Breaking down ESPN’s deeper dive into Florida Gators football under Urban Meyer

By Adam Silverstein
September 17, 2015

ESPN on Thursday released a deeper dive on the Florida Gators football program under former head coach Urban Meyer. Jeremy Fowler, a senior NFL writer at ESPN who covered the Gators as a beat writer for the Orlando Sentinel (you probably remember him for this), spoke with a number of players and coaches from that Florida team in hopes of revealing some privately-held information from Meyer’s tenure at Florida.

While most of the piece is recounting events and information that is familiar to many who follow the Gators closely, Fowler through his interviews did uncover some nuggets that are worth separating from the pile that is the longer piece. On that note, you should read Fowler’s entire story.

» Defensive line coach Dan McCarney on the competitiveness inside the locker room: “Did players have to be separated on occasion? Hell, yes. Did coaches have to be separated on occasion? Hell, yes. But it never left the locker room, and that was always out of respect.”

» As has long been reported, Meyer played favorites by naming “Ballers” inside the program, who got better food and treatment, including being excused from practices on occasion. While many did not have a problem with it, offensive lineman David Young believed it contributed to the team’s failings. “[Meyer] allowed players to do what they wanted, which is why the program is still getting fixed. He allowed players to run amok.”

» Wide receiver Louis Murphy admitted that some players partied a lot and there were fights outside of the locker room on occasion but noted that the Florida players “got profiled” and “had to watch everything we did” in Gainesville. “Nobody on the team felt we were thugs,” he said.

» Prior to Tebow’s promise speech, Murphy consoled “a sobbing Tebow … assuring him Florida would win out.”

» Cornerback Jeremy Brown told Fowler that players thought linebacker Brandon Spikes led the locker room emotionally and WR Percy Harvin was the Gators’ best player. (Neither of those statements is particularly surprising, though Tebow was most of the “total package” type of player for Florida.)

» The Gators planned to reach out to Harvin about Tebow’s Heisman Trophy campaign, asking if he wanted something similar, but the player and his mother did not attend the scheduled meeting.

» “Spikes once disappeared from the team for nearly two weeks after the 2008 season,” an anonymous player told Fowler.

» Spikes got in Tebow’s face following the team’s win at Mississippi State in 2009, reportedly yelling to him that Florida’s offense, which struggled without Harvin and under offensive coordinator Steve Addazio, “should be blowing these m—–f—— out.” (Not mentioned in the story: Spikes committed to the Gators in part because of Tebow, returned to Florida in 2009 in large part because of Tebow and the two were close friends.)

» WR Riley Cooper “had more black friends than anybody,” per guard Jim Tartt. Fowler also notes that Cooper “once got into a physical altercation” with wide receivers coach Billy Gonzales, who was also the subject of an altercation with Harvin (who reportedly choked the coach), as has been known for quite some time.

» Young shared his belief about Meyer’s intentions, which is parallel to what has previously been reported. “He couldn’t take the heat – that’s all that was. He wanted to hand the job off to [offensive coordinator] Steve Addazio and get out of there.”

» As Fowler previously reported, Florida did not get rings following its 2010 Sugar Bowl win over Cincinnati with no explanation given, though it was likely a “championship or bust” mentality for the decision-makers in that regard. The Gators did get rings following Meyer’s final bowl at UF, the 2011 Outback Bowl victory over Penn State.

» Responding to comments from teammates that he was tossing, in Fowler’s words, “$100 bills in a New Orleans strip club after the Sugar Bowl,” cornerback Joe Haden dismissed the notion. “I was throwing a lot of ones that equaled up to a lot of hundreds,” he said.

» The 2010 freshman class, as Meyer and other upperclassmen on the team said at the time, was disrespectful to those already in the program, yelling at coaches, skipping training camp, missing meetings and undermining discipline.

Meyer started the flames and left Florida while it was beginning to burn in 2010. Now he’s reveling in success at Ohio State, learning lessons of what not to do from his time with the Gators and applying that to his second golden opportunity with the Buckeyes.

Photo Credit: ESPN Images


  1. gatorhippy says:

    Interesting read, though nothing surprising. However, I don’t think Meyer really learned from his experiences at UF and expect a similar ending at tOSU…though I hope I am wrong.

    On another note…

    Where’s the Shannon’s piece this week, Adam?

  2. gatorboi352 says:

    Just win baby!

    One of the most exciting tenures in Florida football history for sure. And anyone that takes issue to Meyer or that regime needs to also not claim the 2 NCs that came out of it either.


    On an unrelated note, I love what you’re doing here and on witter/Vine, but damn man website is just flat out broken. I access this site on a bevy of devices both home and mobile and there are all sorts of wacky issues with compatibility. Page unresponsiveness, random scrolling that I never control myself, just all kinds of weird stuff.

  3. 1974Gator says:

    I’m wondering when the famous OSU pressure fro their expectations will cause his next “episodes”? I will always be thankful for the heights we reach under Urban but will also wonder if it was worth the 4+ years we have spent in ruins because he lost control.

    • GatorChomp says:

      I think most gators would be pretty happy if we could have 2 National Championships per decade….

      • 1974Gator says:

        We shouldn’t be expecting a win at any cost mindset from our coaches. I believe that was the mindset Urban brought to our locker room.

        • GatorChomp says:

          Based on your response then it’s fair to assume that you were not celebrating those championships then? Like when we beat Oklahoma, Bama, Ohio State you were.. oh I can’t enjoy these wins because we have a divided locker room?

          Fans were not happy with the fact that we had like 30+ arrests during Meyer’s years, but the criticism mostly came from the media and rivals. We were too busy enjoying winning.

          The next 4 years were screwed up but not because Meyer left, but because we had a coach who only cared about one side of the ball and an athletic director who didn’t want to admit he made a mistake.

          Let’s give Meyer a break. It bothers me that he left because of “health” issues, when in reality he quit. But other than that, Urban Meyer is a incredible coach and gave more national success to the Gator football program that we had ever had.