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Meyer Hears Criticism

By RUSTY MILLER

AP Sports Writer

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - In his first speaking engagement with his

Big Ten coaching peers, new Ohio State coach Urban Meyer had to

defend what he did in his last coaching job.

Meyer said he was disappointed by a story this week in the

Sporting News which said he showed favoritism to star players

during his six-year tenure at Florida and that his Gators program

winked at disciplinary problems.

"When you start saying preferential treatment to players,

that's probably a correct statement. We did do that. We do that

here. We did it at Bowling Green and Utah," said Meyer, mentioning

his previous coaching stops while speaking Wednesday on the Big Ten

coaches spring teleconference. "If you go to class, you're a

warrior, you do things the right way off and on the field, and

you're completely committed to helping us win, you're going to get

treated really good."

Meyer bristled at the inference by former players, some

identified and some not, who said that there was a different set of

rules for star players such as wide receiver Percy Harvin.

"I'm extremely proud of what we did down there. And throwing

great players - not good players, great players - under the bus

like that, I don't get the intent," he said. "I'll fight for

those guys, man. Those guys did a lot of great things for the

University of Florida. And to sit there and call them out four or

five years later, I'm not sure of the intent, once again.

"But I'll always fight for those guys."

Meyer won two national championships at Florida but twice left

the program, each time citing health issues. He retired after the

2010 season, then later took a job as a college football analyst

with ESPN for a year. He was hired last November to pick up the

pieces of an Ohio State program which has suffered through player

suspensions and departures, NCAA sanctions and the forced

resignation of coach Jim Tressel due to a memorabilia-for-money

scandal.

The Buckeyes, who were 6-7 a year ago and lost their last four

games including, ironically, the Gator Bowl to Florida, are on NCAA

probation and have been banned from playing in a bowl game after

the 2012 season.

Meyer said he had talked to several former Florida players and

coaches who were upset by the Sporting News story.

The story cited multiple sources who confirmed that during the

2008 season Harvin, now a member of the NFL's Minnesota Vikings,

physically attacked Florida wide receivers coach Billy Gonzales,

grabbing him by the neck and throwing him to the ground. It said

that after Harvin was pulled off Gonzales by two assistant coaches,

he was never disciplined.

Gonzales, now an offensive coordinator at Illinois, issued a

statement earlier on Wednesday.

"In response to a recent story alleging an incident between

Percy Harvin and me and while at Florida, the story is

inaccurate," he said in the statement. "It didn't happen."

Meyer said he and his staff met or exceeded all standards in

terms of graduation rate, wins, abiding by NCAA rules and

recruiting quality players.

The story had said there was a "circle of trust" which enabled

and pandered to elite players. Meyer denied it on Wednesday.

Asked if he disagreed in particular with a certain contention in

the story, Meyer said, "Oh, more than one."

He seemed particularly upset by the inference that he and his

staff had flaunted NCAA bylaws.

"I want to say this real clear: There is no violation that we

had as far as that whole conversation," Meyer said. "I'm not sure

why that keeps coming up. So, if you would bold that for me,

underline it - there is not an NCAA violation."

Since taking the Ohio State job, Meyer has bumped heads with

several Big Ten coaches - principally Wisconsin's Bret Bielema -

over the recruiting of players who have already verbally committed

to other Division I programs. But Bielema has said that was a

misunderstanding which has been corrected.

 

Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved

 

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