As the Aaron Hernandez chatter starts to fade slightly into the background, the second- and third-day stories have started promulgating the media. This is very common for stories as large and important as an NFL Pro-Bowler going on trial for murder. The questions in these stories are everywhere, asking, among other things, about blame for how Hernandez went from being a Connecticut prep superstar (ranked #1 at his TE position in 2007) to a Mackey Award winning cog in a national championship team while at the University of Florida, to being a consistent threat as a member of the New England Patriots to...being charged with homicide.
Surprising no one at all, some "columnists" have taken to asking what his college coach, Urban Meyer, had to do with the fall from otherwise grace of Hernandez. It's no secret that there were myriad legal issues surrounding the Florida Gators when Meyer was the coach in Gainesville, something that we upstanding Big Ten fans know nothing about.
But one of the questions that is, fairly or otherwise, floating around Columbus, is whether or not we Buckeye fans should be worried that that same culture that, frankly, thrived under Meyer at Florida, will make its way to the banks of the Olentangy. The topic was discussed on the radio this week in Columbus, and most Buckeye fans tended to classify themselves as being less worried about that culture permeating Ohio State Football.
The question, whether history remembers Meyer's (hopefully long) tenure at Ohio State as scandal-free or scandal-plagued, is a great topic for the summer, when #HOT #SPORTS #TAKES are in such low quantities. But the question is also fair, to some extent. Meyer's track record on the field is, of course, beyond reproach, with two national championships already under his belt. And historically, his second year at the helm is usually a memorable one.
But there's no doubt that Meyer's tenure at Florida was marked with mugshots of his players. Of the 121 listen on the Florida roster in 2008, a staggering 41 were arrested at some point in college or after, about a third of the players Meyer coached that year. And that team went on to win a National Championship despite the rather loud background noise that multiple arrests can create. Sure, Meyer had Tim Tebow as a salve of sorts for those wounds, but the numbers really speak for themselves.
The aforementioned "columnist" has made a short legacy of questioning Meyer's legacy at Florida, recently speaking to another scribe who covered Meyer during his time at UF. The results, considering the sources, were fairly predictable:
Dooley thinks Meyer, who won two national titles at UF, is concerned about how he will be remembered by UF fans.
"I think it's more about his legacy," said Dooley, who spoke with Meyer over the weekend and wrote a story about it in the Gainesville Sun. "It's a damaged legacy already because of the way he left (UF), and he knows that. There are a lot of Gator fans who, even before all this (Hernandez scandal) happened, would not be happy if you mentioned the name Urban Meyer."
So the foundation has certainly been laid to at least ask the question of whether or not the type of trouble that plagued Florida in the late 2000s has a chance to come with Meyer to Ohio State in the mid-2010s.
And that's really where the argument should stop.
There's no doubt whatsoever that the Urban Meyer pacing the sidelines in the Horseshoe is a different man than the one who did the same in The Swamp. Based on everything we have seen with Urban 2.0 at Ohio State, something like his 2010 incident with the Orlando Sentinel's Jeremy Fowler is long in his past; 2010 was Meyer's last year at Florida, his first without Tebow, and came on the heels of a hospital stay and leave of absence from the Gators. The rigors and pressure at Florida clearly got to Meyer - how does one keep winning championships, keep producing Heisman winners, and still try to be the mentor to 100+ student athletes?
Most Buckeyes fans swooned when Wright Thompson filled us in on how Urban Meyer would "be home for dinner" as coach of Ohio State, while most Florida fans, if Mike Bianchi's journalistic diarrhea is to be believed, scoffed at their once-loved coach whom they all must have then hated. But after year one at Ohio State, Meyer has stayed fairly close to the agreements and contracts he made with his family as he decided to come back to the coaching world. Year one was rough at times on the field, but ended undefeated with very little in the periphery to get in the way of the football.
And Meyer has been steadfast in separating his time at Florida from the worst case scenario that is that of the Aaron Hernandez saga, calling the connection "wrong and irresponsible". Whether you love Meyer as the Buckeye head coach, or despise him as the former Florida head coach (typically a question of geography), it is hard to think that any connection between Hernandez and Meyer at Florida holds any weight. And despite the missteps of an unfortunately high percentage of young men who played for Meyer's Gators, there has been, so far, no real reason to suggest that that kind of culture is on SR-315N, exiting on Lane Avenue anytime in the near future.
We have a small sample size to deal with, just Meyer's two summers and first regular season as the Buckeye head football coach. But if those are any indicators, it's clear that the issues of Meyer's past stayed in Florida.