Was the Florida Gators' Recruiting Class Deceived by Urban Meyer?

Let’s not mince words here; ever since I made the mistake of treating this soulless Cardassian cyborg like a functional human being, Urban Meyer has used every means at his disposal to confirm that he is, in fact, a total sleazeball. Yes, I would dislike him just because he was the Florida head coach, but Steve Spurrier was merely obnoxious; Urban Meyer’s a lying scumbag. You know it, I know it, and Matt Hinton knows it. Here, for the record, is the tale of the tape:

On December 9, 2009, Florida defensive coordinator Charlie Strong was hired to be the head coach at Louisville. Less than a month later, in a move many Gator fans considered "a surprise," Coach Meyer hired George Edwards to succeed Coach Strong in Gainesville. SB Nation’s Florida blogger, mlmintampa, noted (in the posting linked to in the preceding sentence): "Having a pro coach might provide an advantage of, ‘Hey kid, I can get you to the pros’."

On January 19, 2010, Chan Gailey was hired as the head coach in Buffalo. SB Nation’s lead Bills blogger, Brian Galliford, offered this assessment the following day:

Clearly, the first thing Gailey needs to do is get his stable of assistants in place. Expect him to concentrate on the defensive side of ball first, as Gailey revealed at his introductory press conference that he would be Buffalo's offensive play-caller in 2010. . . .

Gailey's most important hire will obviously be his defensive coordinator.

While Galliford’s evaluation certainly made sense, Coach Gailey’s immediate moves were on the other side of the ball, and the assistants he chose shared a common characteristic: all of them had worked with Chan Gailey at his previous coaching stops. Less than a week after the new head coach was hired, longtime colleague Curtis Modkins was tapped to be Buffalo’s offensive coordinator, and, by January 27, tight ends coach Bob Bicknell, offensive line coach Joe D’Alessandris, and offensive quality control coach Kevin Patullo had been added. All had prior experience with Coach Gailey.

The Bills’ offensive staff was rounded out on February 1, when hires reported over the weekend were announced officially. George Cortez was introduced as quarterbacks coach and special teams coordinator Bruce DeHaven came on board, as well.

Accordingly, although Galliford’s prediction was imminently sensible, the exact opposite occurred: Chan Gailey needed to make hiring a defensive coordinator his top priority, but, instead, he assembled a complete offensive staff and even hired a special teams coordinator without appointing a chief assistant to run the defense. This left matters very much up in the air, as Coach Gailey’s other defensive hires were without formal position responsibilities or official titles: Giff Smith was brought in as a defensive assistant and Bob Sanders was retained from the previous staff, but their job descriptions were amorphous while the most important staff position remained unfilled.

What made the situation even more odd was the fact that Coach Gailey must have had his man in mind. His other staff hires showed a clear pattern of picking assistants with whom he had worked previously, and Coach Edwards had been given his first NFL job by Coach Gailey more than a decade before. Since the new Buffalo head coach surely had at least an inkling that Coach Edwards was the guy he wanted, why didn’t he do what he did in assembling an offensive staff; viz., hire the coordinator first then fill in the flow chart from there? Nothing prevented him from doing so, since the customary prohibition on poaching coaches involved in playoff runs obviously did not apply.

On February 3, Florida inked the country’s top recruiting class on national signing day despite the turmoil caused by Coach Meyer’s uncertain status since Christmas. Undoubtedly, this was pleasing to Coach Gailey, who quarterbacked the Gators as a collegian and recently helmed a Georgia Tech program that shares with Florida the view that Georgia and Florida State are hated rivals.

Also on national signing day, Jim Donnan stated on Atlanta radio (without naming names) that a big hire was forthcoming that would take a notable coach from a significant program. Coach Donnan indicated that he expected an announcement that day. No such announcement was made on February 3.

On February 4, in apparent confirmation of Coach Donnan’s forecast the previous day, Coach Edwards was hired as the defensive coordinator of the Buffalo Bills after less than a month on Coach Meyer’s staff. The members of the elite Florida recruiting class whose national letters of intent had been signed just the day before evidently knew nothing of the move beforehand.

