Column: Arrests could impact the way U. Florida is viewed by outsiders

By Anthony Chiang

Independent Florida Alligator, U. Florida via UWIRE

We are now at 28 and counting.

The DUI arrest of U. Florida Gators redshirt sophomore wide receiver Frankie Hammond Jr. early Sunday morning was just another in a long line under coach Urban Meyer.

Hammond, who was stopped after going 45 miles per hour down Gale Lemerand Drive, is at least the 28th Florida football player to be arrested in Meyer’s five-year tenure  — an average of 5.6 players per season.

This is 28 more than there should be.

While Hammond’s DUI arrest is a serious matter, that isn’t what bothers me. It’s the fact that the number keeps growing with basically no punishment.

After the latest arrest, there are reports that Meyer is now going to start making everybody accountable for each other’s actions. My question is, where was this three, four or even five seasons ago?

It is remarkable that it took this long for this action to come about.

As expected, most students at UF ignore the alarming arrest rate.

Truth is that all of this affects them, too.

The University of Florida is a fine school, but people outside the panhandle state don’t look at that. They associate UF with the football team, because that’s what’s in the national spotlight.

More than five arrests per year is not what students want graduate admission officers, out-of state parents and corporate executives to see.

Look at another one of the in-state schools, the University of Miami. The football team was known for its thug persona in the 1980s and 1990s.

Now the private school that costs over $30,000 a year and is ranked as 50th among national universities by the “U.S. News & World Report” is paying for it. The first thing that pops into mind when thinking about UM is arrests, a fight full of helmet swinging and the documentary concerning “Thug U.”

Harsher punishment from the coaches is needed. For example, after Aaron Hernandez decided to leave the Gators for the NFL Draft, reports leaked of multiple failed drug tests during his playing days at Florida.

However, he was never suspended for this. Instead, he sat out the 2008 season opener against Hawaii and last year’s FIU game because he “wasn’t ready to play.” The real reason needs to be released so players are forced to be held accountable.

While Hernandez was not arrested, this is still an example of Meyer mishandling things.

If this concerning trend continues at UF, it can be on the same path as its rival.

This is why Meyer needs to do something about this now. For the sake of the football program and, more importantly, the school.

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