Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

25 Jul 2005

Meyer Uses Behavior Modification for Florida Players

There's a new sheriff in, uh, Gainesville. Urban Meyer is taking a zero tolerance approach to law-breakers on his team and he's using former UCLA coach John Wooden as inspiration. According to the article, to keep players out of trouble Meyer relies on, "peer pressure, a strong investment of assistant coaches in players' lives and a reward system that allows the coach to essentially spoil the players he likes."

This sounds like a great idea -- and one that might benefit some NFL teams -- but I wonder what happens if the Gators start the season with a couple of losses. (bugmenot/free registration required)

Posted by: P. Ryan Wilson on 25 Jul 2005

28 comments, Last at 26 Jul 2005, 7:11pm by Kibbles

Comments

1
by Tim (not verified) :: Mon, 07/25/2005 - 10:57am

I don't think NFL players - or the union - would stand for this kind of intervention in players' lives. No one except the government really thinks college kids are adults, but pro athletes are another matter, and they and their defenders would bristle if anyone tried to parent them this way.

2
by fyo (not verified) :: Mon, 07/25/2005 - 12:08pm

This is a TERRIBLE idea. While it may sound nice and productive on the surface, it really is a nasty slippery slope. I don't want to government to meddle in my private affairs - and I don't want my employer to either!

I have no doubt that this will "help" the players affected (defining "help" as make them less likely to commit crimes etc). However, I also have no doubt that sticking a GPS transponder in everyone and placing cameras everywhere will reduce crime. I'm just not willing to pay the price, although society as a whole seems to be increasingly willing to do so.

3
by princeton73 (not verified) :: Mon, 07/25/2005 - 1:16pm

I’m just not willing to pay the price, although society as a whole seems to be increasingly willing to do so.

I think it's safe to say that most people are bravely willing to forego YOUR rights in return for THEIR protection

4
by Adam H (not verified) :: Mon, 07/25/2005 - 1:20pm

Using a reward system and creating a culture within your organization that encourages lawfull behavior? That's Fascism!

5
by Adam Jones (not verified) :: Mon, 07/25/2005 - 1:24pm

This is America, we have the right to break the law here.

6
by Parker (not verified) :: Mon, 07/25/2005 - 1:45pm

My employer has a behavior modification program too. It's called a salary.

You see, if I do what I am supposed to and stay out of trouble, I get paid money. If I do something illegal, I go to jail and stop getting paid.

It's pretty simple, really.

7
by Basilicus (not verified) :: Mon, 07/25/2005 - 3:43pm

"This is America, we have the right to break the law here."

Yes, but we're also a capitalistic society, where employers get to define the requirements of what they expect from their employees, and a democratic society, where to a certain point our government (given power by the populace) gets to define how they expect us to act. Now if you're accepted into a university or college, there are certain expectations of you to obey the law. It's expected of non-athlete students. And if you're accepted onto a team at one of these colleges (not a right by any means) there should be expectations of how you act. Since being on the team is not a right of any specific player's, but is rather an unspoken agreement between player and college - and the coach and athletic director represent the college in this area - then it is entirely right (and should be expected, in my opinion) that the coach should set certain boundaries of how players on that team act. If it was a right that a player got to be on a team (in which case we would all have the right to be on a college team whether we were any good or not) then it would not be within the coach's bounds to set expectations. But since there are expectations within the agreement to be on a team and within the agreement for a college to accept you in the first place, professors, coaches, deans, and advisors all have the right to supervise you. Saying that coaches don't have the right to supervise and set requirements is like saying that professors giving students homework is a violation of the students' rights.

8
by fyo (not verified) :: Mon, 07/25/2005 - 4:22pm

> where employers get to define the requirements of what they expect from their employees

So if your employer dictates what clothes you should wear (when not at work), who you should socialize with and where, which groups or organizations you should belong to, which church you should attend and so forth, then that's quite allright, is it?

As long as it doesn't impact my job performance, I should be FREE to do whatever the heck I please. That includes getting myself arrested, attend union meetings, worship the devil or whatever - providing I could limit it to my spare time (which might, admittedly, be somewhat difficult to do with the arrested bit).

9
by fyo (not verified) :: Mon, 07/25/2005 - 4:24pm

> You see, if I do what I am supposed to and stay out of trouble, I get paid money.

Why the "and"?

Why should you need to "stay out of trouble" as long as it doesn't impact your ability to perform your job?

10
by Adam H (not verified) :: Mon, 07/25/2005 - 5:33pm

"Why should you need to “stay out of trouble� as long as it doesn’t impact your ability to perform your job?"

