The shocking April 19 suicide of accused murderer and former Florida football Gator Aaron Hernandez reminded some of us the role his college coach Urban Meyer played in enabling Hernandez' violent behavior that transformed from gangsta-wannabe to real-life accused murder. Sadly, Hernandez is but the tip of the iceberg, the ugliest manifestation of Meyer's win-at-all-costs mentality.
On the surface, Urban Frank Meyer III, appears to have it all--having taken two different college football teams to national titles--Ohio State (2014) and Florida (2006, 2008)--a clean-cut loving family, the respect and admiration of a legion of fans--certainly among Gator and Buckeye faithful--oh, and millions of dollars, including his 2016 Ohio State salary of over $6 million.
There’s no denying “Urb’s” accomplishments--at OSU, his won-loss record is already an astonishing 61-6--including a 39-2 Big 10 mark--with one national crown and counting. And unlike the only man who can be called Meyer’s superior--the forever anguished coach of Alabama, Nick Saban--Urban Meyer dominates with an impressively effortless style.
Yet, one hardly need be a Pulitzer-winning investigative reporter to discover a plethora of lurid details bubbling below the surface of Meyer’s success, from the tragic Hernandez case to Meyer himself being accused of deceiving recruits--as well as multiple universities.
Meyer is actually named for a line of Catholic Popes called “Urban”--if you’ve ever wondered how he obtained that unusual moniker. It’s interesting to note that the last Pope Urban (#8) waged religious wars and ignorantly opposed the scientific breakthroughs of the great Galileo. Meyer reflects the warped values of his namesake by being part of the institutionally accepted new hypocrisy that it’s permissible to do whatever you want as long as you are regarded as a “winner” by society-at-large and a “good Christian” by your peers. The ends always justify the means when you’re Urban Meyer. In assembling this archive, the problem wasn’t uncovering 15 things Urban Meyer wants you to forget--it was deciding which incidents of shame and controversy to leave off the list!
Please don't misunderstand--it’s not like Meyer would change any of these things he did to get on top of the college football world--he just wants us all to forget about them! Well, you can forget about that, Mr. Meyer, ‘cause here we go:
15 FAKE “PUNISHMENT” FOR BRANDON SPIKES’ EYE-GOUGING
A real-life Halloween afternoon shocker occurred October 31, 2009, when linebacker Spikes actually gouged the eyes of Georgia’s Washaun Ealey during a second-and-goal stop in the Gators’ 41-17 triumph. Bleacher Report rightfully mocked Meyer’s tepid response to the borderline-criminal incident by "punishing" Spikes for a measly first-half against a putrid Vanderbilt team that finished 2-10 in 2009. Spikes opted to outdo Meyer when he volunteered to sit out the entire game, granted by Meyer. However, it turned out both coach and player were posturing, as Spikes was dealing with injuries and needed the meaningless game off anyway, so the offer to serve punishment for his violent offense was nothing more than grandstanding.
Ealey showed the ability to turn the other cheek--and a serious sense of toughness--when he said Spikes, “shouldn’t, I think, get suspended at all.” You're a better man than us, Mr. Ealey.
14 EDITING TERRELLE PRYOR OUT OF TRIBUTE VIDEO
Continue perusing this list and you’ll see Urban Meyer would like to have us all forget quite a bit, stretching back several years. However, one of the more innocent incidents, relative to the severity of some of Meyer’s other offenses--is from this past January. Coach Meyer sent out a video Tweet tagged, “A long line of great quarterbacks continues in 2017!!" Somehow, Urb edited out any footage of Pryor, who played for the Buckeyes from 2008-10 under former coach Jim Tressel, before Pryor left OSU prematurely due to receiving prohibited benefits. This resulted in an OSU self-imposed bowl ban in 2012, which just happened to be Meyer’s first in Columbus.
Was it a case of Meyer overlooking Pryor--or out of resentment for Pryor’s actions costing Urb a chance at a title in his inaugural season at OSU with the undefeated (12-0) Buckeyes?
