Wednesday, November 22, 2017
Colleges

Commentary: Urban Meyer plays Florida Gator great Tim Tebow as pawn

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Tim Tebow has a message for those Florida fans who think Urban Meyer might be turning him from Gator to Traitor:

Don't be ridiculous.

"My parents are Gators, I was born a Gator, I played for the Gators, I gave my heart to the University of Florida, and I'll always be a Gator," Tebow said during a recent phone conversation.

That should pretty much settle it, right?

If only it were that simple.

Meyer has once again complicated and conflicted the emotions of Gator fans, who should adore their former coach for the two national titles he brought to UF in six seasons. Instead, many call him Urban "Liar" for the disingenuous way he left the program. This is a coach who said, after UF's worst regular season in more than two decades, he was getting out of the profession for mysterious health reasons and to spend more time with his family. However, he was working at ESPN weeks later and was accepting the Ohio State job months later.

Many Gator fans, and some within the athletic department, simply don't trust Meyer. Especially when it comes to his relationship with Tebow, whom they believe Meyer is using for his own recruiting purposes.

The reason this has become an issue is because of a couple of articles recently that make it seem as if Meyer is trying to turn Tebow into a surrogate Buckeye. A New York Post article before the season said Meyer and Tebow were out to dinner in New Jersey, where Meyer "pitched Tebow on the idea of helping him recruit for the Buckeyes." Tebow and the owner of the restaurant both told me the Post report was inaccurate.

The latest article came last week when Tebow gave an interview to the Ohio State beat writer at the Cleveland Plain-Dealer. Tebow talked about how he has become a big Ohio State fan and is developing a relationship with quarterback Braxton Miller. Meanwhile, Meyer said he is going to "push for" Tebow to come to Columbus during the offseason and help tutor Miller.

Tebow said in the article he was keeping track of Ohio State's recent topsy-turvy game against Purdue as his Jets boarded a flight for New England.

"I was pretty nervous," Tebow told the newspaper. "We were literally taking off as they were about to score and then go for the two-point conversion, so I didn't know until we landed that they won. So, it was pretty cool. And I guess as hard as it is for me to say, I am a pretty big fan now of the Ohio State University."

See why Gator fans are upset?

Tebow actually referred to Meyer's new school as "the Ohio State University." Traditionally, only true Buckeyes identify the school in such a snooty way. Which leads me to believe that the Urbanator, that dastardly recruiting genius, really does have Tebow brainwashed. I know, I know, Tebow's a grown man and should know better, but he is Tebow after all. So innocent, pure and trusting, he doesn't know any better. He doesn't believe for a minute that Meyer would use him to pump up his own program.

"I love Coach Meyer, and he's like a father figure to me," Tebow says. "He would never ask me to help him recruit for Ohio State."

Meyer might never ask, but there's no doubt he would use his relationship with Tebow for recruiting purposes. To Meyer, all is fair in love, war and signing five-star prospects.

Here's all you need know about Meyer's ruthless recruiting tactics: According to an article in the Sporting News a few months ago, Meyer was recruiting Maryland prepster Stefon Diggs, the No. 2-rated receiver in the country who had narrowed his choices to Maryland, Florida and Ohio State. Meyer, according to the article, told Diggs he wouldn't let his own son go to Florida "because of significant character issues in the locker room."

How's that for recruiting chutzpah? Meyer had the audacity to use the significant character issues he left behind at UF to actually recruit against UF.

If he would stoop to that level, then it's simply naïve to believe he wouldn't use his fatherly relationship with Tebow to help him recruit for the Buckeyes.

Which brings us to Tebow, who only sees the good in everyone. He certainly should not be blamed for rooting for Meyer, his old coach, to succeed at Ohio State. That's only natural. And, knowing Tebow, who says he also has a "great relationship" with current UF coach Will Muschamp, he would never say no if Meyer asked him to speak to an Ohio State recruit or to come to Columbus and tutor OSU quarterbacks.

But Meyer should know better than to drag Tebow, the ultimate and truest, orange-and-bluest Gator of them all, into his rocky relationship with Florida fans. It's too soon and the emotions evoked by Meyer's departure are still too raw.

"I'll always be a Gator," Tebow vows.

There should be no doubt about that. Tim Tebow has shown when he makes a promise to Gator Nation, he keeps it.

Urban Meyer, not so much.

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