GAINESVILLE, FL - OCTOBER 09: Head coach Urban Meyer of the Florida Gators puts his hand on his head during the game against the Louisiana State University Tigers at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium on October 9, 2010 in Gainesville, Florida. (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)
On Tuesday, Urban Meyer reinstated Chris Rainey, following his arrest on a misdemeanor stalking charge. Rainey will practice with the team, but will not play until he meets certain standards. From the Palm Beach Post;
Meyer said the program wrote a behavior contract for Rainey and he must meet all of its obligations before he can play again. Rainey also has spoken at two area high schools since his arrest in an effort to discourage students from making the same mistake he did.
It is in Meyer's best interest to help rehabilitate Rainey. Is it the right thing to have him back on the team? That depends on if Rainey demonstrates that he is maturing. But, Meyer could have helped Rainey mature without rejoining the team. We don't know if that was an option or not. Ignoring your own personal biases, think about this; Rainey needs a support group if he is going to become a productive citizen. The team is his best hope for that. Practicing can restore some normalcy to his life. Meyer knows that. It may not be the best thing in terms of public perception, but Meyer sees it as the best thing for his player. It's also the best thing for Meyer. Kicking a player off the team is admitting that the player should never have been brought to Florida.
Meyer's other notable relationship this season is with Steve Addazio. As Gator fans become increasingly angry at the offensive coordinator for two seasons of an offense that can't finish drives, Meyer has stood by his man. It seems as if his loyalty to Addazio is based on Addazio's work when Meyer decreased his work load following the Sugar Bowl. When UF could have been in a tail spin, Addazio was successful holding the program together. Florida's recruiting class, especially on defense, might be one of the better classes UF will have. Addazio was part of that. But the problem with Addazio is that he seems to be overwhelmed as a coordinator, line coach and consigliere. Meyer is aware of the problems, but here his loyalty is clouded by protecting Addazio and himself.
If Addazio is removed as coordinator, it ruins any chance of him becoming a head coach. Previous Meyer coaches Dan Mullen, Charlie Strong and Kyle Wittingham got new gigs, while Doc Holliday (Marshall head coach) and Greg Mattison (Ravens defensive coordinator) used UF as a springboard to better posts. Addazio can forget about that if he is seen as an ineffective coordinator. Meyer knows this. Meyer also knows that he put Addazio in this position, reflecting back on himself. Removing Addazio is Meyer saying he made a mistake.
In the case of Rainey, athletic director Jeremy Foley and UF President Bernie Machen were also consulted. Meyer has a good relationship with both men (Machen hired Meyer at Utah), and their input means something. With Addazio, we can only hope Foley and Machen are also involved. Foley wants to win. Machen wants money for UF. Addazio is in the way of that. Meyer has to decide how far he takes his loyalty with both Rainey and Addazio.