13 ESPN COLLEGE GAMEDAY SIGN
The “lucky thirteenth” entry on this list serves as a harsh reminder for a controversial aspect of Meyer's career--leaving his football teams hanging in the wind, in this case, Florida. In September 2015, the weekly ESPN college countdown show featured as its “Sign of the Day”, an image of embattled Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn wearing an exasperated expression with the accompanying text: “If this crap keeps up, I’m gonna fake a heart attack and join the Big 10”. The comedic line was a pointed reference to Meyer’s 2010 decision to step down from the University of Florida after being rushed to the hospital for dehydration and chest pains. It should be noted one of the symptoms of dehydration is chest palpitations, i.e., feeling of a heart attack.
Coach Meyer wasn’t the only member of the family wanting to forget this mockery--his darling daughters Gigi and Nikki--along with Mom Shelley--all tweeted their outrage at ESPN. However, the Malzahn joke was not poking fun at Coach Meyer’s health--but rather his suspicious move from controversy riddled Florida to Ohio State.We wish nothing but the best of health to Meyer and his entire family, but if one is truly concerned about potential heart disease, taking an even more high-stress position is usually not the most advisable lifestyle choice. If Meyer was truly concerned with his health, he would have taken some Division-III job in the middle of nowhere. But then, those schools don’t pay six million a year, do they?
12 UNFUNNY PRANK CALL TO BARON BROWNING
This is a case of “whacky fraternity Urban” and yet another recent incident that’s an example of Meyer continuing to go too far, damn the consequences. As reported in February by Cleveland.com, high school recruit and now OSU linebacker Baron Browning jokingly texted Meyer last fall that he was committing to Alabama. Meyer was understandably pissed he was going to lose a great player like Browning to Nick Saban. Once he found out it was a gag, ultra-competitive Urb couldn't let it go, thinking it'd be hilarious to “prank” Browning by getting on speaker phone to inform Browning--and his Mom--that he (Meyer) had just accepted the Los Angeles Rams’ offer to make him their new head coach.
Given Meyer’s propensity to put his career ahead of any and all--and the fact that the Rams had just fired Jeff Fisher--one can hardly blame Browning for his believing Meyer. Lest anyone think this was just a harmless joke by Meyer, watch the accompanying video with Browning, who said: "I (was) mad. I wasn’t laughing.” Next time, Urb, leave the prank phone calls to the Jerky Boys.
11 MISLEADING HIGH SCHOOL RECRUIT
Meyer and his Ohio State staff mislead Detroit Cass Tech running back Mike Weber in 2015. While Weber was internally debating whether to attend OSU or arch-rival Michigan, he expressed his uncertainty to then Buckeyes assistant head coach (offense) Stan Drayton, who texted Meyer indicating Weber still needed to be recruited. Weber subsequently signed with the Buckeyes, conferring with Drayton in the early-hours of National Signing Day, February 4, 2015. However, the very next day, Drayton had departed Columbus to become the running backs coach of the Chicago Bears. When asked if Weber had been mislead by OSU, Cass Tech coach Thomas Wilcher exclaimed emphatically: “Yes. 100 percent.”
To prevent any possible misunderstandings, Wilcher repeated that number: “100 percent.” Weber himself tweeted “I’m hurt as hell.I ain’t gone [sic] lie.” To his credit, Weber overcame Meyer’s machinations and was named Big Ten Freshman of the Week for OSU on October 3, 2016. Wilcher said he’s still waiting to hear from Meyer to mend the differences should Meyer seek to recruit future Buckeyes from Cass Tech.
10 TRASHING THE BIG 10’s “GENTLEMAN’S AGREEMENT” WITH "ILLEGAL" RECRUITING
Meyer’s absolute ruthlessness--honed in the cutthroat SEC--is never more transparent than when it comes to scooping up the nation’s prime high school football talent. In 2016, national recruiting director Mike Farrell told Bleacher Report, that prior to Meyer’s arrival in Columbus “a lot of the recruiting was very basic. There was a feeling of some sort of gentlemen’s agreement where, 'We are the Big Ten and this is the way that we recruit,' With Meyer on the scene, all that went out the window, leaving Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema to blow a fuse at Meyer in February 2012. Bielema said candidly “We at the Big Ten don’t want to be like the SEC in any way, shape or form." Bielema was referring to unspecified "illegal" recruiting practices. Bielema indicated he had spoken privately to Meyer, who assured Bielema he would cease such activities.
