or blaming these serious charges to the University of Florida, myself or our staff is wrong and irresponsible.”
And by the strictest definition of the words Meyer chose, he’s right. Hernandez, technically, has no one to blame but himself for the predicament he’s in.
Meyer, though, is masterful in purposely missing the point.
He’s the same guy who, by his own admission, learned in 2007 that Hernandez – then a freshman and legally a juvenile – and other players were questioned in a double shooting in Gainesville and “didn’t think about it again until a couple of days ago.’’
He’s the same guy who, in interviews, chose to have major beef with the exact number of failed drug tests Hernandez had at Florida.
And you don’t think that, in a small town like Gainesville, that Meyer would have been the last to learn about Hernandez being accused of punching a man so hard in a bar fight that he suffered a ruptured eardrum.
Couple that with this twitter defense of Meyer by his wife, Shelley:
‘When will we start holding individuals accountable for their own decisions/actions and stop blaming any/everyone else?”
So a titan of the college coaching profession paints himself and his school as victims.
We’re not responsible is Meyer’s lament.
Still … as the state taxpayer-supported university, with a mandate to guide vulnerable and volatile teenagers into adulthood and toward a balanced, informed maturity, for what exactly is Florida responsible? And for what should it be held accountable?
Especially – most of all, actually – when it comes to the revenue-sports athletes particularly football), who somehow manage to be the most privileged yet the most abused students on nearly every big campus.
College coaches love waving the “teacher/mentor/surrogate father” flag when it suits them. It never suits them more than when they’re slinging it at a recruit’s parents, when a super grade-point average or graduation rate is there to be claimed, or when it’s time to buff the “purity” myth that earns billions from TV contracts and ticket sales.
Meyer knows this better than anybody. Long ago, he latched himself to Tim Tebow, the Heisman trophy winner and national title hero. In the same initial interview in which he refused to talk about Hernandez, he noted that he talks to Tebow every week, four years into his NFL career.
Who knew that the guy in Tebow’s NFL draft class—the fellow Florida star— who could have used a weekly line of communication with the influential coach was Hernandez?
So Meyer is not wrong in saying he can’t have Hernandez’s bad turn pinned on him.
But how often, if at all, has he asked himself what else he could have done, what he might have missed, where he wished he’d have formed a fraction of the bond that he has with his squeaky-clean, well-grounded quarterback?
If he did try—as he has suggested—to “mentor” Hernandez, did he put as much into it as he could have?
Or just as much as he felt legally liable to—without distracting him from game-planning for Ole Miss?
Did he ever sense that being employed by a university brought on any more obligations than winning football games?
On that, Meyer’s first words are the most fitting.
“I’m not going to talk about that.”