Arrested development? It’s the Gators’ turn this year

The talking point — actually the giggling point — of the college football summer is that Urban Meyer’s Florida Gators have been charged with a total of 24 felonies and misdemeanors in the four-plus years of his stewardship. (The Orlando Sentinel provides the handy linked rundown.) And now you’re expecting me to laugh and slap my thigh and advise the Urban Crier, with whom we’ve had some fun over the months, to save his alligator tears for the judge. But I won’t.

Because I have some sympathy for the man.

Last summer Mark Richt met the press on Georgia’s media day, and 16 of the first 20 questions concerned not football — the Bulldogs had been voted preseason No. 1 for the first time in school history — but lawlessness. Eight of Richt’s players had been arrested in 2008. “Embarrassing,” Richt called it. Also “sad.” Also “a distraction.”

When Richt’s massively gifted team finished 116th in penalties among 119 Bowl Subdivision teams, the leap was made — undisciplined off the field, undisciplined on it. (In November Richt would deny any correlation, saying it was “coincidental.”) And rival fans made hay of Georgia’s discomfort, laughing and calling Richt, a man of deep convictions, a bald-faced hypocrite.

But now Georgia backers get to chuckle over Florida’s misdeeds and the public airing thereof. And we in the media have done our usual tut-tutting. (Here’s a column from Andrea Adelson of the Sentinel. Although Dennis Dodd of CBSsports.com defended the Gators, sort of.) But the cold truth is that, just as last year’s Georgia is this year’s Florida, this year’s Florida could well be next year’s … anybody.

No school holds the patent on decency. No school is impervious to the choices made by 85 or so young men who are lionized on campus and around town in a way that would make rock stars blush. No school does it completely “right” because no group of 85 can bat 1.000 when it comes to individual behavior.

Yes, it looks awful when such arrests take the form of clusters, but that didn’t mean Richt aided and abetted criminal behavior last summer or that Meyer does so now. (Urban Meyer, as we know, is named after a Pope.) Sometimes a coach’s shape-up message needs to be toughened, but messages go only so far. And if you’re going to be ranked No. 1 in the land, you won’t get there by signing guys away from the seminary.

As Dodd writes, a coach can get pushed out when the embarrassment becomes too great. But Dodd also notes Oklahoma was coming off a pedestrian-by-its-standards 9-3 season when Barry Switzer was deemed more trouble than he was worth. Meyer just won his second BCS title in three seasons. His program could be hit by 24 more charges and he’d be OK so long as the L’s don’t number more than one.

We who follow college football suffer a disconnect. We want to cheer on Saturdays without much caring what happens the other six days of the week. We hire our coaches to win. If they happen to mold character in the process, so much the better, but that’s not why they make their millions. They’re paid to win on Saturdays.

When it’s someone else’s players getting in trouble, we take it as a sign of the enemy’s inherent immorality. But at the highest level of college football, there are no saints. (Even the haloed Tim Tebow was penalized for taunting in the BCS title game.) What happened at Georgia and what’s happening at Florida can happen anywhere. So don’t laugh too hard at Urban Meyer. Your coach could be next.

112 comments Add your comment

Kenny Powers

June 19th, 2009
6:55 am

I’m first and you’re f******g out!

eastbound and down

June 19th, 2009
6:57 am

MB,
when the heck do you sleep? if we accept Richt’s explanation that there is no correalation between the behavior off the field and the number of penalties on the field, then maybe the fault lies with the coaches since they failed to maintain discipline on the field. no sympathy for Meyer by the way.

MiltonDawg

June 19th, 2009
7:19 am

it’s always going to be an issue..whether your #1 or not. college kids are going to drink and do stupid things..plain & simple. however, the degree & severity of the past incidents from gator players should be questioned..ak-47s, deceased credit card usage, getting tasered by the cops, etc.

