The police mug shot of Aaron Hernandez now becomes the face of the Urban Meyer Era at the University of Florida.
As it should be.
As it should've been all along.
Tim Tebow played a contributing role on the two Meyer-coached football teams that brought national championships to Gainesville. He won the school's third Heisman Trophy. He became the most-celebrated Gator athlete ever.
And a gushing state media, filled with UF alums, eagerly embraced every opportunity to focus their attentions on Tebow and grow the legend of the charismatic quarterback.
They gave Gators fans exactly what they wanted.
But they ignored the rest -- or, to be more precise, the ARRESTS -- until the numbers became so alarming that, as journalists, they no longer could look the other way, especially with the national sports media starting to take notice of prominent UF players showing up on police blotters.
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It was in 2009 that the Orlando Sentinel began keeping a running list of Gators arrested on Meyer's watch. And when star running back Chris Rainey was booked on a felony charge of aggravated stalking in September 2010, the UF crime wave made national headlines.
Rainey sent a threatening "Time to Die" text to his girlfriend and was dismissed from the team. He later pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor and rejoined the Gators two seasons later.
But Rainey was merely one of many.
Overall, 25 players were arrested 31 times during Meyer's six-year run at UF, where he compiled a 65-15 record -- or roughly two wins per arrest.
And those numbers don't include other incidents in which Gators were suspects or were questioned but weren't charged because there wasn't enough evidence. Nor does it include players suspended for failed drug tests and other violations of team rules.
The arrest numbers do include several cases in which the charges were dropped, often as a result of the legal work of Gainesville attorney Huntley Johnson, who represented so many accused Gators that some of my more-cynical media colleagues would refer to him as Meyer's real defensive coordinator.
As for Hernandez, he hit the arrested-questioned-suspended trifecta in his first two years at UF.
As a freshman, before he turned 18, the talented tight end from Connecticut was arrested for getting into a fight with a bouncer at an off-campus bar. He was charged as a juvenile and escaped with deferred prosecution.
Months later, the Sentinel identified Hernandez as one of four players questioned by police investigating the shooting of two men in Gainesville after UF's loss to Auburn.
Then, Hernandez was one of three players suspended for UF's 2008 season opener, and he later acknowledged that his punishment was for testing positive for marijuana.
Yet he continued to don the orange and blue, helped Meyer win a second national championship in 2008 and was a key player on the team that lost the Southeastern Conference title game in 2009 before skipping his senior year to enter the 2010 NFL Draft.
To be sure: Hernandez wasn't asked to leave. It was his decision.
Same goes for Meyer.
He left UF citing health concerns, took one of those cozy TV gigs at ESPN and, after only one year away from coaching, accepted the Ohio State job.
He left behind three 13-1 seasons, a couple of national championships, two SEC titles and a Heisman Trophy.
But at what price?
The answer to that question came with Hernandez's arrest Wednesday on a first-degree murder charge in Massachusetts.
That's as much a part of Meyer's legacy at UF as anything Tebow and his teammates accomplished on the field, and probably more so.
Many Gators fans will say it's unfair to pin this on Meyer and trash an otherwise-successful, six-year run, just because one player went bad.
But it wasn't only one player.
Besides, many of those same fans didn't hesitate to snidely take shots at the University of Miami ("Thug U") and Florida State University ("Criminoles") in years past.
Call it karma.
No matter how much Gators fans might want to cling to fond memories of Tebow, they never will be able to forget Hernandez.
The face of the Urban Meyer Era at UF is now a police mug shot.
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