How Many Years of Hate Can Meyer Take?
By Jim Weber
Just three years after Urban Meyer left college football coaching due to health problems, I’m starting to wonder how many years Meyer will be able to withstand the constant hatred lobbed toward him by fans and the media before calling it quits again.
Meyer’s time in Gainesville deserves blame for the 31 parrests that took place under his watch, unsavory allegations and lenient punishments he handed out to his players. But the bullseye on Meyer’s back since he arrived in Columbus has resulted in criticism over overblown controversies or things that took place years ago.
On his very first day, critics blasted Meyer’s one-year hiatus away from the game. The conspiracy theory went like this: Meyer used his health and family as a cover for ditching a Florida program that had just gone through a five-loss season in 2010 and was reportedly plagued by internal strife.
Just a couple months later, there was “Gentleman’s Agreementgate” in which Meyer rubbed then-Wisconsin head coach Bret Bielema and Michigan State head man Mark Dantonio the wrong way by continuing to recruit players who had already verbally committed to other schools. It was much ado about nothing, but of course turned into a media firestorm because Meyer was in the middle of it.
Then came Matt Hayes’ story in The Sporting News in April of 2012, entitled “From champs to chomped: How Urban Meyer broke Florida football.” It portrayed the program as completely out of control by the time Meyer left, with Mike Bianchi of The Orlando Sentinel soon piling on top.
And who can forget the Storm Klein fiasco last summer? The OSU linebacker was kicked off the team last July for an ugly domestic violence charge and then reinstated a month later. You can guess how that went over, as another avalanche of criticism ensued (to be fair, I think it was poor judgment on Meyer’s part considering the salacious details of the arrest).
Keep in mind, this was all before Meyer’s first game with the Buckeyes.
It was pretty clear that by the time Meyer finally stepped onto the field at Ohio Stadium last September, he had become the most hated coach in college football.
Following a perfect 12-0 debut season at Ohio State in which his players stayed out of the news (Cardale Jones aside) and Meyer talked about how he’d finally prioritized football in his life, it appeared the cloud of negativity hanging over him had finally moved on and he could spend the next two decades on the Ohio State sideline.
That is, until former Florida tight end Aaron Hernandez was arrested for murder on June 26th. In the “Embrace debate” sports culture we now live it, the conversation almost immediately became about who to blame for Hernandez’s behavior.
You already know where the finger was unfairly pointed.
Since then, all hell’s broken loose with reports that Hernandez was involved in a 2007 shooting and had failed drug tests covered up by the university (the latter of which Meyer denies). It’s lead to enough new criticism of Meyer that you’d think the coach himself was on trial. And just for good measure, there was a report last week that Meyer turned in a Florida assistant for a recruiting violation that also became such national news he felt forced to publicly debunk it.
For all the drama and criticism that’s already surrounded Meyer’s time at Ohio State, it’s hard to believe this fall will only be his second season in Columbus.
And you have to wonder what kind of effect all this criticism and negativity is having on Meyer after he was so adamant about not letting football make life miserable again for him, his wife or his kids. Judging by Meyer having to defend his character twice in one random week in July and the fact his wife and daughter are now getting involved, the venom directed at him is at best a distraction and at worst something that will suck the joy out of football a second time.
Unfortunately for Meyer, the media smells blood in the water and is going to continue blowing every negative Meyer story out of proportion, knowing it will become national news. And you better believe there are several investigative reporters still digging through Meyer’s time at Florida and his current stay in Columbus to find whatever dirt they can and kept the Meyer media cycle spinning. If they find some real wrong-doing on Meyer’s behalf after the inglorious exits by ex-head OSU coach Jim Tressel and former school president Gordon Gee, just imagine the nightmare Meyer will find himself in then.
Maybe the soon-to-be, 49-year-old Meyer will be able to block it all out and keep churning out victories for the next two decades as Buck Nuts are hoping. But it’s fair to ask the question: After lasting just six seasons in Gainesville due to health problems, how long will Meyer last in Columbus while this toxic environment of hate by fans and the media surrounds him?
Because constantly getting besieged by criticism and having your character questioned isn’t healthy for anyone.
Top photo credit: Jeff Hanisch/USA TODAY Sports