When the official Florida Gators twitter account teased a Ring Of Honor (ROH) announcement back in mid July, the page was flooded with replies from fans and media members alike with anticipatory cheers and jeers for former head football coach Urban Meyer.
— Florida Gators (@FloridaGators) July 13, 2020
Some sent gifs of the only ROH-eligible Gator to show their excitement. But others, not so convinced that Meyer belonged in any group with the word “honor” in its title, tweeted their dismay and disgust with the idea altogether.
Fortunately for the latter, the announcement was not an inductee, but instead a ROH merchandise launch. According to Thursday’s release from the University Athletic Association, the collection will highlight two ROH members every year for the next three years, starting with class of 2006 inductees Jack Youngblood and Emmitt Smith.
— Florida Gators (@FloridaGators) July 23, 2020
Depending on which camp you fall into, Thursday was either a close call or a major letdown. The last time Florida Football inducted anyone into the ROH was 2018 when Tim Tebow’s name was unveiled at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. Surely the program is due for an addition soon.
So, when the time comes, why not Urban Meyer?
Oh, I’ll tell you why.
A controversial figure, Meyer’s departure from Gainesville created a great chasm among Gator fans. While he claimed to step down for medical reasons and to escape the pressures of expectations that come with being the head football coach at a Power Five program, Meyer accepted a head coaching job with Ohio State University just 10 months after claiming it was time to hang up his whistle. That left a bad taste in a lot of people’s mouths.
Yes, he brought about some of the program’s best days with two national championships, two SEC championships and one Heisman Trophy winner. Yes, he was an excellent recruiter and team builder, earning him Sports Illustrated’s “Coach of the Decade” distinction. On paper, I can think of no one more deserving of a spot on that legendary ROH roster.
The issue lies with that (to some) pesky little word “honor.” While Meyer brought a breadth of athletic accolades to UF during his time as head coach, the way he ran things off the field brought nothing but shame to the program and the school.
In 2013, The New York Times released a report revealing that a third of the players on Meyer’s 2008 national championship winning team were arrested while in college, shortly after college or both.
Let’s think about that stat for a second. Forty one out of 121 athletes. According to that same report, 31 players were arrested under Meyer’s tutelage between 2005 and 2011. Where’s the honor in that program?
Now, it’s fair to say that prominent sports figures and celebrities don’t have to be role models. Meyer was a great coach that knew how to get results out of his athletes on the field. I will also say that people are imperfect and capable of growth. So the disciplinary measures he took at Florida, or lack thereof, may not be indicative of his current character. I’ve heard that he does wonderful work with charities nowadays. I’ve even met him a couple of times at Tim Tebow’s celebrity golf tournament.
But solely based on his time in Gainesville, Meyer is not someone to be revered. Plain and simple. Winning at all costs– sacrificing morals and sweeping scandals under the rug– is not up to the “Gator Standard” the UAA and current head football coach Dan Mullen boast about.
Sorry Gator fans, but I vote we leave this guy out.