GAINESVILLE -- How does this happen ... again? Felony stalking? How does a starter get arrested for something this embarrassing for the second straight big game in a row? (Sorry, Cincinnati fans, but I'm not counting that consolation Sugar Bowl as a big game.)
Carlos Dunlap was arrested for DUI in the early morning hours on the Tuesday before the Gators' 2009 SEC championship game against Alabama. Chris Rainey was arrested in the early morning hours on a Tuesday before the Gators' 2010 SEC opener against Tennessee. This astonishes me. (And, if you're not astonished by this, then something is really wrong with you.) Rainey has put Florida coach Urban Meyer in a difficult situation. There is a growing perception nationally that he doesn't have control of his players.
Rainey was issued a mandatory curfew by an Alachua County judge on Tuesday. Not a bad idea. Meyer said that "accountability and development" were the themes for the Gators' fall camp. I just assumed that mantra was going to carry over into the season. Am I being too critical here? Perhaps. After all, Rainey's individual actions away from football certainly should not be a reflection of his teammates. But that's my point. They will be. Right or wrong, this is an example of the national perception facing Florida football right now and, by extension, the entire University of Florida. Since Dunlap's arrest, four more Gators have been charged with misdemeanors and one with a felony. And I'm not even going to bring Brandon Spikes into this discussion.
Rainey's arrest during Tennessee week is a terrible situation for Meyer. Meyer did not speak publicly about Rainey's arrest on Tuesday -- although Rainey's attorney, Huntley Johnson, certainly did enough talking for everyone -- but I know Meyer is absolutely crushed about this. Rainey might be Meyer's favorite player on the team.
Will that save Rainey or will Meyer be forced to dismiss him permanently because of public perception? One of Meyer's "core values" for his team is respect for women. The other core values are no guns, no stealing, no drugs and honesty. In the past, players have been kicked off the team for arrests involving women (Gary Brown, Jacques Rickerson, Ronnie Wilson and Avery Atkins).
If the person who called the police on Rainey on Tuesday morning was a UF student, I feel certain that Rainey would be kicked off the team permanently. The person was not a student and told a judge on Tuesday morning that she did not want Rainey to be arrested. Of course, none of this really matters. The damage has already been done.