The University of Florida – and specifically Head Football Coach Urban Meyer – are under scrutiny this week, with reports of over 30 football players having been arrested in the time since Coach Meyer has been in charge of the program. As would be expected, critics are calling out UF and Coach Meyer, claiming the university would not have won two BCS championships in the last six years if it weren’t for them having to cheat to win.
Sadly, football programs in trouble with the NCAA are certainly no surprise to fans these days. The University of Florida is this week’s story, but just about every big-time football program has been under the microscope at one time or another in recent years (in fact, at this writing Reggie Bush just returned his Heisman Trophy, and USC has been put on probation by the NCAA as a result). Unfortunately, stories of college football players breaking the law has become commonplace – realistically, it’s not a question of if your favorite team will one day be in trouble, but instead when.
Coach Meyer has responded to the allegations, saying that he will address the situation and make it right. The question, though, is can he make he right – and still win? Let’s face it, in order to win NCAA football championships today coaches need to roll the dice and recruit a good number of marginal kids. By marginal kids, I am talking about young men with very little, if any, interest in academics – sometimes arriving to the university with a long criminal history already in place. Instead of taking advantage of the free education provided to them through their athletic scholarship, these young men are focused solely on one thing: To make it to the league. College, therefore, is nothing more than a springboard to help them make it to the league – and as they spend most of their time on their sport and at the expense of studying, there is a lot of free time for these young men to forget about their social responsibilities, leaving them at-risk for trouble.
The money in D-I football today is greater than ever before, and big-time coaches like Urban Meyer get paid millions of dollars annually to do one thing: Win. Integrity and scruples are out the window, as the way you win is by putting the best athletes on the field – not students. Coaches like Meyer are expected to win, and as a result they regularly canvass neighborhoods, playgrounds, and school yards across America looking for the best athletic talent — for wins and championships get them fatter and longer contracts, not graduation accomplishments.
I wonder if Coach Meyer would discipline his own kids differently if they got in the same trouble as many of his players have? Would he be as lenient, or would he dole out tougher punishments? I also wonder how frustrating it must be for some coaches as they battle doing things “right” versus the big, big money out there for “winning?”
These days, it does seem increasingly more difficult for coaches to win by exclusively recruiting well-rounded student athletes, but lets hope that as the arrrests mount, more coaches will re-examine their approaches to putting successful programs on the field.
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