CHOMPING: Florida’s 30 arrests under Meyer

By Adam Silverstein
September 16, 2010

The number is 30. Not 27, not 34 – 30. Thirty arrests of Florida Gators student-athletes under head coach Urban Meyer. Thirty mistakes that he is apparently solely responsible for because, in addition to doing everything in his power to teach these kids the difference between right and wrong in the limited time he has with them, he is in charge of their personal lives, too. Thirty times, you might think, said players first thought about the values that Meyer, his coaching staff and his support staff have been trying to instill in them and consciously made the decision to ignore. Thirty instances in which Meyer is at fault because he’s the figurehead and, much like how a quarterback is the one who gets the praise or blame for a win or loss, the onus falls on his shoulders.

Except it is not all Meyer’s fault. He may be responsible, but the blame needs to be placed where it belongs – on the players.

It’s not like Meyer encourages his players to break the law or does not take the correct steps to help solve the growing problem. If you want to find Meyer guilty of anything, it may be caring too much. Is it wrong that a man responsible for over a hundred young men each year chooses to wait and see how a situation proceeds or is resolved legally before making a final decision on a particular person’s life?

Read the rest of this entry…after the break.

You may see Meyer as a head football coach; that’s not his perspective. He views his job as that of a mentor and educator for young men, someone whose responsibility it is to help turn teenagers into respectable adults. This is what he promises parents when recruiting their children; it is a goal his wife, Shelley Meyer, shares. It is why players are invited into his home, treated like family. It is why so many parents rave about how their children are going to play for Meyer, not just the University of Florida.

And as such a figure, Meyer is not reactionary. He doesn’t kick players off the team or revoke their scholarships because of media pressure or because some columnist sitting in South Florida says it needs to be done to send a message to the rest of the team.

Instead, he attempts to rehabilitate young men, guys like Marty Johnson, so they don’t wind up like Avery Atkins. Meyer understands that you don’t get through to kids by giving up on them, you do so by providing second – and in rare cases third – chances when such opportunities are warranted. And when that chance is given and the trust is broken yet again by another mistake? See ya.

Don’t get it twisted – Meyer is NOT being exonerated here. Thirty arrests is a concerning number. It is downright disgusting for most sports fans and saddening for those close to the program. Something needs to be done – and fast – but Meyer can only do so much.

Remember: It would be just as wrong to over-punish as it would be to under-punish.

Right now, too many are concentrating on the headline rather than the details. No matter what the charges are (found in a link below), these players either broke the law or were on the edge of breaking the law. Rather than take a universal perspective about the situation relying on the number “30,” one should dive deeper into what these players were arrested for, what happened to their cases and how they were punished. Because that is much more difficult than throwing out a nice round number and criticizing it.

Of the 30 arrests under Meyer, two were for misdemeanor underage possession of alcohol (internal punishment of Matt Elam and Solomon Patton) and six others were for misdemeanor violations in which charges were dropped by the state without prosecution.

These include John Curtis violating probation by not finishing his community service in time (internal punishment), Jermaine Cunningham throwing paper cups at Jimmy John’s employee (internal punishment), Riley Cooper not moving out of the way of a police vehicle (no punishment), Carl Johnson accidentally getting on the same bus as someone with a restraining order against him (no punishment), Louis Murphy possessing marijuana (suspended three games), and Janoris Jenkins attempting to stop his necklace from being stolen and non-violent resisting of arrest (internal punishment). Additionally, two felony theft charges – to Tony Joiner for retrieving his girlfriend’s car from an impound when trying to pay but no one being there (stripped captaincy) and Dorian Munroe removing a police boot from his car (internal punishment) – were also dropped.

That leaves 20 serious offenses that Meyer had to deal with, 15 more of which were handled by Gainesville, FL, lawyer Huntley Johnson. That’s not saying the 10 mentioned above should be thrown out the window, but they can certainly be put in perspective. Let’s take a look at the other 15 with details complied by the Orlando Sentinel.

Nine of the remaining 15 cases in the link above resulted in the player no longer being on the Gators football team. The other six were (arguably) punished accordingly and provided an opportunity to overcome their mistakes without being given up on.

The first question is this: Why is it that so many programs across the country are free from this astoundingly high number of legal issues over the same time period? Is it something these other programs are doing, or something Florida is not doing?

