It was an interview last week on 107 The Fan radio in Indianapolis with a retired football coach that offered a real insight into the state of college football past and present.
The retired football coach was Urban Meyer, although he is still a young man in regard to the normal working lifespan of the average adult. But let's be honest, Meyer is not your normal workingman. He's made more money at his profession that most adults ever see in a lifetime.
Meyer, in case you have forgotten in the time he's been away, is the former football coach at the University of Florida. He was incredibly successful while winning two national championships and 65 games in six seasons. He also coached a Heisman Trophy winner in Tim Tebow. By all accounts, Meyer was more successful than most coaches. There is another number that Meyer compiled at Florida that has more to do with him now being a retired coach and current television analyst--31.
That's 31 arrests of Gator football players in his six years as coach there. That's an average of 5.17 arrests per season. There are coaches that don't have 5.17 arrests in their entire coaching lives, although not as many as you would like to think. The 31 arrests likely drove Meyer into retirement more so than the health issues that plagued him for the last couple of years.
Listen to what Meyer had to say on the Indianapolis radio station: "It is out of control with that stuff right now, and we have got to get that back on track. Twenty-five years ago, and I am sure you know, if you had to deal with some of the stuff you are dealing with--the off-the-field, the agent issues, the violation issues and all the garbage that is out there right now--I certainly would not have gotten into coaching.
"Hopefully with the powers that be and all the right people, I know one thing, the NFL commissioner has got a great outlook the way he is attacking the NFL right now and trying to bring respect and order, and I just love the way he is approaching it. If college football gets that we will have a chance to get back to that great game we all love."
Has Meyer lost his mind? The idea of college football getting back to a time when police records did not outweigh won-loss records or when the only lineups a player has to contend with are starting lineups and not those that take place in front of a two-way mirror.
Those days are probably gone for good, and if Meyer believes the way Roger Goodell is dealing with the NFL is a model for college football, perhaps he has not noticed that the NFL is on verge of a lockout and relations between owners and players is perhaps at an all-time low.
But who can blame Meyer if he longs for the good old days of college football? He's not alone. There are those who remember a time when coaches did not consider all media as cutthroats trying to sift through the garbage and find something to help them make a name for themselves. Those same people also remember when college football players learned more than just game plans; when they also went to class and studied right alongside the rest of the college population.
Of course, this is not an indictment of all college football players. There are still players who carry high grade-point averages along with high rushing averages. There are still plenty of players who play college football for the joy of playing the game and not as a conduit to the NFL. There are players who don't give the coach the pain of a 3 a.m. phone call to come bail them out.
When you think about it, Meyer had 31 players arrested in six years. That's not a big percentage of the several hundred who came under his control at Gainesville, but it was enough to wear him down over time. And it was far too many any coach should have to endure.
What's the reason for the apparent lack of discipline in college sports today? It is not just restricted to college football, although there is more in football simply because of the numbers of players involved in relationship to other sports who don't need as many players.
Is it a problem with recruiting? Are coaches not as selective as they used to be or are there just not enough players out there of good character anymore? They are still out there, they just don't make the news as often as those that run afoul of the law. But as usual in college athletics as in life, it starts at home. Never before have parents been so involved with recruiting of players, and unfortunately, with their ongoing college years. And that could be the root of the problem. Until that changes, college football will continue to be bogged down with "the garbage."