Monday, April 16, 2012

URBAN MEYER SHOWS FAVORITISM TO THOSE PLAYERS WHO PUT IN WORK

Urban Meyer (AP)
Last week, The Sporting News printed an article titled, "From champs to chomped: How Urban Meyer broke Florida football." 

The piece written by TSN writer Matt Hayes, accuses the former University of Florida and current Ohio State head football coach of pandering to talented players, pushing those out who weren't as gifted and "breaking" the current Gators' program because of the aforementioned actions.

Hayes — an Orlando, Florida-based writer — claims he has investigated the program for several years and used testimony of former Florida safety Bryan Thomas as his key witness. The rest of the testimony was given by unnamed players.

In the article, players allegedly accused Meyer of having a "circle of trust" — meaning he allowed those who were extremely talented to metaphorically get away with murder.

For instance, during the opener of the 2008 season — a year which the Gators won their second national title under Meyer — one of the unnamed sources (allegedly) stated that star players Percy Harvin, Brandon Spikes and Aaron Hernandez were placed on the injured list, when they actually were serving punishment for failing drug tests.

"They were running with us on the first team all week in practice. The next thing you know, they're on the sidelines with a (walking) boot for the season opener like they were injured," a former player said according to the TSN article.

The article also states that Meyer didn't punish Harvin after having an altercation with an assistant coach during practice.

The Buckeyes' mentor said he doesn't understand the motive of the article.

"Throwing great players — not good players, but great players — under the bus like that ... I don't get the intent," Meyer said during a Big Ten teleconference last week. "I'll fight for those guys. Those guys did a lot of great things for the University of Florida.

"To sit there and call them out four or five years later, I'm just not sure of the intent."

Of course, the Meyer-bashing by the former players didn't end there. Thomas told TSN that the coach tried to force him off the team after suffering a knee injury.

"I told (Meyer) I was on track to graduate, I wasn't a problem and I did everything I was supposed to do — I just had a knee injury," Thomas said. "I told them I wasn't leaving, and if they tried to force me to leave, I was going to tell everyone everything."

According to the article, Thomas was given a medical hardship the next day, meaning the scholarship wouldn't count against the NCAA limit.

"As far as coaching, there's no one else like (Meyer); he's a great coach," Thomas said. "He gets players to do things you never thought you could do. But he's a bad person. He'll win at Ohio State. But if he doesn't change, they're going to have the same problems."

As a journalist, what I am finding difficult to understand is the timing of this article. Why wasn't this written when Meyer was still at Florida? If he had remained in Gainesville, would this author have written the piece bashing a coach whom he voted as the best in America just prior to his resignation? 

And how on Earth could the author, Thomas and the former unnamed (and in my opinion cowardice) players claim that Meyer had "broken" the program? He brought the Gators back from the dead. He gave them two national championships in six years. Doesn't sound too "broken" to this writer.

Actually, it sounds to me like a high school girl who had just gotten dumped by her boyfriend and wants everyone to know what a scum bag he is for doing so.

I'm not the only one who thinks that's the case. 

Terron Sanders, a former University of Florida defensive lineman who played five seasons under Meyer, issued his opinion about the TSN article to GatorTailgating.com.

"We should be thankful for the good things that Urban Meyer brought to this University and the city of Gainesville, and not treat Urban Meyer like an ex who cheated on us with our best friend," Sanders said.

"Nobody is perfect and just because someone doesn't agree with Coach Meyer's coaching tactics or decision to leave for his home school (OSU), that does not make him a bad person."

As for showing star players favoritism ... what coach doesn't, I ask? When these star athletes hold the fate of your employment in the palms of their hands, you are most likely going to give them a little more leeway than a third-string defensive back. Is it right? Probably not. Is it reality? Absolutely!

But what the article — or investigation — forgot to mention were the players Meyer saved who certainly weren't considered "stars." 

Sanders is among them.

"At one point in my career, I was told that at that moment I would not have my scholarship renewed because I was indulging in 'college life' a little too much," Sanders said. "That was my wake up call and I could not thank Coach Meyer enough for that moment.

"He saw something better in me and by pushing me even harder, he brought it out."

Sanders said Meyer recognized the commitment and effort he was putting in and rewarded him with a huge honor.

"A year after that sit-down with my parents and Coach Meyer, I turned my ways around, and he invited me to join the Leadership Committee," Sanders said. "This committee was organized by Coach Meyer and was a compilation of players from each recruiting class that were hard working, productive on and off the field, and had the team's best interest at heart."

Sanders went on to say, "This invitation wasn't given to me because I smiled at Urb, kissed his (expletive) or was 'special.' It took a lot of hard work and maturing throughout my first two years with the Gators."

Meyer has no problem admitting he shows favoritism.

"We did do that (at Florida)," Meyer said. "We do that here (at Ohio State). We did it at Bowling Green and Utah. If you go to class, you're a warrior, you do things the right way off and on the field, and you are completely committed to helping us win, you're going to be treated really good."

Meyer has already done that through his first few months in Columbus.

When he took over the job in January, Meyer sat down with backup quarterback Kenny Guiton and told him that he didn't think he was his type of player.

"I had to grow on Coach Meyer," Guiton said. "When he first got here, I really wasn't into it anymore, I got down on myself and I needed to get an upbeat to life. He said he wasn't a fan of mine.

"I got called out a few times."

Instead of going the route that Thomas chose, Guiton decided he was taking the Sanders' road. Now Guiton is being publicly praised by Meyer on what seems to be a daily basis, something that Guiton admits has changed his mindset.

"Oh man, it's a great feeling," Guiton said. "To know that he wasn't that big on you, and then after awhile he's like, 'Ok, this kid Kenny Guiton may be somebody that can do something. So, it's a great feeling."

In my observations of Meyer through the first few weeks of spring practice, I have found that the coach makes players accountable. He tells them how he thinks and doesn't attempt to sugar coat his words.

Does he show favoritism to guys like John Simon, Braxton Miller, Ryan Shazier and such? Of course he does ... they are the ticket to his success this season in Columbus. 

But I've also noticed how he has treated guys like Mike Bennett and Guiton, players he admits he didn't like when he first took the job. He could have given them medical hardships. He could have ran them off the team like Thomas claims Meyer did to him. But he didn't. He made them accountable. And after weeks of hard work and dedication, they are now in the coach's favor — or "circle of trust" as the TSN article referred.

Sanders said when it comes to Meyer, it's all about work you put in.

"I never once felt like Coach (Meyer) didn't want me in this alleged 'circle of trust,'" Sanders said. "I just hadn't earned recognition because I hadn't worked yet. I wasn't rewarded because I wasn't doing things that I had committed to when I signed the letter of intent to become a Gator."

Sanders, as well as Guiton and Bennett, decided to put in the "work" to get into Meyer's good graces. 

Thomas gave up and decided to run off to "TELL EVERYONE EVERYTHING."

Wow! And the rat doesn't understand why he wasn't in the (alleged) "circle of trust?"

— You can follow Lee Hudnell on Twitter @LeeHudnell_TBT