Meyer not to blame for Hernandez

If I have this right, the fact that Urban Meyer recruited Aaron Hernandez to play football at the University of Florida means he’s somehow responsible for Hernandez’s alleged involvement in at least one recent murder.

There’s something lost in the connection … like logic.

Some reporters have too much time on their hands at this time of the year. That’s the only rational reason anyone can give for linking the now-Ohio State coach to a Hernandez saga that grows stranger each day.

The implication seems to be that by recruiting a high-risk player, Meyer is then responsible for all of his actions after he was drafted into the NFL by the New England Patriots. That’s putting way too much power on a coach’s ability to direct an athlete’s life during his three or four years on campus.

By that thinking, we can blame the late John McKay for the way O.J. Simpson turned out after his college days at USC. All of Ryan Leaf’s off-the-field problems apparently are the fault of former Washington State football coach Mike Price.

Meyer remained silent on the criticism until last week when he contacted “Columbus Dispatch” columnist Tim May through a series of text messages. Meyer strongly denied that he enabled Hernandez through lax disciplinary measures during his college career.

Meyer characterized the incidents as being “very minor stuff. He was questioned about being a witness (to a shooting), and he had an argument in a restaurant, and he was suspended one game (for a failed marijuana test). Other than that, he was three years a good player. That was it.”

Hernandez’s alleged assault of the manager of a bar that broke the man’s ear drum is hardly minor stuff. A police report said the victim was, at first, adamant about filing charges but later said he may request the charges be dropped. It’s not known if a financial settlement was sought to keep the issue out of the public eye.

Meyer’s tenure at Florida is fair game for criticism regarding the character of the athletes he recruited. It’s been calculated that 41 players on the Gators’ 2008 national championship team have been arrested for various crimes.

That number is alarming and certainly casts a shadow on Meyer’s six-year tenure in Gainesville. Only the staunchest Florida fan would look beyond that total and say there wasn’t a problem.

But blaming Meyer for something Hernandez may have done three years after leaving Florida is another silly attempt to avoid looking at the larger picture, which is a breakdown of the family unit. When an athlete goes bad, it’s easy to blame anyone in society (coaches included) instead of pinpointing the root of the problem, which usually resides at the address of the parents or a parent.

Hernandez may very well have gotten away with some deplorable behavior at Florida, but when he left town, he was a grown man. It was time for him to take full responsibility for his actions, and we see where that led.

There appears to be one bad guy in this sordid mess, and it’s Hernandez. Sadly, society will soon forget Odin Lloyd, the young semi-pro football player who lost his life a few weeks ago. He’ll become another nameless crime statistic.

Don’t blame Meyer on this one. Big-time college football programs have nurtured athletes through troubled times for decades. We’d all be shocked if we knew what coaches have allowed star players to get away with since days long before Meyer was born. Most of those players didn’t commit murder.

“At the end of the day, there is free will,” Meyer told the Dispatch for a story last Sunday. “You can’t change people. You can set the table and try to help them, make sure there is a spiritual component in their life, and make sure there is a family atmosphere and that’s what we try to do. It’s what we’ve tried to do everywhere.”

That should put an end to the blame game.