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Old 04-09-2012   #1
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Default From champs to chomped: How Urban Meyer broke Florida football

From champs to chomped: How Urban Meyer broke Florida football

Matt Hayes -- Sporting News

The uproar and controversy of Urban Meyer’s stunning recruiting coup at Ohio State settled in and Stefon Diggs, still on the Buckeyes' wish list, was debating his future.

Diggs, the second-highest rated wide receiver in the country, had narrowed his list of potential schools to Maryland, Florida and Ohio State. For more than a week following National Signing Day on Feb. 1, and before Diggs eventually signed with Maryland, Meyer relentlessly pursued Diggs.

Multiple sources told Sporting News that Meyer—who won two national championships in six years at Florida and cemented his legacy as one of the game’s greatest coaches—told the Diggs family that he wouldn’t let his son go to Florida because of significant character issues in the locker room.

Character issues that we now know were fueled by a culture Meyer created. Character issues that gutted what was four years earlier the most powerful program in college football.

It was Meyer who declared the Florida program “broken” at the end of his last regular season game in Gainesville in November of 2010. But why was it broken?

“Over the last two years he was there,” one former player said, “the players had taken complete control of the team.”

Only now, through interviews with multiple sources during a three-month Sporting News investigation, do we see just how damaged the infrastructure really was and how much repair work second-year coach Will Muschamp has had to undertake in replacing Meyer—who has moved on to Ohio State less than a year after resigning from Florida for health reasons.

Meyer denies allegations that he cast Florida and its players in a dark light when he spoke to the Diggs family, and said, “I love Florida; I’ll always be a Gator. My motives were pure as gold when I left. We left Florida because I was dealing with health issues that I’ve since learned how to control.”

But multiple former players and others close to the program say the timing of his departure was also tied to the roster he left behind. Remember it was Meyer who hinted the program that won 13 games in 2006, 2008 and 2009—and lost only 10 games from 2005-09—was flawed beyond the unsuspecting eye.

Now those issues have surfaced for all to see. Left in the wake of Meyer’s resignation were problems that can destroy a coaching career: drug use among players, a philosophy of preferential treatment for certain players, a sense of entitlement among all players and roster management by scholarship manipulation.

The coach who holds himself above the seedy underbelly of the game; who as an ESPN television analyst in 2011 publicly berated the ills of college football; left a program mired in the very things he has criticized.

“The program,” former Florida safety Bryan Thomas said, “was out of control.”

Circle game

Ironically, Florida’s downfall began at the height of Meyer’s success—the 2008 national championship season...


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