Now, it’s possible that it could just be a heck of a coincidence and that relentless control freak Urban Meyer was blissfully ignorant that his defensive coordinator was about to bail on him, even though a radio host who’s been out of coaching for a decade---since then-Notre Dame wide receivers coach Urban Meyer was about to start his first head coaching job at Bowling Green---knew it was happening beforehand. Maybe Coach Meyer’s recent health reversals have left him that oblivious to major events inside the program he micromanages obsessively . . . but I don’t believe that, and neither do you.

Are we seriously to believe that Chan Gailey, despite needing most of all to hire a defensive coordinator, saved the most important position for last, even though his hiring pattern made it abundantly clear that he wanted someone with whom he had worked before and he knew full well that George Edwards had the best resume for the job? Are we to believe that Chan Gailey did such a thing in a vacuum, and just happened to hold off until the day after George Edwards’s presence as an NFL guy on Urban Meyer’s staff aided Chan Gailey’s alma mater in landing the cream of the incoming collegiate crop?

Maybe that makes sense to you, but, to me, it seems a good deal more plausible that Chan Gailey knew from the get-go that he wanted George Edwards and that, either at Urban Meyer’s request or with Urban Meyer’s knowing assent, he waited more than two weeks to formalize that relationship so that the Gators could create the illusion of stability in an effort to dupe at least some of their recruits into signing with Florida under false pretenses.

Do I know Urban Meyer did such a thing? I do not; I’m just connecting the dots, but circumstantial evidence is still good evidence, and the math doesn’t seem to add up any other way. Besides, given what we know about Urban Meyer, exaggerator extraordinaire and outright liar, is there anything even a Gator fan---or, for that matter, even the daughter who thought she had her daddy back---would put past this charlatan? Doug Gillett is a friend of mine, but he has Coach Meyer ranked three spots too low.

The irony is that Urban Meyer has been as successful as any coach in the BCS era yet Congress intends to subject the BCS to laws governing deceptive trade practices. This is silly, seeing as how the consumers of college football are so fully aware of the Bowl Championship Series’s inherent flaws that fans consistently refer to the national championship as "mythical," but, if the House of Representatives wants to protect someone from dishonest practices in college football, maybe it ought to start in Gainesville with the 28 young men who are bound by letters of intent that were obtained by a man who ought to be asked, "What did the head coach know and when did he know it?"

Maybe every last one of those kids would have signed with Florida, anyway, but not telling them until the ink is dry is just sleazy, and the fact that he apparently kept the information from them suggests strongly that Coach Meyer wasn’t so sure there wouldn’t have been some defections if he was honest. As it stands, any member of the incoming crop of freshman Gators who thought he was coming to play for George Edwards and wants to go somewhere else because he feels he was misled can go play in Division I-AA or transfer within Division I-A and sit out a year. When outside observers look at such restrictions and shake their heads at the system in place in college football, we should not wonder why they condemn the sport as morally bankrupt. As long as we reward lying sacks of crap like Urban Meyer, the critics are right.

Meanwhile, Mark Richt is drawing criticism from fans for his signing class, yet still he continues to stand up like a man and say things like this:

Recruiting is a lot about relationships. Anytime there is some kind of change on your staff for whatever reason, the relationships that have been built throughout this recruiting process were broken. I think the timing of the hire taking as long as it did, it did put a strain on these young men that we had committed. We know that some guys changed their mind.

So it can be confusing at times. It can be very difficult at times. That’s why our policy has been to be very straightforward from the beginning. Don’t say something that won’t come true in the end. Trust is really the only thing we have to hold us together, I think.

What does it profit a man if he wins two crystal footballs at the cost of his own soul? The reason Old Scratch came up empty in Charlie Daniels’s "The Devil Went Down to Georgia" is that he went one state too far north.

Go ‘Dawgs!

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