Ideally, the goal for any head football coach is for their players to not get in trouble, to be perfect citizens, to be the most upstanding people on campus. But in the realm of reality, that simply does not occur. In theory, coaches cannot control what their players do off the field any more than they can another student on campus.

What they can do, however, is educate, inform, punish accordingly and attempt to rehabilitate. Is Meyer responsible for his players’ indiscretions? Yes. There is no question about that. But is he to blame for their actions? Is he punishing them and providing opportunities to turn their life around or correct their mistakes?

Those are the other important questions that need to be asked.

22 Comments

  1. Aligator says:

    Whatever, meyer is not their daddy and some of these players, i am sorry to say, are idiots. Good Job on this article Adam!

  2. Fish-Gator-59 says:

    Great Article Adam, when I looked up all the arrested I was shocked to see how minor many of the offenses appeared to be. However Urban does need to change something things around not sure what, but this should not be the regular occurrence we have become used to to.

  3. Gatorbuc15 says:

    30 arrest? Man really?! That’s way to much! How stupid are our players?!
    Like you Aligator, I don’t believe that it’s Urban’s fault at all. He can’t watch them like a hawk all of the damn time.
    Great article Adam.

  4. Joey says:

    Great Job Adam!!!!! the Media has blown this 30 arrest WHY TO FAR!!!!!!!

  5. A.J. says:

    I do think the media is blowing a lot of this out of proportion because most of these offenses are pretty minor. At the same time, Alabama is also an elite program and I never hear about their players getting arrested. What is Saban doing that Meyer is not?

  6. Bob says:

    I did realize most were pretty minor and the media thrives on this sort of controversy b/c it’s something for them to talk about.

    But I will reiterate what I posted the other day about Rainey. Crimes like his (and this is an alleged crime, he admitted to sending that threatening text to the woman), are unconscionable and should carry severe repercussions, even if he pleas to a lighter charge.

    I not only believe there’s no place on the Gator football team for this type of behavior, I strongly believe there’s no place in life for it. No matter what the situation, no matter the story, decent people simply do not do these sort of things.

  7. Obgator says:

    Only thing Saban has to do is have bama police take it ez on his boys. He prob doesn’t even need to tell them because that’s prob the mentality in Tuscaloosa. Don’t mess with the football team. Even if they break the law

  8. DarthGator says:

    I blame most of it on the Gville police department. I once got a parking ticket there because when I parallel parked, my wheels were turned the wrong way. I could NOT believe it!

  9. Bob- I agree very much with what you said. But do you not give someone a second chance on even a charge of that caliber? Do you forgo an attempt to rehabilitate that person or help them along with life just to save face? Or, as a coach and responsible adult, do you put him under your wing and attempt to move forward while simultaneously punishing him severely, knowing that everything you have seen from this person in the previous four years has been positive?

  10. SC Gator says:

    Giving a 2nd shot to a player who very well may be out of his mind at the time for sending a single threatening txt message is not the same as, for example, going out an recruiting a guy that helped someone rape his cousin with a toilet plunger. Rainey should lose his scholarship and have to earn his way back on the team but this isn’t the ultimate evil that some people keep trying to make it out to be.

    A lot of teams are in situations where they can get away with anything. My god, look at our friendly little rivals in Knoxville for example. Gainesville is not that kind of place and anything that can get someone ticketed will. Athens is just as bad.

  11. Mike says:

    Look these men are MEN. Legal adults. If you can master play calls,etc and athletic discipline you have a working brain. These are not 13 year olds who can cop ignorance. The more I hear about this the more I appreciate the Tebows of the sport. Pimps and thug convicts can run a rep down. I do believe we are passing the Seminoles in the striped suit dept. Act your age Gators, and stop blaming Urban. He has nothing to do with their behavior. Hello, can I get some personal responsibility here…

  12. Bob says:

    Adam – I’m all for 2nd chances, but let that be somewhere else. This is very serious and a stain on the school, the football program/team, even Meyer as coach IMO. He has literally threatened someone’s life, and whatever the reason, there need to be severe consequences for it.

    To me, this isn’t a run of the mill issue. This isn’t drugs or underaged drinking–both very common in college. This isn’t failure to pay a ticket or trespassing, or getting your car out of an impound lot illegally. It’s not a dui, which is a very serious and dangerous offense in an of itself. As much as I like the Gators and Chris Rainey for his ability as a football player, I believe the message that needs to be given is that this behavior, under any circumstances, is not tolerated within the football program.

