Just came back from a run. If you want to know why Florida football players are better than most, just go to Gainesville during June and jog three miles during the heat of the day. Your lungs burn. Your head aches. Your muscles revolt. It's an oppressive feeling of dread that attacks the senses from all directions. Now imagine two-a-days in August. Imagine getting smacked around by Brandon Spikes. Imagine attempting to cover Deonte Thompson at speeds approaching terminal velocity. Imagine the pain of blocking Carlos Dunlap. There simply is no escaping The Swamp.
GAINESVILLE -- A former Florida running back now coaching high school football in Broward County told me one time that you have to have your fair share of thugs to win college and NFL football games. I think of this every time I read a blog or column admonishing the Gators and UF coach Urban Meyer for the football team's rap sheet over the last five years.
Florida's arrest record since Meyer took over is extensive. So is its wins total. A grand total of 20 players have been ordered to appear before the court for 24 infractions. Most of the charges were misdemeanors. Some were felonies. All reflect poorly on the University of Florida when filtered through the scrutinizing prism of a newspaper.
Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley issued this statement regarding the recent rash of player arrests. Six players have been charged since November.
"It is really easy to focus on the negative issues and negative press," Foley said. "This is part of the world we live in, and we understand this. No one here condones our players stepping out of line, and everyone here wants to get better.
"However, Urban Meyer and his staff are the best that I have seen in modifying behavior and, at the end of day, the majority of the players who come through this program will make us all proud -- and not just because they are good football players."
I'm not writing this blog to condone the arrests of Florida's players, but I can write without reservation that my opinion on the matter leans towards that of an apologist. You've got to have thugs to win football games. This ideology is ingrained in football players. Should players be punished for breaking the law? Without question, yes. People -- you, me, everyone -- should be punished for breaking the law. Should coaches and administrators be held accountable when their players break the law. Without question, yes. Jeremy Foley knows better than most that behavior modification is a two-way street. Should newspaper writers demand a cleaner football program from the state's flagship university? Yeah, sure. That's what we think we're supposed to do.
But people should understand that our love of football in its current state helps to fuel this thuggish behavior. It's a byproduct of the game just like coaching salaries, television contracts ... my job as a football writer. There's a reason why Harvard won't be winning a national championship in football anytime soon. Does Harvard even have a football team? I wouldn't know. Its players' names don't show up on arrest reports. Jeremy Foley said it best: "This is part of the world we live in, and we understand this."