You guys (and ladies) need to help me here because there is something that I don’t quite understand.
When did coach’s comments at booster clubs and radio interviews in MAY become MAJOR, MAJOR stories?
Florida coach Urban Meyer was recently speaking to a Gator Club in Orlando and said the following words: “If you want to be critical of a player on our team or a coach on our team, you can buy a ticket in seat 37F. You’re not welcome back in the football office. You’re either a Gator or you’re not a Gator.”
It was assumed in the media that Meyer was talking about former quarterback Shane Matthews, who co-hosts a radio show in Gainesville. As a radio host he has been analytical, and sometimes critical, of Florida’s offense, particularly the passing end of it. That’s his job. Besides, it is fair to say that Matthews know a little bit about the passing game.
Meyer’s job is to win games and protect his program from all enemies, foreign and domestic. He’s a coach and coaches are control freaks. It’s in their DNA. They can’t help it. Yeah, the remarks seem a little strident but in the context of a booster club it was like a politician throwing red meat to his base. It’s harmless.
But after those comments Meyer was being portrayed in some circles as a guy with a god complex that has only grown because of two national championships in three years. Suddenly, after four years in Gainesville, Meyer is trying to throw down the gauntlet to former players: You’re either in or you’re out.
The story was picked up on ESPN.com. The Worldwide Leader had Matthews on its daily TV show and he said that the story was overblown. Matthews talked to Pat Dooley of the Gainesville Sun, who is as dialed in to Florida as any reporter in the business. Dooley reported that Matthews and Meyer have talked and cleared the air. But for a week it was a really big deal down there. My question is: Did it have to be?
South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier went on Paul Finebaum’s radio show and said that he, too, had heard the rumors that Meyer might someday head ride off into the sunset to Notre Dame. If you know Spurrier, it is the kind of throwaway line that makes talking to him fun.
Remember “Free Shoes U?” I’m sorry Florida State fans, but THAT was funny. “Can’t spell Citrus without a UT?” Even if you wear Orange you have to laugh at that.
Now everybody has heard those rumors about Meyer and as long as Florida’s good and Notre Dame’s not, those rumors are not going away. But one trip around the blogosphere and Spurrier is suddenly talking smack about Meyer and using it for his recruiting advantage. That’s was not the context of the remarks. Spurrier was just having fun. You remember fun, don’t you? This is sports. This is supposed to be fun.
What was supposed to be a harmless, good natured jab at an opponent became this thing with legs that would not die.
So what’s the big deal, you ask? Those guys said what they said and they have to live with the consequences. It’s the age in which we live. Deal with it.
And you might be right. It could be that the cyber genie is out of the bottle and that the mega interest in college football, plus the money these guys are making make every word fair game.
But here is the concern. Since last week both Meyer and Spurrier have both become very cautious in public interviews.
“What happens is you can’t speak anymore,” Meyer told the Gainesville Sun. “You can’t have fun. You can’t talk. You know, it’s a shame, but that’s the way it is.”
Spurrier was in Myrtle Beach on Tuesday and even he has decided to back off.
“I haven’t won enough games to banter with anybody right now,” he told The Myrtle Beach newspaper. “So when you’re 7-5 and 7-6, which is about what we’ve averaged, you just try to worry about your team.”
College football coaches are boring enough during the season. But it used to be that we could get them to take off the blinders and loosen up for a few weeks in May and June. Is college football going to become like the NFL (No Fun League) because the coaches just get tired of every word being dissected and, in some cases, being blown way out of proportion? I hate that phrase because “proportion” is in the eye of the beholder but it seems to apply here.
I guess I have to remember that in the blogosphere little nuggets grow into big boulders if enough people chatter about them. But those of us in the business learned a long time ago that the stuff said at booster meetings has to be taken with a grain of salt. What coaches say in front of reporters is one thing. What they say in front of the booster clubs is another. In my opinion, you just can’t take it that seriously.
Apparently people do.
Am I missing something here?
Happy Birthday, Archie: I talked to the Ole Miss legend last night as he was celebrating his 60th birthday. The father of Peyton, Eli, and Cooper was born on May 19, 1949. It just doesn’t seem that long ago that I was watching him play against Georgia in Athens. “I sure don’t feel 60. I feel great,” he said. He looks like he could still play.
For those of you who never saw Archie Manning play in college, let me share this. Imagine a quarterback with the arm of Peyton or Eli. Now add speed. Archie Manning could flat run.