Hugh Howard

June 19th, 2009
7:21 am

Am I missing something here. I thought you were on thecrawl all over GA bandwagon last year. Now that it’s FL you have to ease up? I do agree that 85 young guys are hard to control. It is a crap shoot and they are ultimately responsible for their behavior. It does seem the AJC delights in problems at GA, you included and sometimes in the lead. I guess there are schools such as FL and the Trade School that are untouchable

Gen Neyland

June 19th, 2009
7:41 am

Your blog speaks the truth. How can 85 out of 85 bat 1.000 in basic human decency and good behavior in any realm or demographic..? Look around the sports room and you’ll probably find 1 that has erred so far this football off-season (my vote goes to Schultz). Yet, you have awoke the Gator with the headliner. They may tell us that USF and FSU are pulling their weight in the Sundown State…

TampaGator

June 19th, 2009
7:48 am

You mention nowhere in this article that Meyer has dismissed all players who have been actually charged (not just arrested) with a major crime (Hornsby–who then signed with Mississippi and got arrested again–Rickerson (beat up his girlfriend), and Wilson, shot off an automatic rifle in public and then committed another offense after being allowed back on the team a year later as a walk on and then was dismissed from the team for good, and Newton, who stole another students computer and has since enrolled in a J.C. and plans to sign with another team later), and that most of the arrest charges against the Gator players mostly have been for minor offenses like underaged drinking or public fighting…and most have been dismissed by the courts as first offenses or not enough evidence. The same is the case at Georgia, which has dealt with even more arrests (30 to 26 over the same time period) than Florida. The player arrests at Georgia and Florida, by percentage of arrests of players compared to the number of players, is about the same as the number of arrests of regular college kids for under-aged drinking (who hasn’t or who didn’t in college), public fighting (happens in almost every public bar every night), and pot smoking (go to any college party and take a deep breath). I am not condoning bad behavior, but most of these kids are young and do what young kids do on college campuses across America. Few actually do terrible crimes and when they have, both Richt and Meyer have dealt justly with those players–suspended from the team. The problem with penalties on the field have nothing to do with the number of arrests. It has to do more with the fact that both Georgia and Florida play high intesity, aggressive football, especially on defense where most of the penalities occur. It is also a fact that both Richt and Meyer do run a tight ship and both have developed strong family-like environmnets that support and nurture the players (and most of the players respond in a postive mannner to it). But there will always be players, like sons and daughters in families, that do not respond to that support and nurture. And when they don’t, you then try to help them and give them second chance…then, if they don’t respond (i.e. Wilson at Florida), you get rid of them. In Hornsby, Rickerson and Newton’s cases, their offenses were too severe to give them a second chance. I bigger question I have is: Why would Houston Nutt give Hornsby a scholly at Mississippi after what he did? Could it be that Hornsby is such a good athlete (he was third string safety at Florida by the way) and Nutt puts ability before character. Nutt did not even kick Hornsby off the team when he was arrested on the Ole Miss campus again. I guess my point is, both Meyer and Richt are first class coaches who promote the right things to their players. But both coaches do not have 100% control over these “kids” and some will make mistakes. What I see, is both coaches dealing with the minor mistakes of their players like parents…and what I also see is recruits going to both places (Georgia and Florida) and loving the “family-like” environments that both coaches have established…and why both Florida and Georgia are doing so well each year in recruiting top players…because those players know, when they arrive on campus, they will be treated, especially when they screw up, like sons. That is the positive side of the story which newspapers never seem to write about.

Terrible Truth

June 19th, 2009
7:52 am

Better straighten up, Pope, Notre Dame won’t put up with that crap.

Hey TampaGator...

June 19th, 2009
8:03 am

…take a breath! Your points are well placed and valid.

But Mark only wrote wisely, and ended with this “What happened at Georgia and what’s happening at Florida can happen anywhere. So don’t laugh too hard at Urban Meyer. Your coach could be next.” But, in your haste to rebut that he was picking on UF, you missed that part.

Corrine Brown

June 19th, 2009
8:12 am

GRADULATIONS!!Corch Meyers

Dawg in VA

June 19th, 2009
8:19 am

Mark, your paragraph below says it all. That’s why I take no pleasure in the difficulties of Alabama, Florida or any other schools in the context of trying to run a big time athletic program. To loosely paraphrase the dearly departed Mr. Grizzard, “That dog will bite anyone!”

