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?
For USC fans, this is about the best news you could hope for. Kiffin is a great recruiter, a pretty good coach and he’ll still have his dad around to make him look 10x better as a coach. The fallout from this, though, is that he’s going to lose any chance of recruiting big time athletes everywhere in the South. People in the South value trustworthiness and perceived authenticity. Not that USC was ever doing huge business below the Mason Dixon line, but that was what made Pete Carroll such an amazing coach – he could pull great players from everywhere in the country. Kiffin has alienated an entire (and very important) piece of the recruiting puzzle.
For UT fans, this is about the worst that could have happened. Your coach – who you never really liked anyway, but at least was putting the program back on the right track – has left and any big-name commitments he had gotten are up in the air, at best. Tommy Tubberville’s already taken another job and so has every other relevant assistant out there. You’ve now hired your wide receivers coach, who, by the way is named Kippy, as the head coach and he stands a legitimate chance of being your coach for next season. Best case scenario: You load up your out-of-conference schedule with powder puffs (again) next season and pray for a bowl game. Prepare for at least three more years of mediocrity – at best.
For SEC fans this means more down years for the SEC East, once one of the best divisions in all of college sports. The division is going to start looking eerily similar to the Big XII North circa 2002-now.
For me, the saddest part is that I was really looking forward to the Meyer-Kiffin rivalry being the new Spurrier-Bowden – one great coach against one obviously superior head coach, duking it out at big games every year, with National Championship implications on the line. I mean, not only does Urban now not have a foil, but who is Kiffin gonna beef with? Something tells me Steve Sarkisian isn’t going to provide that kind of riveting drama. The best thing about the whole rivalry was that Kiffin and Meyer genuinely hated each other. Meyer hated Kiffin because Kiffin was a loudmouthed, pompous, flippant, trash-talking, impudent jackass and Kiffin hated Meyer because Meyer was an obviously superior head coach. See, I’ve started hating him already.
The good news for Gator fans is that we get to watch Florida get stomped on by SEC West opponents in the SEC championship game for years to come. Yay!
Can you believe it? People are still up in arms.
A day after the news broke that Lane Kiffin was indeed leaving the University of Tennessee to become the head football coach at USC, public opinion on the subject was running rampant.
And I’m not just talking about Tennessee fans, or even college football fans, but sports fans in general were weighing in on the blogs and talk radio shows to voice their disdain for Lane Kiffin.
Granted, the way in which he departed was certain to leave a bad taste in people’s mouths… not unlike when you reach into the fridge and take a swig of expired milk straight from the carton. No amount of rinsing and gargling can make that sour taste go away. Only time can do that.
And time is something the University of Tennessee has very little of in the wake of the carpet-bagger’s departure. Signing day is only three weeks away, and in order for the Volunteers to be able to salvage this year’s recruiting class, they in turn must do what was done to them… namely, poach a coach from a lesser program, leaving that school high and dry with even less time until signing day.
Should be interesting to see how everything shakes out over the coming days. But one thing I found very funny was the shot of Urban Meyer at the Florida Basketball game last night. Immediately following Lane’s impromptu news conference, the camera panned to Meyer in the midst of receiving a text message on his phone. By his reaction, I can only assume it had something to do with the exit of his Knoxville nemesis.
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.