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By Matt McCoy
Urban Meyer hasn't coached Aaron Hernandez since 2009 but when Hernandez was arrested and charged with murder Wedneday, it didn't take long for some to point the finger of blame at the now Buckeye coach.
When Meyer coached at Florida, he was criticized for a string of off field incidents involving his players. There were 31 Gatror arrests during Meyer's six years in Gainsville. He was the subject of a scathing article by The Sporting News' Matt Hayes in April of 2012 for being lax on dicipline, giving top players preferential treatment and leaving the Florida program in shambles.
After Hernandez, the now former all-pro tight end of the New England Patriots, was arraigned, Hayes took to Twitter, saying:
"Enable, enable, enable ... first degree murder."
CBS Sports NFL writer Pete Prisco zeroed in on Meyer as well. Hernandez, who had some off field issues at Florida which included involvement in a bar fight during his freshman year and some failed drug tests, was taken in the fourth round of the 2010 NFL draft by the Patriots and coach Bill Belichick. Meyer and Belichick are friends and its been reported that Meyer went to bat for his fomer player, vouching for his character. Prisco tweeted the following.
"Belichick: What kind of kid is Hernandez? Urban: One of one-percent of the one-percent...Liar."
Prisco followed up with this:
At least when Urban sold his soul for kids like Hernandez and others, he won two titles. It was worth it.
But perhaps the harshest commentary came from blogger Clay Travis, of outkickthecoverage.com. Travis implies that lax dicipline by Meyer at Florida, indirectly led to Hernandez allegedly committing a murder.
Having followed Meyer closely during his 19 months as Buckeye coach, I can safely say that this is a guy who cares deeply about his players. He celebrates their successes and mourns their failures, using them to teach and motivate.
There's no question in my mind that Meyer is troubled by the arrrest record of his Florida players. There's also no question in my mind that Meyer is bothered deeply by what has happened with Hernandez. I'm sure he's second guessing himself over what he should or should not have done with Hernandez that maybe could have made a difference.
To me, however, that's where it ends. To assume that an extra game suspension or harsher dicipline on Hernandez at Florida would have somehow prevented him, four years later, from allegedly killing a man is ridiculous.
It's also ridiculous to label Meyer a 'liar' for whatever he told Bill Belichick in 2010. The Patriots took Hernandez in the fourth round. He blossumed on the field and Belichick and the Pats were around him pretty much daily after that. Whatever character concerns they may have had didn't stop them from signing Hernandez to a 5 year, $80 million contract in August of 2012. Now that the deal has blown up in their face in the most horrifying way, Prisco deduces that it's Meyer's fault and he's a liar. Come on.
Aaron Hernandez is an adult. He's 23 years old. Whether he was coddled at Florida or not, he knows that killing someone, if he did...is wrong. There is one person and one person only who is responsible for Aaron Hernandez being where he is today...and his name is Aaron Hernandez.