Meyer Defends Florida Tenure, Denies “Circle of Trust”
By Brandon Castel
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Urban Meyer knew the question was coming, and he was more than ready to answer his critics.
Photo by Jim Davidson
Ohio State’s head coach was making his first appearance on the B1G Spring Football Teleconference Wednesday to talk about his first spring practice in Columbus, but he was ready to address the elephant in the room when the time came.
“I knew something would come up,” Meyer responded Wednesday when asked about The Sporting News piece which accused him of breaking the University of Florida football program.
“My family and I loved Florida, we still do and always will. I’m not sure where a three-month investigation shows up. I’m extremely proud of what our players and coaches accomplished.”
Meyer won a pair of BCS National Championships during his six-year tenure in Gainesville, but his methods recently came under attack when The Sporting News accused him and his coaching staff of allowing rampant drug use in the locker room.
One former UF player—safety Bryan Thomas—called the program “out of control” under Meyer and accused the coach of pushing him out via a medical hardship in order to create another scholarship opening for his next recruiting class.
“They interviewed a guy who never really played for us, so I’m not really sure of the intent,” a confused Meyer said Wednesday.
“I’m extremely proud of what we did down there. To throw great players under the bus like that, I’m not sure of the intent. Those guys did a lot of great things for the University of Florida, so to call them out for it four or five years later, I’m not sure of the intent. I’ll fight for those guys.”
Thomas said Meyer lost the respect of the Gators’ football team because of preferential treatment to star players like Tim Tebow and Percy Harvin. Thomas insisted even the star players no longer respected their head coach, despite being a part of what he called the “Circle of Trust.”
“The circle of trust? That didn’t happen,” Meyer said adamantly.
“A bunch of former players and coaches called me and were like, ‘what is this.’”
One of Meyer's former players, wide receiver David Nelson, even took to social media in order to let the world know he had never heard of the “circle of trust” at Florida.
“This isn't 'Meet the Fockers,’” Nelson posted on his twitter page.
“As a leader of some of those teams, Coach Meyer did not lose the respect of his players. I think our record and his continued relationship with his players speaks for itself. Coach Meyer truly cares about his players, and I’ll defend his honor any day of the week.”
Meyer did not, however, deny the use of preferential treatment—but not the kind mentioned by Thomas and other unnamed former Florida players in the Sporting News piece this week.
“When you start saying preferential treatment of players, that’s probably a correct statement,” Meyer acknowledged.
“We do that here, we did it at Bowling Green and Utah. If you go to class, you’re a warrior. If you do things the right way, on and off the field, and you’re committed to help us win, you’re going to get treated really good. You’re going to get nice gear, get to move off campus if you like.”
The Buckeyes do have a name for that group, which is the same one Meyer has used at previous head coaching stops. The Champions Club is an incentive program designed to reward players who excel in the classroom, offseason conditioning, and in their own personal lives away from football.
Champion's Club members are treated to a steak dinner served on fine china with linen tablecloths. The players who are not in the Champion's Club get paper plates and eat potato salad and hot dogs with soggy buns. They also get the honor of cleaning up after the Champion’s Dinner.
“We were hired to graduate players and we did that. We were top three in the SEC every year in graduation rates and APR,” Meyer said of his time at Florida.
“We were hired to win games, we did that. We were hired to follow the rules, we did that. We were hired to recruit great classes, and we finished in the top five every year.”
Meyer’s recruiting tactics also came under fire in the Sporting News piece, as the author rehashed comments made by Wisconsin head coach Bret Bielema. The article suggests Meyer or his staff may have committed NCAA violations by having former Ohio State NFL players call high school recruits.
It also suggests they encouraged the practice of accidently “bumping” into high school players during recruiting dead periods.
“Any time you mention the NCAA…there is no violation,” Meyer said again.
“I’m going to say this really clear, there is no violation. I’m not sure why that keeps coming up. So bold that for me and underline it. There is not one turned in (to the NCAA), and there’s a pretty good track record there with the NCAA.”
Overall, Meyer was mostly confused over the timing of the article, which comes more than a year after he stepped away from his position as the head football coach at Florida in January, 2011.
“I’m pretty disappointed,” he said.
“Once again, not sure of the intent.”
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