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.
— Joseph Goodman, Gator Clause, June 10, 2009
I hate to say it, but I don’t doubt that’s a popular attitude, and not one confined to Gainesville, Florida, either. Although I’d qualify it by saying that a certain type of, um, marginally lawful person is required. A starting thug, if you will.
So color me less than impressed with this “ride with a cop” deal Urban’s come up with to combat the negative PR his program has received lately. It’s window dressing – something that Meyer can reference when he gets that pesky preseason question from the media about whether his program is out of control.
Although I do have to admit to being somewhat gobsmacked by this admission – “We are by no means perfect.” (And yeah, judging from the rest of his quote, that’s the imperial “we” he’s using there.)
Of course, Meyer doesn’t need to be perfect, as long as this guy is.
… Huntley Johnson isn’t on the University of Florida‘s payroll. He’s not on the UF football program’s payroll, either. But the Gainesville-based attorney might just be the Gators‘ most valuable player other than Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Tim Tebow.
Johnson is the go-to Gator for UF football players who find trouble with the law. He has handled 23 of the 24 football-related legal cases the Orlando Sentinel documented during Meyer’s four years as Florida’s head coach.
And he pretty much is.
… Sentinel research shows that of the 23 cases handled by Johnson, 21 resulted in dropped charges, a plea deal or pre-trial deferment plans that help first-time offenders avoid charges after fulfilling court-ordered stipulations.
The remaining two cases are unresolved, including sophomore cornerback Janoris Jenkins’ arrest two weeks ago on charges of affray and resisting an officer. Eight felony cases have been reduced to misdemeanors or thrown out of court.
“As far as the legal aspect, he’s the [team’s] MVP,” said Cecil Newton, the father of former Gators quarterback Cam Newton.
Awesome. When’s he getting his own page in the media guide?
Don’t get me wrong here. Most schools have their own version of Huntley Johnson running interference. It’s just that it seems they haven’t been able to combine sanctimony and volume in the way that the Gators have lately.
And I’m not sure if any are as fortunate to be located in a jurisdiction where local law enforcement seems so darned understanding.
… State Attorney Bill Cervone, who talks to Johnson almost daily, said his office might expedite investigations of football players to avoid amplified media coverage, but athletes are not treated differently than other students.
“Many of these cases just aren’t that severe and don’t take that much time to investigate,” Cervone said.
It’s nice when a plan comes together like that. Go Gators!