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After reports surfaced the University of Florida and its coaching staffed had concealed failed drug tests by Aaron Hernandez during his time as a Gator, Urban Meyer, now head coach at Ohio State, felt compelled to finally break his silence to address those rumors, which he immediately dismissed, among others.
Meyer, who coached Hernandez at the University of Florida for three years, had been rather quiet when it came to the Hernandez situation until now. Meyer has come out to address the criticism of how he and his coaching staff handled disciplinary actions when it came to Hernandez, who is currently being held without bail on a first-degree murder charge.
Meyer and his team have been the center of mounting criticism on the way they handled Hernandez as a collegian. Critics have blamed the coach for Hernandez’s transgressions in college, some even going as far as to blame the coach for Hernandez’s present choices, arguing the coach should have done more to discipline the tight end.
Stories have emerged about several troubling incidents involving Hernandez under Meyer’s watch. Besides failed drug tests, there was a 2007 incident in which Hernandez and another Gator were questioned by police in connection to a shooting. The players were never disciplined because according to Meyer, he was informed by an assistant the players were questioned just as witnesses. Another incident occurred Hernandez’s freshman year in which he was involved in a bar fight but charges were never pressed, and again no disciplinary actions were taken. Critics also blame the coach for his lack of consequences for Hernandez and enabling the former tight end to believe he is above the rules of the team, translating to his mentality now that he is above the law.
Meyer is now adamantly defending himself and his staff against the recent criticism saying neither he or his staff should be held responsible for Hernandez’s actions, past or present. In a message to The Columbus Dispatch and The Gainesville Sun, Meyers started off by saying, “Prayers and thoughts are with the family and friends of the victim.” He continued to say, “Relating or blaming these serious charges to the University of Florida, myself or our staff is wrong and irresponsible.”
Meyer is completely right and justified in making those statements. It is unfair to put blame on him for the actions of Hernandez some 4 years removed from college. Meyer addressed his relationship with Hernandez by saying, “He was an athlete at Florida 4-7 years ago and there are some comments being made that are not correct. Our staff, myself and our families worked very hard to mentor and guide him.” No matter how hard Meyer had worked to mentor Hernandez, Hernandez has to be held accountable for his own actions.
To insinuate Meyer played a role in Hernandez’s troubles now is ridiculous. Everyone wants to point fingers and find someone to blame but there is only one person responsible for Hernandez sitting in jail now, and that is Hernandez himself. The poor choices Hernandez has made are his and his alone. To blame Meyer for something Hernandez has done now is unfair. Coaches are not babysitters. They can only lay the foundation for players to do the right thing and try to instill the right morals in their players. Sometimes, that is not enough as outside factors have a bigger influence on the players. Like the old saying goes, “You can lead a horse to water but you cannot make it drink.”
Meyer and his crew did their job. It was well known to NFL teams Hernandez had failed drug tests and was not associating with the best people. The questions and red flags about the former tight end’s character coming out of college caused him to drop to the fourth round in the NFL draft.
We all wish the Hernandez story could have turned out differently. Now all we can do is move on and stop pointing fingers. Bottom line is, Hernandez had us all fooled.