9 DECEIVED BOWLING GREEN STATE
Before his runs of glory at Utah, Florida and now Ohio State, Meyer started as head coach of Bowling Green State University, a public college near Toledo, Ohio. As detailed in December 2002 by BG Falcon Media, during a press conference, then-Falcons coach Meyer insinuated he was going to remain at Bowling Green because he allegedly said he had “more to do” and “hadn’t won a MAC championship here.” (quotes from article author). Ten days later, Meyer was the head coach of the Utah Utes, and all his recruits who thought they were going to be playing for him were left out in the cold. Meyer threw them a bare bone, claiming leaving Bowling Green was "one of the hardest decisions I ever made because of my attachment to my players." As if it wasn't painfully obvious Meyer used BG as a stepping stone to bigger programs. To their credit, those same Falcon players Meyer could barely stand to leave went 11-3 in 2003 without Urb.
8 LYING TO--AND LOSING--RECRUIT JEVAN SNEAD
Early in his tour of duty at Florida, Meyer successfully recruited prep quarterback Jevan Snead--only to have Snead abruptly reverse gears and commit to the University of Texas. And it wasn’t because Snead preferred the arid Texan heat over the Floridian humidity, but rather because of Tim Tebow, eventual Gators Heisman Trophy winning quarterback and current New York Mets farmhand. Originally, Snead thought Tebow was recruited to play linebacker while he, Snead, would call signals in Gainesville. However in retrospect, it seemed highly unlikely Tebow, the number-one rated dual threat (run and pass) in the nation (#22 prospect overall) would be shifted to defense ahead of Snead (#61 prep prospect).
Still, it's hard to lay blame at the feet of the naive 18-year old Snead, as the more sophisticated Meyer certainly was aware of Tebow’s prowess and was apparently hoping to add depth and insurance with the addition of Snead, instead of allowing him to pursue a starting role elsewhere.
7 TREATING LANDON YOUNG “LIKE CRAP”
For this particular incident, Meyer not only insulted a recruit--but the entire university the player had committed to! Four-star recruit tackle Landon Young disclosed that Meyer and Ohio State “treated me (Young) like a piece of meat. They treated me crap” and “called me a bad player." Specifically, when Young asked Meyer why he originally was not recruited by the Buckeyes, Meyer informed the 4-star recruit point-blank: “You were an insubstantial tackle, an insubstantial player.” When Young informed Meyer he had received a scholarship offer from Kentucky, Meyer wasted no time spewing his supremacy: “You were an insubstantial player with insubstantial offers from an insubstantial school.”
Meyer attempted to diminish Young’s concerns by playing a numbers game, telling ESPN: “That was one (recruit) out of 650 saying, 'Someone treated me bad.'" Meyer’s quip sees to be implying that treating one player disrespectfully is acceptable because it’s an isolated incident. But as we shall see time and time again checking off this list, it’s never an “isolated incident” when it comes to Urban Meyer.
6 INSULTING BRUCE JUDSON
Judson’s story is a case of Meyer flat-out losing a recruit because of his callous manner. The versatile running back/receiver Judson revealed to SEC Country that when he visited Columbus in July 2016, he already committed to the Buckeyes for seven months, but that all fell apart after Meyer had cut communication with Judson now that he was already in the Buckeyes’ fold. Judson confirmed the rest of the OSU staff stayed in contact but not big shot Coach Meyer. The proverbial final straw came last year as Judson was walking with fellow prep star Richard LeCounte III and they encountered Meyer. Meyer immediately recognized LeCounte and asked him if he was showing “this guy” (Judson) around.
Judson had to clarify that it was he who was showing LeCounte around, and only after he told Meyer that he was “Bruce” did Meyer finally recognize Judson, who at that moment knew he was withdrawing his commitment to OSU.
5 CAM NEWTON CONTROVERSY
Now we’re wading into serious Meyer malfeasance, even if this one is more shrouded in ambiguity than the other incidents that top it. Though Cam Newton won the 2010 Heisman Trophy at Auburn, he actually began his career as a Gator under Coach Meyer. When he transferred after the 2008 season in Florida, on the surface it was attributed to a typical “playing time” concern on Newton’s part, which is certainly understandable, given Cam's aspiration to play in the NFL. However, as noted by Business Insider via FOX Sports (the original FOX link no longer exists), was it playing time--or an academic cheating scandal that caused Newton’s abrupt departure?
