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College Sports and Character

Urban Meyer was in Miami Wednesday when he made comments addressing the latest incident that involved Jamar Hornsby and a stolen credit card. Rather an acknowledge mistakes made by the program (failing to properly discipline Hornsby for two prior incidents) he placed part of the blame on the NCAA.


''The NCAA is pulling us off the recruiting process,'' he said, in comments reported by South Florida media outlets. "I'm not allowed to go out [to visit players] anymore. I'm not allowed to text message. I'm trying to find out as best I can. You just keep re-evaluating.

"If you just look around and see some of the things that are going on, it's amazing. It's concerning. It's alarming," Meyer said. "So we take a great deal of time and effort in trying to educate guys, work with them and recruit character. Are we perfect? Absolutely not."

I cannot speak for Florida Football because I don’t know the depth of punishment Hornsby received for being charged with criminal mischief and for selling his Georgia tickets. Any college student or athlete could do that and still be a fine citizen. But it takes a special level of narcissism and disrespect to do what Hornsby did. And that is where Florida and every institution has failed.

One of the things that has always bothered me about college sports was the appearance that some of the players (sorry, student-athletes) are merely screws in a giant money making machine. This idea has filtered down to now looking at high school kids and judging them on 40 times and bench reps. What’s the difference then between men on Wall Street salivating over the next big IPO and men on Gator Country boards salivating over the next big QB? After all, if the IPO or QB fails, there will be another one to fill the spot in a few months.

I’m not saying Hornsby was another screw in the machine, but the lack of effort put into punishing him reflects back on UF. Was there a lack of effort because they did not care? Or because they needed him so desperately on special teams? I tend to think it is the first option. Think of it this way; if your son causes $750 in damage and then breaks a rule, how hard do you punish him the second time? Is it hard enough that he learns a lesson? I would think so.

Pointing the finger at Meyer or even the Gators coaches is not my point here because this is a national thing that has been going on for years. Christian Peter at Nebraska, Jerramy Stevens at Washington; examples of young adults allowed to do what as they please. Universities have to take a much larger role in the lives of their athletes. Don’t just give them physicals, send them to a psychiatrist, and not to, “Awaken the Giant within,” or some motivational BS. (Most schools have the cash to do this. But they spend it on leather chairs in skyboxes.) Colleges have to learn more about these kids beyond 40 times and bench reps. Maybe something could be spotted before one athlete thinks it is acceptable to steal a dead student’s credit card. Meyer wants to address character, well, getting back texting privileges won’t lead to any deeper understanding of the mind of an 18-year old.

I don’t know what leads to teams keeping on players who break rules. Maybe they are afraid what happened to Florida women’s basketball will happen to them. In 2005, Florida standout Bernice Mosby thought the appropriate way to deal with a teammate was to attack her. She was kicked out of school, went to Baylor and was an All-American candidate who was drafted in the WNBA. She could have helped Florida, but made a personal decision and UF responded.

Meyer and all college coaches need to understand that if you’re not going to put in the effort to understand these kids, don’t put in the effort to keep them around.