Should 24 arrests warrant more scrutiny for Florida football?
There is no question Urban Meyer made the right decision when he spurned Notre Dame, his self-professed "dream job," four years ago to become football coach at Florida.
Better weather, better access to better players, better chance to win. Meyer's Gators have won two of the last three BCS national titles. Notre Dame hasn't won a title since 1988.
But ask yourself this: Had Meyer taken the Notre Dame job, would he still be there if 24 Irish players had been arrested under his watch?
These are curious times in Gainesville. The glow of last January's national title win over Oklahoma still glistens. The inspiring post-game speech quarterback Tim Tebow made after last year's lone loss to Mississippi has become to Florida lore almost what Rockne's "Win One for the Gipper" yarn is to Notre Dame. Tebow's words have been immortalized on a plaque that now hangs outside the football complex.
Florida will enter the 2009 season as prohibitive favorites to repeat as national champions.
Yet the program's reputation has taken a serious hit in the vacuum of this off-season. Some would say: It's about time. Fans in South Florida wonder how come Sports Illustrated wanted the "bandit" Miami football program shut down in the 1980s but no one makes nary a peep about Florida.
Has Meyer gotten a free pass? If so, he may be approaching the toll booth. Florida's 24th football arrest in four years -- cornerback Janoris Jenkins was the latest, complete with police Taser -- has set off a media blowback. Gregg Doyel of CBSSports.com, a Florida graduate, eviscerated his alma mater in a recent online column -- a must-read for all Florida State and Miami fans.
"There is no justifying something like this," Doyel wrote.
Doyel says Meyer and Tebow, the leaders of this franchise, need to take immediate action.
Other outlets are weighing in, too. Bleacher Report wants to know if Florida is the new Thug U.
"Where's the public outcry?" Bleacher Report wrote. "Where is the media outrage?"
Dave Hyde, sports columnist for the Sun-Sentinel, even suggested that Meyer turn to Miami Coach Randy Shannon for advice on how to clean up the program. Florida ask Miami for help? Ouch. Now there's some role reversal.
A lot of championship teams go through this. Fact: winners are scrutinized more than losers. And maybe, until now, Meyer has gotten off too easy..
Again, we ask: Would Meyer have been able to survive 24 player arrests in four years at Notre Dame? It's an interesting question.
Anyone have an answer?
One thing is for certain: Meyer needs to get out front of this story soon unless he wants Miranda ("You have the right to remain silent") to replace Tebow ("You will never see any player in the entire country play as hard as I will the rest of the season") as the most oft-quoted words in Florida football history.
-- Chris Dufresne