Wednesday, July 24, 2013

AARON HERNANDEZ GONE BAD. WHO'S TO BLAME?


Within just minutes of each other on Tuesday, in a surreal chains of events,  Aaron Hernandez
was being escorted into a courthouse, while his former college coach, Urban Meyer, was at a
BIG 10 press conferences answering questions about Hernandez, whom he coached at Florida.
Bill Belichick was up next at a press conference in Foxborough, making his first comments
about Hernandez, the player he drafted on the recommendation of Meyer. ESPN then cut
away to Hernandez who was in court for a probable cause hearing.

It was hard to look away from the television it was so intriguing. ESPN could've packaged
this up for its 30 for 30 series and called it: Aaron Hernandez gone bad. Who's to blame?
Belichick? Meyer? College football? None of the above?


When things go bad and adversity strikes, people are always quick to blame someone or
point the finger. It's just the American Way. Should we blame Belichick for drafting a player
whom many teams took off the board because of the hard-to-ignore questions about his
character. Should Meyer be held accountable for not telling Belichick everything he knew
about Hernandez and for, perhaps, not ruling Hernandez or the Gators with an iron fist. It's
hard to say Meyer was a disciplinarian during his six years in Gainesville when 25 players
were arrested a total of 31 times.


Nobody really said much about Meyer and his players behavior when he was winning
national championships, but as soon as Hernandez was charged with murder, the spotlight
went back on Meyer and a lot of ugly things were revealed about Hernandez and the rest
of the program.

However, coaches have always taken the heat when the players go off the rails. Nobody
said much when Barry Switzer was winning 85 percent of his games at Oklahoma, but
as soon as the record went south, the dirt rose to the top and all the arrests came to light.
Same thing for Dennis Erickson and a few other coaches at Miami.

Should we blame pro franchises and colleges for players going bad? Absolutely not. A
player's character is developed long before these elite athletes get to college. Because of
their skills on the field, they usually got away with a lot of things off it. Junior high and
high school coaches often look the other way or give their star players a pass because
winning is more important to them than sitting a stud athlete on the bench to penalize
him when he breaks a team rule.


If these star players get a free ride to play in college then they are usually one of about
110 players on the team. Does anybody really think that Urban Meyer or any other coach
can keep tabs on more than 100 players each and every day? Ridiculous and impossible.
Yes, coaches are responsible for every player in the program, but it's tough to blame
the coach when a player shows up to face a judge in shackles after he's accused of murder.
Coaches and the players have their own lives to live, whether it being going to class or
spending time with their families, which is the number priority to most college coaches.

Meyer can't be responsible in any way for a player who left his program three years ago.
It's silly to even think that Meyer has to be criticized because he recruited Hernandez and
brought him into the program. Recruiting, like drafting is an inexact science. Colleges have
multi-million dollar recruiting budgets and NFL teams pump an extraordinary amount
of money into scouting and drafting players. However, mistakes are made, and more than
you'll ever know. It's hard to know every single thing about a 17-year old kid and no coach,
college or pro, thinks that a player, even if troubled, is going to end up being charged
with murder.


The best athletes, traditionally, aren't raised at country clubs and go to prep school. The
elite players, the ones who go to Alabama, Miami, USC, and LSU, usually come from
lower socio-economic classes. That's not hyperbole, just fact. Not everyone of them
is squeaky clean. Many of them come out of single-family homes where they have to
kick, scratch, and claw for everything they get. It's hard to think that mind-set changes
when they go to college.

College or NFL coaches shouldn't be held responsible when players go bad. They can
certainly help mold a player and tell him all the right things to do, but kids who are 17-years
old, have their character shaped long before they set foot on campus. It's the parents who
have to take responsibility when their kids screw up. They just can't say, "Here coach,
he's all yours. Turn him to a man who makes all the right decisions and make sure
he doesn't get into trouble or kill anyone."

Wishful thinking, but that's not how it works.

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