There were three separate instances of Newton cheating while a student at Florida in 2007 and 2008. The Newton controversy hints a broader scandal at Florida that eventually lead to Meyer's demise in Gainesville, as this list shall reveal.
4 OSU STAFF USING “HUMILIATION” TO “MOTIVATE” PLAYERS
This is the first of two Buckeye football improprieties on this list exposed by Ohio State Law professor Douglas Whaley, an astute critic of Meyer and Buckeye football eclipsing the academic stature of OSU. In early 2012, after Urban Meyer was hired by the Buckeyes following his "health scare hiatus", the Columbus Dispatch reported Meyer’s new “director of performance” Mickey Marotti was subjecting players regarded as “loafers” during winter conditioning to wear lavender shirts, chosen because of its cultural status as a “gay color.” Whaley also happens to be a gay activist--so the sexually offensive incident hit particularly close to home for the good professor. For the record, Urban Meyer apologized to gay groups and confirmed the color would be changed from lavender.
3 ALIENATING NON-CHRISTIAN PLAYERS
With this entry, we find the comparison to Pope Urban VIII to be more apt in regards to Meyer’s institutionalized intolerance towards spirituality that contradicts his strident views. Whaley’s second contribution to this list was the primary subject of the previously cited blog post, entitled “Urban Meyer and the Christian Buckeye Football Team”. Whaley took Meyer to task for seeking to impose his monotheism upon the entire Buckeye squad. As Whaley cited via the Columbus Dispatch (the original source no longer exists online), Meyer established "optional" Bible studies and chapel services that just happen to be Christian. As for non-Christians? Meyer offered a vague promise to "cater to that as well," as if he's referring to a student's dietary requirements and not his religion (or lack thereof).
However, Whaley is incorrect when he suggests Meyer would bench an atheist player--if such could be found in today’s conformist collegiate atmosphere. Not true--Urb wants to win above and beyond all, as we’ve clearly seen. If a 6-5 edge rusher who registered a couple sacks a game worshiped caterpillars, Meyer would be okay with it.
2 AARON HERNANDEZ
Before it went all so tragically wrong for Aaron Hernandez in New England, he played for the Florida national title team in 2008. As reported by the Orlando Sentinel in the wake of his passing at age 27, Hernandez was allegedly involved in not one--but two serious acts of violence as a Gator--a September 2007 shooting of two people in a car and punching out a waiter at a Gainesville bar in Spring of that year--which happened while Hernandez was being babysat by Tim Tebow. Urban Meyer's response was to read Scripture in his office with Hernandez--how'd that work out? Instead of rationally addressing Hernandez' anger issues, Urb relied on the Bible, filling Hernandez's head with the idea that the only salvation is to be found in death--it's the reason the ex-Gator had "John 3:16" written on his forehead when guards found his lifeless body.
While Hernandez is ultimately responsible for his own actions that landed him in prison where suicide seemed the only solution, surely Florida’s “broken culture” (see below) of jock entitlement partially fueled Hernandez’ sense that he could do whatever he wanted to anyone who crossed his path.
1 FLORIDA’S “BROKEN” CULTURE OF FOOTBALL
This entry brings this list full-circle, as it’s the culmination of Meyer’s transgressions that shattered a dynasty in Gainesville that had previously reshaped and elevated SEC football forevermore. But it was not to last with Urb at the helm, allowing the Gators’ players to not only run rampant on campus--but having an utter disregard for the law--as a ridiculous total of 31 players were arrested during Meyer’s six-year stint at UF. And that's not including the untold incidents swept under the proverbial rug. To the surprise of no one, Meyer also demonstrated little consistency in disciplining offending players, with some being kicked off the team, while others receiving a metaphorical slap on the wrist (for a perfect example, see #15 on our list, Brandon Spikes), as delineated by the New York Times. But in the end, even the master of deception Meyer had to admit that Florida’s football program was “broken” at the end of his final regular season game as Gators’ coach in 2010.