“No school holds the patent on decency. No school is impervious to the choices made by 85 or so young men who are lionized on campus and around town in a way that would make rock stars blush. No school does it completely “right” because no group of 85 can bat 1.000 when it comes to individual behavior.”

Barks Madley

June 19th, 2009
8:32 am

Won, too, tree, fo fi…..corch uban meyers dont take no jive. gooooo gaytuh. lol, never gets old.

jim

June 19th, 2009
8:35 am

great post, TampaGator

jim

June 19th, 2009
8:36 am

Enter your comments here

slimpickens

June 19th, 2009
8:39 am

Fire Mark Bradley!

m

June 19th, 2009
8:47 am

TampaGator

Next time just post the entire Atlanta phone book, it’s far more interesting

Montgomery Barker

June 19th, 2009
8:47 am

Donte’ Stallworth gets 30 days in jail for the death of a human being, Michael Vick gets almost two years in prison for killing animals, which McDonalds, Chik-fil-a and Oscar Mayer does every day. Our justice system is pitiful. Where is sissy P.I.T.A when a human life is killed?

Nachos

June 19th, 2009
8:50 am

……..And once again Florida will beat the ever loving crap out of UGAy, just like every other year. toodles mutts

JoeFann

June 19th, 2009
8:51 am

Well said, TG (and MB.) I have a 17yo and a 24yo, and sometimes hope to live long enough to see them become human (or at least have kids of their own.) I give both Richt and Meyer credit. How well would any of us handle knowing that our salaries and reputations were secured only by the actions of a hundred 18-23 year olds? All you can do is create a positive environment and seize teachable moments. Ultimately, the decisions are in the hands of the kids, and sooner or later, they’ll discover that they alone are accountable.

Go Dawgs!

Pago Flyer

June 19th, 2009
8:53 am

tampa gaytor…learn how to use paragraphs, not just one long sentence!
The gaytors can have 90% jail rate but they still have Tebow, the best ever college qb!

Saint Simons

June 19th, 2009
8:55 am

UGA has stoped drinking, now its bank fraud and bad checks!!!!

Cottonelle gator whipes

June 19th, 2009
8:57 am

OLE MISS flushed the goofy gators on their home field, OLE MISS RULES !

JIM AXEL

June 19th, 2009
9:02 am

WAS UTAH UNDEFEATED? Or did they lose to 4 loss Ole Miss like the over-rated gators?

DawginLex

June 19th, 2009
9:03 am

This kind of stuff happens everywhere. Among our SEC brethren, the more arrests generally means you are getting closer to the top of the league. It makes no sense to point fingers at others when the finger will evntually get pointed back at you.

The only school that denies wrongdoing is the holier than thou nerd herd. They brag about academics, strong men with character and beautiful women yet they somehow have produced a fair share of problems.

So to m, rambler, goldfool and engineer dude, give it a rest. You are no better than anyone else just because you wnet to GT and decided to become an engineer or an architect.

As I have told you, you folks design the buildings and the UGA CPA’s tell you how much you can’t spend and the UGA doctors put patients in the beds right after the UGA lawyers close the deal.

Reality Check

June 19th, 2009
9:03 am

Tampa Gator, well said. Anyone who has attended college athlete or not knows that potential for trouble on and off campus. Anyone who judges these kids or coaches for their behavior is crazy.

DawginLex

June 19th, 2009
9:05 am

I keep doing that wnet instead of went.

Green Tea

June 19th, 2009
9:11 am

Mark, what’s your email address?

Food for thought

June 19th, 2009
9:13 am

Since Meyer’s been at Florida, Miami’s had one player arrested. You can control the situation. It’s called discipline.

Green Tea

June 19th, 2009
9:15 am

Hey Saint Simons, how does one stope? Is “stoped” the past tense for that? Maybe you should learn to spell before you trash talk UGA you bum…

Tampa REBEL

June 19th, 2009
9:16 am

MISSISSIPPI beat the mythical national champs in big bad Gainesville.