Hey, my job wouldn't even hire me until I passed a backgroung check, think I can sue em?

11
by MDS (not verified) :: Mon, 07/25/2005 - 5:44pm

I would share fyo's fears about employers intruding on employees' personal lives, except that I think in the long run, any employer that did that would have a hard time competing.

12
by Ned (not verified) :: Mon, 07/25/2005 - 6:15pm

Following up on MDS, don't you think this will have some impact on recruiting at Florida? I'm not even assuming kids want to drink all the time and raise hell. I'm just thinking most kids do not want constant meddling in their personal life, a division between players the coach likes and dislikes openly displayed, and punishment if I might struggle in school despite a reasonable amount of effort. I think this hurts Florida long term.

13
by Basilicus (not verified) :: Mon, 07/25/2005 - 6:37pm

"So if your employer dictates what clothes you should wear (when not at work), who you should socialize with and where, which groups or organizations you should belong to, which church you should attend and so forth, then that’s quite allright, is it?"

Right, I forgot about the part where Urban Meyer is forcibly converting them to Pentecostalism. If it is part of the understanding of joining the team that you will have to subscribe to a certain way of behaving, then don't join the gorram team...no one's forcing you to. An organization has the right to arrange itself internally however it wants, and as MDS points out if an organization goes too far that organization won't survive. Honestly, is a professor going out of bounds if he asks a student to buckle down and so much. This isn't a case of coach's managing the player's lives...

"peer pressure, a strong investment of assistant coaches in players’ lives and a reward system that allows the coach to essentially spoil the players he likes"

...suddenly assistant coaches being interested in players' lives is some conspiratorial structure to arrange their day-to-day life? And the coach rewarding players he likes is some amazingly subversive plan to...what? It's a good thing no other coaches out their treat players they like more favorably than ones they don't like, or sports would become some big communistic regime that would slowly spread into our government and make us all slaves. We should blacklist Urban Meyer right now...just look at that name...Urban Meyer...it's like the KGB trying real hard-like to make him sound...urban...and like he shops at grocery stores that are homonyms for his last name. Hey, soccer moms shop at Meijer...he's trying to appeal to them, too. Soon he'll be making mothers make their own kids behave through involvement in their lives...how subversive those evil commu-socia-demo-republi-fascists truly are.

14
by Parker (not verified) :: Mon, 07/25/2005 - 6:45pm

RE: #9

I mention 'stay out of trouble' only in the sense of staying out of jail, which would seriously affect my ability to do my job. Get fall down drunk on a Friday night? No problem. That's no tthe trouble I mean.

By the way, my post was meant to be light and airy, not politically charged. Reading into it could be dangerous.

15
by fyo (not verified) :: Mon, 07/25/2005 - 9:42pm

RE: #13
"An organization has the right to arrange itself internally however it wants, and as MDS points out if an organization goes too far that organization won’t survive. Honestly, is a professor going out of bounds if he asks a student to buckle down and so much. This isn’t a case of coach’s managing the player’s lives…"

Despite your stupendously subtle and masterful use of sarcasm, you just don't seem to get it.

As a matter of fact, I DO think a professor would be "out of bounds" if he asked his students to buckle down AND gave preferential treatment to those that did. Students (and certainly at that level) should be treated according to the work they deliver, not how hard or in which manner they study when not actually IN class.

Oh, and NO, an organization does NOT have the right "to arrange itself internally however it wants". You seem to be completely oblivious to the last half-century of court rulings on the subject.

#11, MDS
"I would share fyo’s fears about employers intruding on employees’ personal lives, except that I think in the long run, any employer that did that would have a hard time competing."

I have two issues with this attitude:

1) It displays a disregard for those employees who are being adversely affected by issues that have nothing to do with their job performance RIGHT NOW. Small comfort to these individuals that competitive pressures will hurt the employer X years down the line.

2) It assumes a competitive environment not always present, even in a market economy. Large companies in small communities, or indeed major college football programs, would appear to be prime candidates.

16
by peachy (not verified) :: Tue, 07/26/2005 - 12:08am

As an individual, I would find such a regime pretty unpleasant... but as a Gators fan who has watched indiscipline wreck promising seasons before, I find my principles easily compromised. Especially after watching pretty much all the powerful SEC programs send players to the slammer this past year. Because - let's face it - if Meyer wins, he could change his name to Mussolini (and act like him too, complete with crazy military hats for every occasion)...

17
by Basilicus (not verified) :: Tue, 07/26/2005 - 1:27am

Re #15:

"Students (and certainly at that level) should be treated according to the work they deliver, not how hard or in which manner they study when not actually IN class."

