With two national championships and a Christian morals poster boy in Tim Tebow, it's easy to look at Urban Meyer's reign with the University of Florida Gators as some sort of shining example of the best of college football.
A new report from the Sporting News suggests otherwise. Former players says Meyer developed a "circle of trust" that resulted in lenient punishment, hiding positive drug tests from the public, and contributed to 30 players being arrested during Meyer's time in Gainesville.
Ironically, Florida's downfall began at the height of Meyer's success -- the 2008 national championship season. Three seasons of enabling and pandering to elite players -- what Meyer's players called his "Circle of Trust" -- began to tear away at what he'd put together.
"I've never heard of Circle of Trust before in my life," Meyer said.
Former players, though, contend it was the foundation of Florida's culture under Meyer. In the season opener against Hawaii, Meyer said a few elite players (including wideout Percy Harvin, linebacker Brandon Spikes and tight end Aaron Hernandez) would miss the game with injuries. According to multiple sources, the three players -- all critical factors in Florida's rise under Meyer -- failed drug tests for marijuana and were sitting out as part of standard university punishment.
Players who spoke to the Sporting News during a three month investigation say that Meyer's tactics made many players lose respect for him.
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"(Meyer) lost the team's respect," says former Florida safety Bryan Thomas. "That kind of stuff spreads through the players. They see what they can get away with, and they push it. Even the star players; they liked him because they were in the Circle of Trust. But it backfired on him. They didn't respect him."
Meyer apparently let Percy Harvin get away with a lot. Sources say Harvin physically assaulted wide receivers coach Billy Gonzales during the 2008 season but was never disciplined. Gonzales later resigned.
None of the implications in the article are necessarily damning the eyes in the NCAA. These aren't exactly Nevin Shapiro-level revelations, but they do paint a picture of a flawed coach whose brief time with the program brought the team to new heights but may have left the program in disrepair.