Last week, former Florida coach Urban Meyer sounded off on the NCAA, the lack of ethics in college football, and outlaw coaches in a radio interview. Now off the sideline, Meyer’s comments spewed forth like he’d just popped the cork on his inner monologue. And it’s made national news.
“I’m probably going to get criticized for saying a few things, but I’m good. I’m no longer a football coach and that had a part to do with why I stepped away.
“I’m not the lone wolf here, there are some great football coaches that are still coaching. They have to be very careful, politically correct, say all the right things and do all the right things and deep down their hearts (are) getting ripped out because they’re at a competitive disadvantage and that’s just not right.
“But at the end of the day the people that pay the worst price is the 19-year-old young man knows that’s it’s wrong but still deals with agents when he’s not supposed to, taking things from agents and getting recruited illegally. At the end of the day that’s going to affect that young man for the rest of his life because a precedent has been set in his mind that taking a shortcut is okay.”
Strong words from a man who no longer has to play the game. Except… what in the above statement could Meyer not have said while coaching? That agents are bad? That some coaches cheat? If he felt so strongly about things, what stopped him from speaking out while he still ran a program?
That point aside, it’s interesting that Meyer is going down the “competitive disadvantage” path. Apparently he did not cheat in any way while at Florida. I find it hard to believe that a coach in this day and age could avoid breaking every single rule in the NCAA’s overstuffed rulebook, but, let’s give him that one. (Even though he once called a recruit’s athlete girlfriend who was also considering Florida, which is an NCAA violation.) Still, couldn’t a coach like Randy Shannon talk about the “competitive disadvantage” that he faced thanks to coaches who gave actual outlaws chance after chance after chance following their run-ins with the law? Couldn’t Shannon — whose Miami program had fewer arrests during his tenure than just about any other BCS program — throw some stones at guys like Meyer and his ilk for watching over (and I use that term loosely) a program that saw 30 players arrested in a short span?
Meyer also fired shots at the NCAA for not enforcing its own bylaws. Think he might have had the Cam Newton situation in mind? But what of a coach who supposedly told quarterback prospect Jevan Snead that he was recruiting Tim Tebow to play linebacker. Repeat after me: “Your ethical lapses are unforgivable, my ethical lapses are small and can be explained.”
Meyer continued his rant and let his feelings bubble through regarding Tennessee basketball coach Bruce Pearl.
“What I’ve seen the last five years is a complete turn in the integrity of the college coaching profession. It’s completely turned the other way. Right now, it’s not good because the risk-reward is ‘have at it, do what you’ve got to do (to) get the great player, go win games and at the end of the day we’ll find out what happens down the road.
“You tell me how a young man who is a wide receiver and he lied to the NCAA and they took away his eligibility and he was never allowed to play again. And then there’s violations in other areas of the country and that doesn’t happen.”
Dan Dakich who was conducting the radio interview pointed out the obvious fact that Pearl “sat out eight games, lost a little money and he’s back coaching right now.”
“And Dez Bryant is out of the profession, I mean college football. …
“I actually put one together last year, a recommendation and sent it to a good chunk of athletic directors and presidents and commissioners. You can have group committees, group hugs, group discussions. You can have whatever you wants, at the end of the day, if you enforce the law people will have an opportunity to break that rule less.
“If there’s a law and it’s an unenforceable law, and deep down they don’t want to enforce it, you are officially in the wild, wild west and anything goes. We need to revamp this thing.”
There’s danger in Meyer’s words, of course. It’s possible that a few more stories — like the one about Snead’s recruitment and the one about Meyer’s phone call to a UF gymnastics recruit will come to light.
And if/when Meyer returns to coaching — say when Brian Kelly washes out at Notre Dame — you can trust he’ll be under some double-secret scrutiny from his fellow coaches.
His comments leave us wondering about Pearl (who Billy Donovan has actually defended on a personal level), the Auburn staff, the Mississippi State staff and ex-aide Dan Mullen (who were alll involved in Newton’s recruitment), Newton himself, and the entire SEC coaching fraternity since that’s who Meyer recruited against. That’s a lot of besmirching.
In response, others may just wonder publicly how a man can act holier-than-thou when it comes to NCAA rules violations… while captaining a ship filled with many young men who broke the actual rules of society?
Apparently, rule-breaking is a bad thing because it hurt Meyer’s chances of winning. Law-breaking, well, that’s excusable because kids will be kids. And because his look-the-other-way attitude actually helped Meyer’s chances of winning.
I’m a believer in second chances. But if I were a coach who handed out dozens of them over a six-year span, I’d probably not pop off to loudly about the ethics violations of others. Lest they call my own liberal discipline into question.