    Chris can have his 2nd chance elsewhere. He’s entitled to that. But in my view he’s lost the privilege of playing/attending UF.

    I’ll admit that I have a very low threshold for this. I’m the father of two young girls and this is the sort of thing I fear the most for them.

    Adam, thanks for the great coverage, keep it coming. For those of you with whom I disagree, I do not take it personally.

  13. KW Gator says:

    I would love to see a summary over the last five years of other major programs like ND, Georgia, Tennesse, Ohio State etc. Or some type of average number arrest per school for BCS confernce schools to see how far we are out of side of the norm.

  14. Bob- Here’s my devil’s advocate reply. Like with many players on the team, let’s make the assumption that when Chris Rainey committed to the Gators, one of the main reasons was Meyer. In addition to being a winning and successful coach, the No. 1 thing Meyer pushes on recruits and parents is the family atmosphere – the love, the sticking together, the looking out for each other. He promises to help their children grow into young, responsible adults.

    What Rainey did was unacceptable – no doubt. Despicable – sure. Can you for sure say it was much worse than what Frankie Hammond did? Or the multitude of things that Marty Johnson did? (See above link – worth the read.) Putting potentially tons of peoples’ lives in danger driving drunk…

    I see what you are saying – he deserves a second chance but why does that second chance have to be at Florida? It doesn’t – and it may not be. But if Meyer feels comfortable enough with someone (again, let’s look at Johnson as an example), believes they are someone worth rehabilitating, etc., why shouldn’t he do his “job,” do what he promised the family from the get-go?

    Your position as a father of two girls certainly gives you a different angle on the situation. Perhaps even a BETTER angle in many regards. But guess who else has that same angle? Meyer.

  15. John says:

    First of all, in fairness to Meyer, he can’t be with these guys 24-7. He trusts them to do what is right and they make that promise while being recruited. Most of what was mentioned in this article was pretty mundane and if it weren’t a football player, you’d never hear about it. Of those guys who committed serious issues (e.g., Hornsby, Gary Brown, Jacques Rickerson, etc) and not doing what they committed to (e.g., Marcus Thomas and to a lesser extent Cam Newton) were thrown off the team. Urban Meyer has kicked enough guys off the team that leads me to think he won’t put up with any serious baggage.

    I actually was involved with issuing Orders of Protection so I have an angle most of you may not have/understand. If Rainey did exactly what was mentioned, he should be thrown off the team and prosecuted fully but it may not be easy to prove. The woman, from what I heard, didnt want to press charges. No witness, no case, and one big pile of hearsay (a judge’s nightmare). Defense will say that the text came from his phone but did HE actually send the message? So what will need to be established is when the message was sent & was the phone on his person at the time when it was sent (e.g., did he have the phone with him at the time). When it’s all said & done, I believe Urban Meyer will do the right thing, especially when all the dust settles.

  16. John says:

    Forgot to mention one thing. The on and off part for 3 years leads me to believe one thing. This relationship is somewhat toxic as an outsider looking in.

  17. Bob says:

    Thanks for the perspective Adam. I’ll check out the Johnson link. And no, I don’t see a huge distinction what Hammond did or Rainey, except that Rainey actually threatened someone with death. Hammond put others in harm’s way to be sure… Either way I was and still am truly appalled at the content of the text.

  18. No prob Bob. (Always wanted to say that). I think you’ll see where I’m coming from a bit more after reading that story. Always nice to have an intelligent conversation with someone – thanks for the talk.

  19. John Shanks says:

    I’m not thrilled with the number of arrests, but the truth is most are minor. Some I believe were a waste of taxpayer money to arrest and prosecute (of course maybe the guys were being jerks and the cops needed to set them straight). It would be better to hold off on the major charges (Felony stalking) until the investigation was finished.

    Meyer’s first few years we did have major issues, but I feel like we’ve gotten much better people in the program. The Rainey situation looks terrible on paper, but seems pretty weak hearing the 911 call. I did not get the impression that anyone was actually scared of being harmed. It sounds like they wanted some help from the police to diffuse it, and instead it blew up.

