Off-Field Troubles Not Surprising

Following a season that saw Urban Meyer dismiss one of the Gators best defensive lineman and suspend another for off the field issues, once again he finds himself needing to reprimand a player. The recent troubles are becoming a recurring theme for Florida.

The arrest of Brandon James (along with basketball player Brandon Powell) for possession and attempted purchase of marijuana brings to seven the total number of Gator football players who have had some sort of legal issues since the Gators hoisted the National Championship trophy in Glendale, Arizona. While only one of the players (Ronnie Wilson) is involved in what I would consider to be a major problem, the number of incidents is somewhat disconcerting.

Urban Meyer has done a tremendous job in his two years in Gainesville both on and off the field. He immediately established discipline and accountability to a program that clearly needed both. He let players know that they would have to deal with him for any indiscretion and, frankly had the players pretty much scared of him.

Well the "fear factor" may be gone, and Meyer faces a new challenge in re-establishing the mindset that worked so well for his first 14 months or so. He needs to make the current and incoming Gators know that a high price will be paid for these and future indiscretions. Anyone betting against that happening just hasn't been paying attention.

Strong Action has been Taken

Just look at the Florida football roster and you can visualize the names that could be on the page but aren't. Players whose mishaps and misdeeds might result in stadium steps and counseling elsewhere have resulted in guys being removed from the team. You think Florida would be a better football team with Ronnie Wilson, Avery Atkins, Jon Demps, Dawayne Grace and Darryl Gresham Jr. still on the roster? More talented for sure, but a better team probably not.

Meyer has shown a willingness to suffer the short term pain that comes with strong discipline in exchange for the long term gain of having the right kids doing the right things. I don't know how he'll handle the situation with Brandon James, but I have little doubt that James' college experience is forever changed.

Something About Championship Teams

Why is it that off field trouble invariably seems to follow football championships? Well, I think it starts with the basic notion that young people think they are invincible. Young athletes are even more likely to think they can survive anything and young athletes on top of the world are in a totally different (and imaginary) world. Then you add in the NCAA's short-sighted policies which limit the time coaches can spend with their kids on the off-season and you have the potential for trouble.

That doesn't excuse aberrant behavior, but it does put it into a relevant context. As a parent of two daughters age 21 and 18 I know first hand that all the instruction and oversight in the world only goes so far. Individual behavioral decisions will always rule the day and when you have 85 or so people of that age under your direction some are going to make bad decisions. James and Powell weren't the first, and undoubtedly they won't be the last.

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