Urban Meyer and the Cost of Winning

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Updated: July 10, 2013
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Urban Meyer

There are many fundamental truths which govern our lives. One of them is that every single thing in the world has a cost associated with it. It may be a literal cost, or it may just be a figurative one. But nothing is free.

Winning is no exception. To win, you must be willing to pay the price.

But how much is too much? That’s for each competitor to decide. What one person might consider exorbitant, another might find to be chump change. Every man has his price, and those prices will vary.

In the wake of the arrest of Aaron Hernandez for the murder of Odin Lloyd, many are revisiting the price the Florida Gators were willing to pay for their 2006 and 2008 national titles, more specifically, the price former head coach Urban Meyer was willing to pay.

By now, we’re all familiar with Greg Bishop’s piece in the New York Times. The one in which Bishop revealed what he described as “the underbelly” of Urban Meyer’s Florida Gators.

It was disconcerting.

Some 31 Florida Gator football players were arrested between 2005 and 2010, the exact years Meyer reigned supreme in Gainesville. And while many of those arrests were typical of what you might expect from from your garden-variety college student (underaged drinking, disorderly conduct), others were anything but. Like arrests for aggravated stalking, domestic violence by strangulation, aggravated assault and larceny.

As I read the piece, I nodded with faint recollection, particularly when I got to the part about former Gator safety Jamar Hornsby, who was arrested for using a dead woman’s credit card.

Seventy times.

As if that weren’t callous enough, the decedent, Ashley Slonina, was killed in a motorcycle crash along with one of Hornsby’s Gator teammates, redshirt freshman Michael Guilford.

To Meyer’s credit, Hornsby was booted off the team and would get no second chance. But many of his teammates, indeed, would. Like Ronnie Wilson, a highly touted lineman who was part of Meyer’s first recruiting class in 2005. He channeled his inner Tony Montana in April of 2007 by opening fire outside a nightclub with an AK-47.

An AK-47.

Meyer let Wilson back on the team in 2008 despite the fact he got busted for weed shortly after the AK-47 incident. (Tony Montana would have gone with blow, but whatever.)

Wilson’s second chance was short lived, as he’d get arrested yet again in October of 2008 when, according to The Gainesville Sun, he “allegedly struck two victims during a late-night birthday party at an off-campus apartment complex. One victim, a woman, suffered a broken wrist.”

Then there was Chris Rainey, who UT fans best remember for the 233 all-purpose yards he hung on the Vols during the 2011 loss in the Swamp. But one of his former girlfriends best remembers him for a 2010 text in which he informed her that it was “time to die, bitch.” Rainey was arrested this past January in Gainesville for battery charges and was subsequently released by the Pittsburgh Steelers.

The list goes on and on. But of all the Florida football players who were arrested in Gainesville, it might surprise you to learn that Aaron Hernandez was not one of them.

But that doesn’t mean Aaron kept his nose clean. In 2007, police tried to question the then 17-year-old about a late-night shooting that went down just blocks away from a Gainesville nightclub called The Venue. Two men had approached a vehicle that was stopped in traffic before opening fire on the three men inside. Driver Justin Glass was hit in the arm, while his passenger, Corey Smith was hit in the back of the head. The man in the backseat, Randal Cason, was unharmed.

According to ESPN’s “Outside the Lines”, Cason described the shooter as “a ‘Hawaiian’ or ‘Hispanic’ male who had a large, muscular build, stood about 6-foot-3 or 6-4, weighed about 230 or 240 pounds and had a lot of tattoos.” Cason was “sure” the shooter was a Florida football player, but he didn’t know the man’s name. He did, however, know the name of the man who was with the shooter — former Gator, Reggie Nelson, who was a rookie with the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Cason’s account was chronicled in the police report:

“As they were waiting for the light to change, the Hawaiian football player and Reggie Nelson walked up to their car on the right side. Then, without saying a work [sic], the Hawaiian pointed a small handgun in the front right window and fired five quick shots. Cason saw Smith [who would be in a coma for two days and would eventually have to relearn basic things such as speaking and writing] slump over with blood coming out of the back of the head, at which time the Hawaiian and Nelson took off running towards McDonald’s.”

When questioned by police, Nelson confirmed that he and Hernandez had seen Cason at The Venue earlier that night. While there, Hernandez informed Nelson that Cason had taken a necklace that belonged to one of the Pouncey twins (Mike and Marukice, current NFLers who were teammates of Hernandez at the time). Nelson told police he’d discussed the matter with Cason, but that he and Cason had parted on “good terms” and that he had nothing to do with the shooting.

Two days after the shooting, Gainesville police Lt. Keith Kameg told the Orlando Sentinel that neither Nelson nor Hernandez was a suspect, and that “they were never implicated in anything. We wanted some information from them. They supplied it and left.”

This is clearly inaccurate. Both men were implicated. What’s more, Hernandez never answered a single question about the matter, instead invoking his right to counsel. And in a development that’s curious at best, Randal Cason wound up rescinding his identification of both Nelson and Hernandez.

When recently asked by Tim May of the Columbus Dispatch what he recalled of Hernandez’s brush with the law during his time in Gainesville, Meyer had this to say:

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