Last week Urban Meyer had a PR nightmare on his hands when he publicly emasculated Jeremy Fowler of the Orlando Sentinel. The outburst was caught on tape, and soon, it spread across the internet. Talking heads everyone castigated the Florida coach for stepping over the line.
His way of repairing the situation was to have a private conversation with the reporter whereby he was able to explain himself. Fowler accepted his apology, but afterwards, Meyer refused to face the media. From my point of view, that was a big mistake. The right thing to do is to offer a public apology. After all, he embarrassed and threatened the man in public, so why not apologize in Public?
Betcha Urban Meyer is smiling right about now.
Well, actually, it probably happened sometime earlier today while preparing for his upcoming Sugar Bowl match up against Brian Kelly and the Cincinnati Bearcats… assuming Brian Kelly is still coaching the Bearcats in early January. But I digress…
You see, Urban Meyer is still probably licking his wounds from the beat down Nick Saban and the Crimson Tide put on his Gators last weekend. It was such a bad beat down that Tim Tebow… A.K.A. Super Man… was last seen openly weeping on the sidelines following the game.
But at some point earlier today, while Meyer was probably watching game film or something of that nature, one of his assistants had to run into his office and shout, “The NCAA is crawling up Kiffin’s ass again.”
If you hadn’t heard, the NCAA is indeed crawling up Lane Kiffin’s ass again. Multiple allegations of recruiting violations by the University of Tennessee have surfaced… most notable amongst the allegations is the use of co-eds to lure top recruits into committing to Tennessee.
Big deal, right? Don’t all big schools do the same thing? Probably… these are 17 and 18 year old boys we’re talking about, and what better way to snatch their attention then by dangling pretty girls in front of them. But the kicker is that these hostesses, members of the Orange Pride’s Student Ambassador Program, went off campus to do the dangling. In some instances they went as far as 200 miles off campus, to high school football games in South Carolina!
The University will likely say these Volunteers were taking the initiative and acting on their own. But let’s be serious… there’s no way female college students are going to drive 200 miles to lure recruits to Tennessee without explicit instructions from someone within the University itself.
So, as you can see, when Urban Meyer was told exactly what was going on, he must have had a nice little chuckle.
And after that, he probably made a phone call to reel in the co-eds from the University of Florida’s Gator Getters from doing the same thing.
On Monday, University of Florida Head Coach Urban Meyer suspended starting linebacker Brandon Spikes for the first half of next week’s game against Vanderbilt for eye-gouging another player during the Gators victory over Georgia. I have always maintained that Meyer is one of the classiest guys in all of college football, but what he did on Monday was absolutely unforgivable.
In Meyer’s defense, much more depraved, disgusting and unjustifiable things happen on football fields from high school to the NFL every week. I’ve heard stories that range from hair pulling to attempts to break fingers to squeezing testicles (yes, really), so a linebacker going all Moe from Three Stooges on a running back in a pile really isn’t the end of the world. Anyone who thinks this is even in the top 10 of worst things that have happened during a big-time football game this year is hopelessly unaware of what football is all about. What’s brought so much attention to this case is the omnipresence of the Internet and the expansive number of cameras on football games now.
Back in the day, this sort of thing would happen and no one would have any idea. If someone did happen to catch it live, it might grow into a myth or a debate down the road, but there would never be the kind of irrefutable evidence that exists today.
I understand why Meyer only suspended Spikes for a half. Like most coaches and most players, Meyer knows the kinds of things that go on during games. Spikes had actually gotten poked in the eye by a Georgia player earlier in the game and Spikes wasn’t even called for a penalty on the play. The announcers didn’t even say anything about it.
Unfortunately for Meyer and Spikes, in today’s world you have to give out discipline based on perception and not reality. In reality, what Brandon Spikes did isn’t worth more than a one half suspension. In public perception, however, Spikes should be given at least a one-game suspension, and maybe even two. When it starts to look like your players are undisciplined thugs and you’re willing to turn a blind eye to any kind of behavior if it means the team can keep on winning, it makes you look bad and it makes the program look bad.
There have been mounting comparisons of the Gators, under Meyer’s tenure, to the old Miami Hurricanes under Larry Coker and not about their play on the field. One such comment comes from an Orlando Sentinel blog that lists the “arrest*” of 24 players throughout the past five years. Half of the arrests are for juvenile offences that just about every college student has been guilty of – truly degenerate acts like throwing paper cups or not moving out of the way of a police car, for instance – and the other half of the offending parties who committed real crimes were suspended indefinitely and/or removed from the program.
Make no mistake, Urban Meyer is a classy coach who has taken the high road – the zero tolerance road – with any player who had off-the-field issues and his record speaks to that. That’s what makes this latest instance so troubling.
A big part of being a coach at a big-time college football program is managing the perception of yourself and your football program. Urban Meyer didn’t do a very good job of that on Monday.
* In the interest of full disclosure I will admit that I love Urban Meyer. I have never once questioned his judgment in the five years he’s been the head coach at Florida, and would follow him off of a cliff and into an abyss of lava.