April 11, 2012

Meyer not pleased with allegations

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Follow Noon | Rowland | Givler | Birmingham

COLUMBUS, Ohio - Urban Meyer had no problem with allegations of preferential treatment. After all, he's done that for years. But the formation of a supposed "Circle of Trust"? That's non-sense.

"When you start saying preferential treatment to players, that's probably a correct statement," Meyer said in his first public comments since a Sporting News story said he lost control of the team at Florida. "We did do that. We do that here. We did it at Bowling Green and Utah. If you go to class and you're a warrior, you do things the right way off and on the field, and you're completely committed to helping us win, you're going to get treated really well."

That practice has already taken hold at Ohio State with the implementation of the Champion's Club. The "Club" offers players rewards for excellence on and off the field. The first Champion's Dinner, complete with steak, was held in March.

But Meyer says he has never heard or used the phrase "Circle of Trust."

"A bunch of former players and coaches called me and where like, 'what is this,'" Meyer said about the group.

In the article, several named and unnamed former Florida players accuse Meyer of fostering an out of control environment that included favoritism and drug use. Meyer said the story contained "more than one" inaccuracy.

In six seasons at Florida, Meyer won two national championships and two SEC titles.

"I'm extremely proud of what we did down there," he said. "And throwing great players - not good players, great players -under the bus like that, I don't get the intent. I'll fight for those guys. Those guys did a lot of great things for the University of Florida. And to sit there and call them out four or five years later, I'm not sure of the intent, once again. But I'll always fight for those guys."

His comments were in reference to Percy Harvin, Aaron Hernandez and Brandon Spikes. The trio failed a drug test during their time at Florida. The article also cites unnamed sources saying Harvin got in a physical altercation with wide receivers coach Billy Gonzales during the 2008 season. The sources said Harvin had to be restrained by other coaches after grabbing Gonzales by the neck and throwing him to the ground. Harvin was never disciplined.

Gonzales, now the wide receivers coach at Illinois, released a statement on Wednesday denying the details in the story.

"In response to a recent story alleging an incident between Percy Harvin and me and while at Florida, the story is inaccurate. It didn't happen."

Meyer was quick to point out that he's never been in hot water with the NCAA and been in accordance to academic expectations.

"I want to say this real clear," he said. "There is no violation that we had as far as that whole conversation. I'm not sure why that keeps coming up. So, if you would bold that for me, underline it. There is not an NCAA violation.

"We were hired to graduate players, and we did that. We were top three in the SEC every year in graduation rates and (Academic Progress Rate). We were hired to win games, and we did that. We were hired to follow the rules, and we did that. We were hired to recruit great players, and we finished in the top five every year."

Wisconsin head coach Bret Bielema previously accused Meyer of committing recruiting violations, which are also detailed in the Sporting News story. The two coaches met in Chicago at the Big Ten's winter meeting and hashed out their differences. Bielema called it a misunderstanding.

Former Florida player Bryan Thomas accused Meyer of making him take a medical hardship to open up another scholarship.

"They interviewed a guy who never really played for us, so I'm not really sure of the intent," said Meyer when asked about Thomas' allegations.

"My family and I loved Florida, we still do and always will."


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