As part of the lead up to its profile of former Florida TE Aaron Hernandez, Rolling Stone teased that Ohio State coach Urban Meyer, the coach of the Gators when Hernandez was at Florida, may have covered up failed drug tests and a possible assault and shooting.
Meyer is only directly mentioned when Hernandez’s suspension for the 2008 season opening game is brought up, an absence that Meyer later said was because of a failed drug test.
As a sophomore, Hernandez was benched for the season opener, meaning he’d likely failed drug tests over the summer. But Meyer denied it, saying he “wasn’t ready to play,” again giving cover for bad behavior. “Meyer kept us at such a distance,” says the reporter, “or flat-out lied, that we couldn’t verify a pot suspension.”
In the other two incidents detailed in the profile, a shooting that Hernandez was questioned about an incident with a waiter at a Gainesville restaurant, Meyer isn’t mentioned in any possible cover up of either situation.
In July, after reports surfaced that according to an unnamed NFL executive, Hernandez had failed multiple drug tests at the University of Florida, Meyer said that Hernandez was held to the same standards as all Florida players. In a July interview with the Columbus Dispatch, Meyer answered a question about the shooting.
A: I don’t remember his name in (the report). I remember it was about a one-hour discussion. One of my coaches came in and said, “Hey, they’re getting questioned for this.” … I said, “Well, what do I need to do?” And he said, “Nothing. They’re not involved.” And that was it. They weren’t questioned for (doing) the shooting. They were questioned as a witness.”
Former Florida tight ends coach and current Mississippi State assistant John Hevesy is quoted in the Rolling Stone article as saying “But there’s only so much you can do in three years.”
“Bristol had him for 17 before he came to us. In the end, I guess, that trumped what we put in.”
However, did Florida put in enough? While, as Dan Wetzel said, it’s unfair to place any direct responsibility on Meyer for Hernandez’s actions while at the University of Florida, wouldn’t it have made sense for Meyer to wonder why they were witnesses to a shooting?(There is plenty of room in the article to infer that Meyer didn’t do enough.)
Witnessing a shooting is a traumatic event, and despite the lack of charges in the incident with the waiter, Meyer wasn’t exactly without any means to find out any information. Plus, he already knew that Hernandez needed guidance, assigning the Pouncey brothers to “babysit” him according to Rolling Stone, as well as bringing in Hernandez for morning scripture readings.
If you think that Florida didn’t, it’s unfair to look at the Gators and Meyer’s tenure as an individual problem when it comes to talent vs. transgressions. At LSU, Tyrann Mathieu said he failed 10 drug tests. He was suspended just once before he was dismissed. And there are undoubtedly countless other players who have avoided serious punishment at various times. (TCU and quarterback Casey Pachall, who rejoined the team after going to rehab following his DWI arrest, may be an outlier.)
Yes, Hernandez isn’t the only Meyer player to get in trouble with the law, and Carlos Hyde’s recent three game suspension only highlights that fact. However, it’s also possible to think that after all that’s transpired over the summer with Hernandez, Meyer is re-examining his staff’s philosophy when it comes to discipline now that he’s at Ohio State. The charges against Hyde have been dropped, but the suspension hasn’t. We’ll find out if that’s one-time situation or the start of a trend.
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