Normally on Thursdays we have Five Burning Questions. Today, we only have two:
1. Brandon Spikes will sit out the whole game against Vanderbilt. Will Urban Meyer be joining him? Florida’s Spikes was suspended for trying to poke Georgia’s Washaun Ealey in the eye last Saturday in Jacksonville. Originally, coach Urban Meyer suspended Spikes for one half of the Vanderbilt game. After a national media backlash against the punishment as being inadequate, it was announced after practice on Wednesday that Spikes would sit the entire game. Spikes said he asked that his punishment be extended because he didn’t want to be a “distraction” to the team.
We’ll deal more with that decision in the next note. But here is what I want to know. Did Urban Meyer break the SEC commissioner’s rule on not publicly criticizing officials? If so, could he be sitting out the Vanderbilt game with Spikes?
On Wednesday’s SEC conference call the Florida head coach said he sent video of what he believed was a late hit on Tim Tebow (by Georgia’s Nick Williams) to the conference office. I didn’t get to see the video but I talked to some people who did. Based on what those people told me, Meyer is right. Georgia Coach Mark Richt told the AJC yesterday that Williams should have been flagged on the hit.
When Meyer was asked about the play, Meyer said “I don’t want to step out of line on that.” Meyer said he had the utmost respect for SEC officials. But then he said this:
“That should have been a penalty, in my opinion,” Meyer said when asked about the hit. “Obviously, it should have been. You’ve got to protect quarterbacks. That’s the whole purpose. It’s right in front of the referee. I’m not sure how they’re going to handle that, but … that was one of the plays we did send in.”
So, does that violate Commissioner Mike Slive’s edict? Let’s just say it goes right up to the line. The SEC office said late Wednesday that Slive would review Meyer’s comments and make a decision whether or not the Florida coach actually crossed the line.
But remember this. Last week’s ruling by Slive was primarily put in place to keep coaches from questioning the integrity of the officials, not their judgment. It was because Tennessee coach Lane Kiffin used the phrase “and Florida and Alabama move on” suggesting that the officials were taking care of those two teams. That talk is what Slive’s rule is intended to address.
But I could be wrong about this one. Slive may feel he has to do something because if Meyer gets away with it, the rest of the coaches will take their shots as well, which is what started this whole mess. We will watch and report.
2. What will be the fallout against Spikes, if any? It may have actually been Spikes’ idea to increase the suspension to a full game. After the incredible storm of bad press, somebody may have suggested to the kid that it was a pretty good idea.
This whole circus should not have been necessary. I can’t say that Florida used the best PR judgment in its handling Spikes situation. What Florida didn’t seem to understand was that from a public perception standpoint, sitting the kid for only a half was almost worse than not suspending him at all.
Florida has gotten hammered in the media this week and most of the damage has been self inflicted. There is also the possibility that this will cost Spikes when it comes time for the media to pick all-conference and All-America teams. If it comes down to Spikes and somebody else for an award or honor, all some voters are going to remember his hand inside Washaun Ealey’s facemask. Is that fair? Probably not. But if you’re Florida—or any school–you just can’t make these kinds of decisions in a vacuum. I’m not saying that media reaction and public perception should dictate these kinds of decisions, but don’t you have to at least CONSIDER it?
Here is what should have happened. First, somebody at Florida needed to look Urban Meyer in the eye and say: “Coach, this isn’t right. It’s got to be for a full game. We’re going to get killed in the press.” Then Brandon Spikes has to stand in front of the media in Gainesville and say just three sentences: “This is not who I am. I lost my temper in the heat of the game. I am sorry.” Then it’s over. You ask for forgiveness. It is given. Then Spikes, who has had an otherwise brilliant career and who I think is a good kid, doesn’t get defined by 20 seconds of video.
Florida made the classic political mistake. They took what could have been a one-day story and let it become a four-day story. Here it is Thursday morning and we’re still talking about it.
Maybe Spikes mitigates the damage by this decision. But some damage has already been done. And the sad thing is it didn’t have to be this way.
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