Alan Dell

Commentary: Tebow can no longer hide Gators’ flaws

Blue-chip prospects can make you blue, and those highly touted football recruits that dot the Internet can make you feel foolish.

At the University of Florida, they often get you depressed.

Despite being the winningest active FBS head football coach, Gators head man Urban Meyer now finds himself in the business of putting out fires.

To make matters worse, he no longer has his missionary quarterback who could deflect the sparks and cover up the mess with his mere presence.

The incident with former Florida center Maurkice Pouncey allegedly taking money from an agent before last season ended pales with what has occurred the previous five years.

It’s a blip on the radar that unfortunately for the Gators lights up, the whole sky that covers the Ben Hill Griffin amusement center.

What it does is shed light on a program that some argue has run amuck.

The last thing Meyer wanted to do was begin this season discussing past digressions of his players, which come to light again in the middle of the Pouncey allegations.

And what could be worse than having Alabama head coach Nick Saban take up your battle and defend your honor as he lambasts those evil agents as “pimps.”

Even Darth Vader had more discretion.

This is the same Saban who threw dirt on the USF football program when it made its meteoric rise up the national charts in 2007 and has been known to speak an untruth or two at times (see Miami Dolphins).

He has a player being chased by rumors and innuendos that could be destructive, so let us not believe he has taken up the Meyer cause in the name of justice.

Not to fall short against his biggest rival, Meyer has chimed in, calling agents predators.

Some of the Gators faithful might want to lump agents and media types in the same bad breath that we all try to avoid before sitting down to breakfast.

But it would be hard to blame outsiders for the misbehavior (or bad fortune, in coach speak) that has hit the football program in Gainesville during the past five years.

Meyer has stockpiled a boatload of talent since his arrival in 2005. It was good enough to win two national titles, but not without revealing the dark side of college football.

The tragic death of former five-star recruit Avery Atkins of a reported drug overdose in 2007 would not take the glitter off this program if it was an isolated incident. He was released from the team in ’06 after being arrested numerous times on charges that included domestic battery and drugs and was a troubled young man who happened to be a very good football player.

It is the other incidents piled one on top of the other that raise the red flags and question whether sacrificing human dignity is worth winning a national championship.

Some are very disturbing such as former Gator Jamar Hornsby being charged with fraud for using the credit card of a deceased Florida student.

Since ’06, the program has endured four arrests, a failed drug test by former star Percy Harvin at the NFL combine, the infamous eye gouging incident by Brandon Spikes and a rape charge against another player that was subsequently dropped. The coach’s dog house was reportedly never lacking clients.

The number of transgressions reported during the reign of Meyer was labeled by some Gators faithful as a media frenzy designed to stir up business.

But despite this outcry, a lot of those misdeeds were downplayed because Tebow — with his wholesome Wheaties Box image — could always been thrown out into the public to cool things off when the heat got too hot.

Not anymore.