Make us your home page
Instagram

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Florida Gators football program drawing scrutiny over 24 instances involving misdemeanor or felony charges

GAINESVILLE — When sopho­more cornerback Janoris Jenkins was arrested early May 30, it brought national attention to the Gator football program for something other than its athletic achievements.

It was the 24th instance in which a Florida player faced a misdemeanor or felony charge since coach Urban Meyer took over in 2005, and it greatly intensified the debate over whether the program has become one that wants to win at any cost.

The Gators have won two national championships in Meyer's four years, and despite growing national attention on the arrests, Meyer insists Florida is not a renegade program.

"This group of players we have now are by and large a pretty good group," Meyer said in a statement. "They are 18 to 22 years old, and like most young people, they are trying to find their way."

Police said Jenkins, 20, was involved in a fight downtown, then later ran when told to stop. His attorney said Jenkins attempted to break up a fight, then fought back when an attacker grabbed at a gold chain he was wearing.

It was the 20th arrest of a UF player under Meyer. The other arrests include accusations of throwing food at a sandwich shop employee, assaulting a girlfriend and using the credit card of a fellow student after she died in a motorcycle accident.

"It is a continual part of our program to mentor and guide our players, and it is not an exact process," Meyer said. "Although we have been very successful with most, we are by no means perfect. We are disappointed when we encounter some issues along the way, but we are going to continue to educate and teach our players."

Although 24 run-ins with the law in four years seem alarming — in that span Georgia had 30, Tennessee 21, FSU 16, USF 11 and Miami two — Gainesville law enforcement officers say they should be put in the context of the general student population.

"There are about 80,000 students in Gainesville," said Lt. Keith Kameg, public information officer for the Gainesville Police Department, including Santa Fe College in his total. "When you see or hear about 24 arrests, that's not even a blip. In maybe 80, or possibly even 90 percent of the cases, if they (involved) a student not on a sports team that's being looked at nationally, you'd never write about them."

Kameg said student arrests are common because of the nature of most offenses: a combination of alcohol, underage drinking and immature behavior that often leads to physical altercations.

"We know as law enforcement it's faster, easier and more efficient to take people to jail to stop the fight and get them away from the situation before it gets worse than to mediate it on the streets," Kameg said.

"And those factors usually will provide that on any given weekend, if it's busy, you can easily see 20 to 30 arrests — misdemeanor citations and total arrests — of college students."

Of the arrests under Meyer, five have involved two players: Jacques Rickerson (two) and Ronnie Wilson (three). Both were dismissed from the team.

"I am in no way trying to excuse the actions of those football players, but when you're a police department that is in a college town of significant size, and by that I mean more than 100,000, you're going to have issues with students," Kameg said. "That is a total fact of life.

"We understand the community is under the microscope, students are under the microscope, and if you are on the No. 1 team in the United States, the microscope just got infinitely larger. And the one thing I will say, speaking strictly for the police, the University Athletic Association and the football staff have tried to work with us on all fronts."

The most recent joint venture between the police and the association kicked off June 18. Players began participating in a ride-along program with Gainesville officers. The ride-alongs, available to anyone, were agreed upon after recent conversations among Meyer and law enforcement officers after Jenkins' arrest.

Athletic officials say Meyer has been tough on players who have been arrested. They point out that the most egregious offenders were dismissed from the team and contend that the other athletes have been disciplined by Meyer in ways that generally have not been made public.

"No one works harder in this area than Urban," athletic director Jeremy Foley said in a statement. "Anyone who can't see his desire to influence young men positively and make them better citizens has no idea who he is as a coach and a human being.

"It is really easy to focus on negative issues. … No one here condones our players stepping out of line, and everyone here wants to get better."

Antonya English can be reached at english@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3389.

Florida Gators football program drawing scrutiny over 24 instances involving misdemeanor or felony charges 06/26/09 [Last modified: Saturday, June 27, 2009 12:54am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. A second chance at life, away from the game he loved

    The Heater

    Dylan Delso, a catcher for the Tampa Bay Rays' Gulf Coast League team, displays his scar at Charlotte Sports Park in Port Charlotte, Fla., on Tuesday, June 20, 2017. On June 25, 2016 Delso fell backward down a flight of stairs, suffering a nearly fatal head injury that put him in a coma for eight days. He's finally back on the baseball field after a miraculous recovery.
  2. Rays morning after: Steven Souza Jr.'s status is a major concern

    Blogs

    The Rays will know more about the status of RF Steven Souza Jr. later today after reviewing results of a scheduled MRI and exam of the left hip he strained in Wednesday's game on an awkward slide into second.

    Steven Souza Jr. strained his left hip in Wednesday's game on an awkward slide into second.
  3. Lightning's Ondrej Palat happy with new deal, new talent

    Lightning Strikes

    Tampa Bay Lightning left wing Ondrej Palat (18) works to play the puck against the Winnipeg Jets during first period action at the Amalie Arena in Tampa Tuesday evening (01/03/17).
  4. 2008 playoff thoughts in bloom for Rays; Souza injury not expected serious in loss to A's

    The Heater

    OAKLAND, Calif. — Before the 7-2 loss to the A's and Steven Souza Jr.'s hip injury, or at least scare, Wednesday started with good vibes in the Rays' clubhouse.

    Rays rightfielder Steven Souza Jr. hurts his hip after an awkward slide into second base during the first inning.
  5. Marc Topkin's takeaways on Wednesday's Rays-A's game

    The Heater

    Jake Faria wasn't going straight to Cooperstown at 500-0, so a day like Wednesday was going to happen, when he made too many mistakes. The challenge now is how he responds. Incidental casualty: His first loss in nine starts since getting engaged.