An investigation by the Sporting News that was published on Monday depicts the Florida Gators football team under head coach Urban Meyer as one that was “broken” due to character issues (including drug use) and “preferential treatment” that led to a “sense of entitlement” and the inmates (players) running the asylum.
Spending three months investigating the claims of a handful of former players including safety Bryan Thomas (the only one who permitted his name be published), Sporting News’ Matt Hayes learned that Meyer allegedly stated that players missed games due to injury when the absences were actually due to fail drug tests, threatened to pull scholarships from less talented or injured players, and even let players slide with transgressions such as refusing to work out or putting their hands on a coach.
During offseason conditioning before the 2007 season, the team was running stadium steps and at one point, [Percy] Harvin, according to sources, sat down and refused to run. When confronted by strength and conditioning coaches, Harvin—who failed to return calls and texts to his cell phone to comment on this story—said, “This (expletive) ends now.”
“The next day,” a former player said, “we were playing basketball as conditioning.”
It only got worse as Harvin’s career progressed. At one point during the 2008 season, multiple sources confirmed that Harvin, now a prominent member of the Minnesota Vikings, physically attacked wide receivers coach Billy Gonzales, grabbing him by the neck and throwing him to the ground. Harvin had to be pulled off Gonzales by two assistant coaches—but was never disciplined.
Thomas told Hayes that Meyer is “a bad person” who “lost the team’s respect” and that the Florida football program “was out of control” due to his lack of discipline even though he viewed Meyer as “a great coach.” He also shared a personal story in which Meyer told him to “move on” to another program following the 2008 season after injuries and lack of playing time did not lead to his improvement.
“I told (Meyer) I was on track to graduate, I wasn’t a problem and I did everything I was supposed to do—I just had a knee injury,” Thomas said. “I told them I wasn’t leaving, and if they tried to force me to leave, I was going to tell everyone everything.”
The next day, Thomas says he was given a medical hardship letter by position coach Chuck Heater stating Thomas had an injury that would prohibit him from playing football..
An interesting addition to the investigation is that Meyer allegedly told five-star wide receiver recruit Stefon Diggs, who chose Maryland over both Florida and Ohio State following National Signing Day, that “he wouldn’t let his son go to Florida because of the significant character issues in the locker room.” Meyer entered the chase for Diggs’s commitment late; the player was previously down to UF, UM and Auburn but added OSU to his final four late in the process.
Meyer responded to most of Hayes’ allegations but basically refuted all of them. He denied that he spoke poorly of the Gators to Diggs, said the situation with Harvin and Gonzales was “handled” and added that even though there were some discipline issues with the program, it never got out of control.
Two former Florida players, who spoke with OGGOA on Monday under the condition of anonymity, confirmed Hayes’ investigative piece as accurate as it pertains to information he reported regarding the players on the team and how certain situations were handled.