That's just the thing, they are being judged in accordance with what the coach thinks will make a good team, and I'm sorry, but the legal wranglings of Florida players does affect the team whether you like it or not. It doesn't seem to me like Meyer is trying to set up some sort of fascist regime. It seems to me like he's trying to make football not just a game, but a positive influence in their lives.

"Oh, and NO, an organization does NOT have the right “to arrange itself internally however it wants". You seem to be completely oblivious to the last half-century of court rulings on the subject."

Well, it does have the right to arrange itself internally according to the law. At last check, Meyer wasn't breaking the law, in fact just the opposite.

Look, I'm as much a raging liberal as the next guy, and if you read half my extra points posts, I'm usually complaining about corporate franchising and media self-interest...but I just don't read this as anything other than what teachers should do for kids. I'd rather have a professor looking out for my kids and being involved in their lives than completely disconnected and apathetic towards what they do in life. To me, a coach should be just the same way. These are people working for educational institutions, for the gods' sakes.

"Despite your stupendously subtle and masterful use of sarcasm..."

Thank you so much for the compliment.

18
by fyo (not verified) :: Tue, 07/26/2005 - 8:24am

RE #17:
"I just don’t read this as anything other than what teachers should do for kids. I’d rather have a professor looking out for my kids and being involved in their lives than completely disconnected and apathetic towards what they do in life."

I guess the pivitol part for me is not whether or not the coach (or prof) takes an active interest in the players lives, but rather what he does if *they* resist. If a player is performing well, attending practice and so on, he should have every right in the world to ask the coach to butt out of his non-football life... without the coach punishing him in some manner (say, less playing time).

19
by Tim (not verified) :: Tue, 07/26/2005 - 10:38am

Re #18:

I think Meyer has redefined what it means to be a successful Florida football player. He has assumed a parental responsibility to make sure not only that his players are having success as football players, but that they are also having success as Florida students. That doesn't sound illegal to me, and it seems appropriate to the educational mission of a university. A college football team is not an employer, which is why this doesn't bother me, but is why I don't think it would fly in the pros.

20
by SteelerBill (not verified) :: Tue, 07/26/2005 - 10:57am

Perhaps as a result of Coach Meyer recognizing that these players need to be held accountable for their actions and the actions of their teammates - this will translate to their careers in the pro's....perhaps?

Keeping in mind that what Coach Meyer is doing is only going to benefit the players in the long run (and by that I mean long runs on the field and in life)

21
by MDS (not verified) :: Tue, 07/26/2005 - 11:00am

I guess to me it boils down to this: If current players feel that Meyer is mistreating them, they'll transfer. If recruits learn that a lot of players feel mistreated, they won't go to Florida. If that happens, Meyer won't be a coach anymore and won't be in a position to mistreat the players.

Of course, it should go without saying that this "mistreatment" can't be anything along the lines of what Woody Hayes used to do, or Florida should fire him long before it comes to that point.

22
by Tarrant (not verified) :: Tue, 07/26/2005 - 11:01am

When I came to work at my current company, at some point during the day I was here for my interview, I had a few hours to sit down with the founder of the company, who shared his thoughts about the company and etc.

At one point during our conversation he said that while he doesn't care what employees do in their personal time, for insurance purposes (to keep costs down), he HAD to ask me to agree to a pre-employment drug test (if I accepted the job). Those are pretty common these days anyway, so that didn't surprise me. However, he then smiled and said that if I "hinted" that "for some reason" I would prefer it being, oh, delayed a little bit, say maybe a month or so after the hire date, that he would make sure the paperwork got held up appropriately.

I laughed and told him that wasn't necessary, but I guess it's nice to know that when your employer says he doesn't care what you do off-hours, he really means it (lol).

That said, depending on one's occupation, there are off-work behaviors that, should an employer know about them, could make them more liable for problems even if they had never affected one's performance before, and thus they may have to meddle in such things. There's also things like security these days - my job requires a government security clearance, and they question you about all sorts of things that have nothing to do with job performance, and that also probably have little to do with your suitability for a clearance...but that's the way it goes.

I'm not sure these things apply that much for, say, a football player, but teams already impose curfews and such on players, to ensure that they actually get enough sleep and such, and this is not significantly beyond that.

T.

23
by MDS (not verified) :: Tue, 07/26/2005 - 11:47am

I used to be a public school teacher, and when I did my drug test for that job they let me choose the date. Like you, Tarrant, I didn't need any time to "prepare," but I found it interesting that even a public school district would offer it.

