Things have seemed mostly pretty rosy for Urban Meyer and Ohio State since he took over the Buckeyes in November. But a Sporting News piece published on Monday takes a highly critical look at Meyer's tenure at Florida, saying he enabled bad actions by star players and left the program in turmoil.
The story by Matt Hayes cites several unnamed former players and sources who claim that Meyer had a "circle of trust" for his most talented players, and that they could get away with serious misdeeds. Those alleged actions include failed drug tests, insubordination and, most shockingly, attacking a position coach.
Hayes writes that former Gators star Percy Harvin was among the most coddled players and that he once grabbed receivers coach Billy Gonzales by the neck and threw him to the ground. Harvin, the story says, never was disciplined for the incident, and Gonzales left for LSU not long afterward. Gonzales, who is now the co-offensive coordinator at Illinois, told the Sporting News: "I think it’s a little overblown. I mean, every great player wants his voice to be heard."
The story says drug use was rampant at Florida to the point where New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick addressed it when he spoke to the team recently.
Meyer denied most of the claims in the story and had this to say to the Sporting News:
“I am very proud of our guys that played at Florida,” Meyer said. “Are there issues? Yes there are with 18-22-year-olds. I have been criticized that I have been too lenient on players; that doesn’t concern me. We are going to go out of our way to mentor, educate and discipline guys the way we see fit to make sure they’re headed in the right direction. Are we perfect? I never said that. We do the best we can and I think our record has been really positive in the impact we’ve made on those people.”
The story also addresses the recruiting flap between Meyer and Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema that became public around signing day. Writes Hayes:
"According to sources, Wisconsin accused Meyer and his staff of using former Ohio State NFL players to call high school recruits. Wisconsin also accused Meyer and his staff of bumping into offensive lineman Kyle Dodson, who was committed to the Badgers but eventually flipped and signed with the Buckeyes. The practice of “bumping” occurs when coaches accidentally “bump” into players during recruiting dead periods. Both the alleged phone calls and bumping are NCAA violations."
Meyer denied violating any NCAA rules during recruiting.
There's no question that Florida, which won two national titles in four years under Meyer, hasn't been the same the past few seasons. Hayes' story charges that Meyer lost control of the program and then fled the scene of the destruction. I'm not sure this story will do much to change the minds of Ohio State fans, who see Meyer as the one to take them back to the top of college football. The question with Meyer in Columbus has always been whether he's built for the long haul there.