Mark Bradley

June 19th, 2009
9:17 am

Tetley

June 19th, 2009
9:18 am

“tiny little tea leaf”

Food for thought

June 19th, 2009
9:20 am

Tampa Gator, if everything is OK in G’Ville, why do you need to write a book to defend them. Meyer may clean it up soon enough, but your team is trashy.

Otto

June 19th, 2009
9:23 am

Tampa Gator well said.

Didn’t Switzer also resign after alot of scandal and pending NCAA investigation?

Gainesville Sanitation Department

June 19th, 2009
9:23 am

The gators are trashy for sure,

DR

June 19th, 2009
9:25 am

Urban needs to start suspending his players when they get in off the field trouble. I think in the past he has just slapped his players on the wrist. Richt actually makes his players miss valuable playing time.

Gen Neyland

June 19th, 2009
9:26 am

Montgomery Barker : PITA is a bread or an acronym for an ache below the belt on the backside. PETA protects flies, rabid dogs and loves veggies. If you’re looking for human justice, see Vinny.

Gainesville Rebel

June 19th, 2009
9:26 am

Houston Nutt out-coached Meyer and the crimanal element gators!

Vinny Testaverte

June 19th, 2009
9:27 am

Live free or die.

Denver Dog

June 19th, 2009
9:27 am

When all of you realize that a group of 85 kids reflects a cross section of society it is easy to see how this happens at every school. The only reason you Hoppin’ Gators are defending anyone is becuase you have sat on your piousness and criticized everyone else, like UGA, FSU, Bama, UT, Ga Tech, when they have issues. It appears that the easiest defense would be to say sorry that happens, but it does. Overzealous kids, overzealous cops, it happens! Live with it, just quit throwing rocks, we are all in glass houses.

oldbird

June 19th, 2009
9:28 am

Tampagator, as a UGA alumnus, I rarely have anything good to say to a gator, but that was a great post. You are correct in that most of the arrests at both schools are for what is unfortunately, normal college kid behavior. I remember that one of the UGA arrests was for one of our running backs riding a moped with a suspended license. How can we sign such criminals?

Chuck

June 19th, 2009
9:28 am

Any college town that so actively makes arrests for possession of alcohol skews comparisons like this.

In Athens booze arrests are a major source of revenue. In places like Atlanta the police are forced to focus more energy on more serious problems.

Locality has everything to do with it, and the wide variance in municipalities and their approach to enforcement is the key factor. When something that is often treated with a warning or citation in one place is treated with an arrest and booking another, reliance on simple numbers becomes a pointless exercise.

Ga-Gator

June 19th, 2009
9:36 am

Tampa Gator….WELL said!

Dumblebees

June 19th, 2009
9:36 am

Saint Simons, could you please update us on the status of smartest Jihad engineer on the planet.

Gatorzone

June 19th, 2009
9:38 am

Whoop-te-Do! 24 in 4 years only averages 6 per year. That can’t be more than any other major program. Furthermore, he disciplines them when it happens.
If that makes our team trashy in other fans eyes, so what. UF is still the reighning national champ, so talk all you want!

SEC fan

June 19th, 2009
9:45 am

Mark, UF is agressively recruiting M. Ambles and is apparantly the leader for him. Although he is extremely talented; UGA, Auburn, and a few others didn’t offer him at all. USC has now backed off their offer. Now Under Armour has rescinded their invitation for him to play in the All American game. Think there is any correlation between the types of players a school recruits and the number of arrests they end up with?

[...] Mark Bradley of the AJC writes that Florida has replaced Georgia as the summer focus of off-the-field problems. [...]

TampaGator SISSY club

June 19th, 2009
9:51 am

As always, the gators are willing to play real tough competition, so this year they open up the season with NATIONAL POWERHOUSE….. CHARLESTON SOUTHERN !

OC THOMAS

June 19th, 2009
10:01 am

WTF???

June 19th, 2009
10:01 am

Bradley, you watching the Open?

gatorman770

June 19th, 2009
10:02 am

Cottonelle, Gainesville Rebel & Tampa Rebel – Just one question: Where can we view your recent SEC and BCS trophies?

Great post Tampa Gator