Talk about the Florida Gators leads this week's mailbag:
From Tony in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.: You guys have had such a lovefest with Tim Tebow and the Gators. You've given them a free pass with all of the arrests that Florida keeps having. (Urban Meyer) boasts about how he only is taking the top 1% of 1% of character guys and yet this is what happens with guys firing assault rifles and being in the news for domestic abuse? This was the same guy who took Percy Harvin after all of the trouble he had in high school. He didn't sound like a top 1% of 1% character to me. If this was FSU and Bobby Bowden and our AD had to make a comment about the problems publicly, it would lead SportsCenter. Where's the outrage? Nole fans are waiting!
Feldman: Lots of college programs do deal with these kinds of problems. That's not to excuse Florida because it's never a good sign when a school has to go into damage control mode breaking down arrests by class and differentiating, "This was for a fight, that was for domestic abuse and that was actually for..." And, Florida did dismiss those players with the most egregious offenses. To be fair, I think UF is in a no-win situation with this. Stuff gets thrown around in the media and in blogs about how many players got arrested or were involved in "incidents" and it can be misleading. If the Gators try to clarify it, because they know the inaccurate info will get picked up on and spread all over the country (which it did), it sounds like they're spinning. If they just choose to ignore it, it'll morph into sounding like half the program's been arrested.
Your point about Meyer's comments about the top 1 percent line I think is a fair criticism. That line of his has gotten a lot of play over the years. Every time a Gator makes the news for some arrest or anything negative, I get at least one or two e-mails that reference it. Lots of times coaches make lofty comments but they end up straying from them and I suspect they know they probably will while they're making them. It was something he said after taking the UF job while working the booster circuit. I suspect he regrets having said it. No doubt, it has opened Meyer up to criticism. Then again, he's the coach of the defending national champs. By definition he's open to criticism. As I wrote a few weeks back, it certainly helps when the face of your program is Tim Tebow, but I do feel like more and more people have noticed Florida's problems off the field.
This story started to get some attention a few weeks ago when Dave Hyde, a columnist in South Florida, wrote about it. A few days later, Janoris Jenkins, a starting UF cornerback, gets charged with resisting arrest. Whether you think that incident is front-page worthy or not, the fact that it happened is exactly the kind of embarrassment no program wants, especially one that has had a lengthy tally of incidents. Meyer has shown he can be hard on guys who get in trouble, but does his punishment for these other incidents need to escalate so players have it in the front of their minds that their decisions have a larger impact? Yes, they're still college students but they're also part of a top program in the country, and with that, comes a certain responsibility.
From Dennis in Orlando, Fla.: The Gators are in the midst of something truly special as we all know. Everyone is going to have them preseason No. 1. Has there ever been a team with the Heisman Trophy winner and the Butkus Award winner in the same year like UF could do with Tim Tebow and Brandon Spikes?
Feldman: Actually, yes. In 2003, Oklahoma had that double with Jason White and Teddy Lehman. In 1991, Michigan did it as well with Desmond Howard and Erick Anderson.
From Chris in Arlington, Va.: I noticed in your response to Matt from DC that you didn't mention Virginia Tech. They have the most wins in college football the past five years outside of USC and Texas. We don't claim to be quite on their level yet, but we're always curious to see how outsiders view us. Personally, I think the Big Ten is a joke and Ohio State shouldn't ever be considered for a title game if they're undefeated. Is the ACC holding us back from the national recognition? Why wouldn't you consider a team from a BCS conference that has won the league three straight years and been to two straight Orange Bowls to be among college elite?
Feldman: I actually made the comment in the Conversation that ensued underneath that entry that Va. Tech at least deserved to be in the discussion (this was after another reader wondered where Oregon fit in that mix). One of the reasons why I'd put Ohio State above Va. Tech in this decade is because OSU won a national title and ended Miami's 34-game win steak to do it. Also, the Buckeyes have won some big nonconference games, winning at No. 2 Texas 24-7 and dominating No. 5 Notre Dame. And for as much criticism as they've endured, the Buckeyes are 4-6 against top-10 opponents in the past five seasons. That's not great, but it's not as bad as I thought it would be.
I think the Hokies were on the edge of being in that group for the reasons you state. Ultimately, though, they haven't broken through enough against elite teams. They are 3-6 against top-10 teams in the past five years, but 0-4 against top-five teams.
From Ben in Arlington, Texas: What is your opinion of Mike Sherman's chances of turning it around in College Station? Tim Griffin recently blogged about the poor state of the program. A&M has excellent facilities, excellent fan base, excellent recruiting grounds, and excellent tradition. Did Fran really screw things up that badly? I look at the 2-deep of this year's defense and for the first time in my life, optimistic me can't even get excited about the upcoming season and is most certain they'll be last in the Big 12 South. What went wrong and what can be done to make it right?Feldman: My perception of A&M is the Aggies have really struggled to get any kind of momentum going and they've suffered a little as some of the other emerging Big 12 teams have risen up (Oklahoma State, Texas Tech, Mizzou and Baylor). The league is deeper. Those other teams have been led by prolific, heady QBs. I feel like the Aggies have really struggled to find a guy like that to run the show. The defense also has struggled to find its identity. I was amazed when I got to see A&M in person a few years ago in the Holiday Bowl against Cal, when the Bears players basically said they challenged this supposedly tough team from Texas and the Aggies wilted.
I'm skeptical that Sherman is the right guy to compete with the rest of the good programs in that league, much less Mack Brown and Bob Stoops. I know the Aggies do have some good young players, but I feel like A&M is miles from where it used to be.
From Billy in Detroit: I'm a big fan of recruiting and I was interested in your story from the other day. It feels like the NCAA and the compliance people believe if these schools policed themselves a lot of this wouldn't be a problem, but you know that'll never happen so everything has gotten out of hand. How much do you think the schools actually do turn themselves in on these days?
Feldman: My hunch is not a lot. There are honest mistakes of course, but there are also things that they know their rivals are doing, so they feel like they must do it too. For instance, the NCAA's Christopher Radford wrote in our exchange about how "Coaches aren't allowed to publicize any contact with recruits, so as far as media presence goes, it is a violation if the coach talks about a specific prospect to a reporter, whether the story is published or not." Well, there's probably not a beat writer in the country who at some point hasn't discussed some ballyhooed recruit with a college coach. Does the NCAA think those schools should self-report even "off-the-record" comments? Obviously, they'd prefer that those conversations never be had. The elephant in the room on this matter is the legion of recruiting Web sites affiliated with Rivals, Scout and ESPN. It's hard to fathom that these sites could survive without having some pipeline into the football offices of the programs they cover to feed them information about whom they're talking to, or whom they'd like to be talking to.To read the rest of Bruce Feldman's blog -- Paul Johnson responding to critics of Georgia Tech's offense, a new stat about Miami draftees, and how good Kent Graham's son might be in a few years, among much more -- you just be an ESPN Insider.
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