    Meyer has thrown plenty of people off the team, I would only throw off Rainey if he thinks he’s a lost cause and it doesn’t sound like it.

    Thanks for standing up for the program Adam, it was a great article.

  20. I wasn’t standing up for the program. The goal was to show that not everything is cut-and-dry and Meyer has reasons aside from winning football games to keep kids around. Perception is not always reality in regards to these issues.

  21. G8R8U2 says:

    Incredibly, as bad as that record is, it still pales in comparison to UGA’s player arrest record during the same time frame… with 13 fewer arrests than the Dawgs. UGA has had 43 arrests since 2005, and contrary to their fans’ contentiuons that they’re all minor alcohol-related arrests, quite a few have been quite serious; with numerous assault and/or battery cases.

    Also interesting to note that 1 offense for which Meyer rarely, if ever, gives second chances is actual physical violence against women. I’m pretty sure he has kicked players off the team every time that’s happened, even in first-offense cases. Richt hasn’t done the same. Montez Robinson piled up 3 arrests for offenses against his girlfriend, 2 of them assault/domestic violence, and 1 vandalizing her car, before Richt finally kicked him off the team.

    I recognize it’s a delicate balancing act trying to support players and stick by them through their mistakes while they’re still learning to be men (many of them for the first time ever, as their home lives were less than ideal), and reprimanding them for those mistakes and doing what’s best for the university and program; but I also agree that it’s time to lay down the law and communicate just what a player will be sacrificing for acting a fool and embarrassing himself, his family, his teammates, his coach, and his university.

    If a kid wants the typical college student life, fine; do it at home or in an apartment and don’t freakin’ drive… not complicated. And keep in mind that typical college students don’t go to college for free, with all the perks an athlete has at his disposal; so simply give the school the respect it deserves by not getting your name and mug-shot in the paper with UF attached to it. That’s not much to ask in return for a 6-figure education and an opportunity to become a millionaire playing a game for a living.

  22. Luke says:

    Great reporting, Adam. I appreciate the insight. It is always a concern for me, not because of the football team, but for all of us as alumni. I do not believe that any news is good news, since it keeps UF in people’s minds, especially when it comes to this type of press.

    However, when you listen to the 911 call, it’s a bit crazy that the girl who called in WAS NOT the girlfriend and she was rather harsh and insistent on getting cops involved. These types of situations could be handled by a call to Micky Marotti or Urban, but I guess that it would be unlikely that either girl would have their numbers. The roommate may or may not have been right calling the cops, but by listening to the call, it seems clear that she wanted to get the cops involved, not the (ex)girlfriend and that’s what bothers me a little on this.

    While Chris obviously did something stupid, none of us were there to know exactly what went down, what was said to provoke him, etc. Also being a father of a girl, I hate to hear these things and you never know when a situation like this turns into one like the Duke Lax player brutally murdering a girlfriend/ex girlfriend. But, I would rather a call be made to an outside resource (another friend, friend of Chris, coach, parent, etc.) than for a call be made to the police so someone can “just come talk to him.” The police aren’t there to counsel, they are there to see if there is something to prosecuted and if that’s not what the girls wanted, they shouldn’t have called the police.

    As regards the program and the amount of arrests, it’s good that we don’t have stats on the fraternities and students in general, because I think the numbers would be appalling. I’m just out of my 20’s so I’m not that far removed from stupidity, but it sure seems like the kids in HS/College are exposed to a lot more garbage these days and, unfortunately, they are a product of it. Whether it’s Urban Meyer and/or every other coach in America, it’s clear that educate, educate, educate is a part of the solution, but these kids have already heard it and sometimes learning the hard was is the best way to learn.

    I’m sad to see Chris go, but I do think he should have a chance to earn his way back to the team. If he chooses to leave UF, that’s his decision. Honestly, a change of scenery may be good for him. Leave all the people you grew up with and the mess you’ve made at UF and use this opportunity to get your life on track. At the end of the day, it really shouldn’t matter if the threat was made toward a man or a woman; these kids have every opportunity to take their anger out on the football field and that’s where it should end.

    Because of the attention he’s brought to our school, I do think it makes sense to part with Chris and give him a chance to earn his way back or let him decide to earn it somewhere else, but I don’t think he should see the field in a game the rest of the season. For the record, I thought the same thing for Frankie Hammond and many of the other past problems children.

Top