The ladies doth protest too much. That’s what I thought when the wife and daughter of Aaron Hernandez’s college football coach took to the Twitter-verse to defend Urban Meyer from the merest hint or suggestion that he might have possibly helped to enable some of Hernandez’s early manifestations of bad behavior, behavior which eventually resulted in the Patriots star being arrested for murder.
Once Hernandez was arrested, I was struck by the flood of stories which started leaking out about his past problems–struck by the fact this stuff had been effectively buried for so long, struck by the media’s willingness to happily trot it out now, struck by the levels of denial and enabling among the University of Florida community and the New England Patriots. After all, the Pats not only drafted Hernandez, but signed him to a big-time contract.
But I couldn’t help but wonder what was going on in Florida with Urban Meyer’s program back in the day. When Hernandez was linked to a murder, Meyer went dark, trotting out the family to offer Twitter platitudes about personal responsibility. Right. Because if Urban helped cover up bad behavior by his players in between the prayer meetings he was holding with them, it wasn’t meant to embolden them or encourage them in any way. It was only meant to help Florida keep winning football games and that magical elixir would cure whatever character ills these young student-athletes carried with them. Wouldn’t it?
Rolling Stone is about to drop a hammer on this issue, releasing a teaser for an upcoming special report on the Hernandez case. And it’s quite interesting, six bullet points, with this one being the last:
• In college his coach (then-University of Florida head coach Urban Meyer) may have helped cover up failed drug tests, along with two violent incidents — an assault and a drive-by shootout outside a local bar.
I’m thinking that might leave a mark. Perhaps taking a long, hard look at what was going on in this big-time college football program and how questionable characters like Hernandez were being protected instead of kicked to the curb will empower college Presidents to clean up the the messes that get created by out-of-control sports programs on their campuses. As Orlando Sentinel columnist Mike Bianchi recently wrote, “by the time Meyer left UF, his program was like a fleabag motel, infected from the shady characters he recruited and the discipline he failed to instill.” That poor management had implications that went far beyond Gator Country and if anything good is to come out of this shabby story, it will hopefully be the empowerment of college Presidents who arm themselves with plenty of disinfectant when approaching the likes of Urban Meyer.