24
by OMO (not verified) :: Tue, 07/26/2005 - 1:54pm

I feel for Coach Meyer, I truely think he is doing the right thing but with Bobby Bowden up the coast and his willingness to recruit anyone with talent the second they are released from Leavenworth...I wonder how long he can keep it up.

Although, I have to give karma their props...watching the ole' Ball Coach/Prison Warden try to find a decent QB for this season is payback that you can't wish for.

25
by Xao (not verified) :: Tue, 07/26/2005 - 2:50pm

If I didn't agree with you initially, Basilicus, the Firefly reference may well have swayed me. It's largely a moot point however, as the collegiate athletic system innately holds atheltes accountable to standards having nothing to do with performance in their sport of choice. Having established the right of the school to restrict players' eligibility regardess of whether they attend practice or play well, it hardly seems reasonable to castigate Meyer for extending the criteria beyond academics to personal behavior.

26
by zlionsfan (not verified) :: Tue, 07/26/2005 - 6:44pm

Hmm. The last time I was arrested, it certainly had an impact on my performance at work. It's hard to be at work if you're in jail ... ah, but I see you did mention that, fyo. However, I will say that the results of the arrest did affect my performance, because there were subsequent conditions that required time commitments from me. I was fortunate enough to have an understanding employer.

I have no problems with a university setting off-the-field criteria for players. Off-field actions can affect a univerity's reputation (see Florida State) just like on-field actions can. They may also be an indication of future performance problems. After all, most of us were drug-tested before we got our jobs, not to see if our performance was impaired, but to see if we did things that were likely to have an impact on our future performance.

Given two extremes, expecting college athletes to meet significantly higher standards than the average student and only asking them to show up on game day, I'll take the more stringent standards. I certainly don't see anything wrong with teaching accountability to athletes. Some of them could probably use the lesson.

I also don't have a problem with those standards being extended to coaches. I was fine with Michigan's decision to fire Gary Moeller, primarily (IIRC) for his off-field actions.

Actually, thinking about one of the more recent times I saw a college game in person, I'm not sure I'd mind having those standards extended to fans as well ...

27
by Trogdor (not verified) :: Tue, 07/26/2005 - 7:01pm

I'd like to look at this from another perspective, if I may. I've worked a lot in the construction industry, where most contractors have the company name and information written on company vehicles. And many of them have either explicit or strongly implied rules regarding behaviors which are not going to be tolerated if the company truck is involved. For instance, some places don't really care if you go to the, um, girlie bar (not sure how sensitive the filters are), but they will be furious if you take their truck there. Go trade in the company vehicle for a personal one before you do anything potentially embarassing.

Similarly, suppose you work as an aide for a US Senator (either party, doesn't matter). In your spare time, you run a website devoted to, um, goats and midgets dressed like smurfs. Running this site may not have any impact on your work at all. But if word gets out that it's yours, even if it doesn't affect your work quality and is completely legal, how long do you think you will keep your job?

The point is, there are things that, although they may not affect your work at all, are potentially really embarassing for your employer, and it is that employer's right and duty to prevent or punish such behavior. Sometimes a simple uniform or vehicle change can make things acceptable (construction), but sometimes no matter where you go or when you do it, the behavior will always reflect on your employer, and maintaining a good (well, at least neutral) image is a 24/7 part of the job (politics).

I think for a football player at a high-profile school like FU, the image-bearing responsibilities are closer to the politician than the private company. No matter where these guys go or what they do, people will either know or be able to easily trace them back to the football team. Wherever they go, an essential part of their job is to represent their university well. Discuss.

28
by Kibbles (not verified) :: Tue, 07/26/2005 - 7:11pm

I think Meyer's attitude will at once help and hurt his cause in recruiting. A lot of players are going to want to do whatever they want and fool around and get into trouble, and they'll go elsewhere. A lot of other players are very serious, and want nothing but to win, and Meyer is a proven winner. I think Pete Carrol could insist his players carry 80 lb weights in their backpacks to all their classes and they'd still be lining up around the block to play for USC.

Urban Meyer put together a top 10 recruiting class this season despite having half of the prep time of all the other major programs. I wouldn't worry about his recruiting too much.

I'm really excited to see the results of the Meyer campaign. I think he has a very good chance to go down as the best football hire in Florida's history. This isn't a knock on Spurrier, but Spurrier always wanted to compete at the highest level. Meyer is in love with the college game, and has acknowledged that he will never coach in the NFL. He's young, and he's a great coach. If he works out, he could be around for 20, 30, 40 years- and I'm really excited at the prospect.