Meyer wrong–again–in confrontation with reporter

 Today’s column was supposed to be about my visit to Gainesville, Fla., on Monday and Tuesday. The topic was going to be the Florida players discussing how disappointing the 13-1 season of 2009 was because of the constant pressure of trying to maintain the No. 1 preseason ranking. I sat down with three Florida players—Ahmad Black, Mike Pouncey, and John Brantley. To a man they agreed that given the lowered expectations and pressure, the 2010 season was going to be a little more relaxed and more fun. 

 

Little did I know that on Wednesday, the day I left, head coach Urban Meyer would REALLY make things fun.

 

 By now I’m sure you’ve read the story and seen the video of Meyer, who has limited his contact with the press this spring, confronting an Orlando Sentinel reporter at practice. When I was at practice on Monday Meyer did not speak to the press after it was over, which is fine. Other players and coaches were made available. But on Wednesday Meyer walked right up to Jeremy Fowler and objected to a quote that wide receiver Deonte Thompson gave on Monday when he was surrounded by several reporters. The question dealt with how the offense would look with John Brantley instead of Tim Tebow as quarterback. Here is the direct quote and again, Thompson said it in front of a group of reporters who all had their tape recorders going: :

 

 

“Things are going to get better here in the future,” Thompson said. “Any receiver would be happy. You have a guy like (John) Brantley throwing the ball, spreading it around to everybody. … You never know with Tim. You can bolt, you think he’s running but he’ll come up and pass it to you. You just have to be ready at all times. With Brantley, everything’s with rhythm, time. You know what I mean, a real quarterback.”

 

 “A REAL quarterback.”

 

 Obviously, what Thompson meant was that Brantley is a more CONVENTIONAL drop back quarterback than Tebow, which is also obvious. Life for Florida’s receivers is going to be different with John Brantley as quarterback. It will be more conventional. Everybody in the program agrees that is true.

 

 But in today’s 24/7 news cycle quotes like Thompson’s get picked up in the blogosphere and not everyone puts them into context. Thompson was reportedly upset because he has such a high regard for Tim Tebow and the quote made it look like he was ripping perhaps the most honored player in school history. Meyer’s reaction was to defend this player and so he goes after the source in front of everybody and has his Mike Gundy moment. He threatened to ban the entire newspaper from practice and called Fowler “a bad guy.” Meyer even went so far as to suggest that if Thompson were Meyer’s son, he and the reporter might come to a physical confrontation.

 

 Go here to see the video:

 http://blogs.orlandosentinel.com/sports_college_uf/2010/03/urban-meyer-uh-passionately-defends-deonte-thompson.html

 

 Enough.

 

 I have defended Urban Meyer and bent over backwards to be fair to the man. And let me say that he has always been good to me, personally. But he is flat wrong here. There was a right way and a wrong way to handle this issue and over the last two years, when the media has been involved, Meyer has been pretty tone deaf. The issue was never the quote by Thompson. The issue was the way others outside the program picked up the quote and used it out of context. That is wrong and it is unfair to the kid.

 

 But when that happens, the smart coach doesn’t go after the reporter who quoted the kid CORRECTLY in an attempt to intimidate the rest. You sit down with all the reporters and explain to them that the kid is upset and, if there is any doubt about the context of the quote, Meyer as the head coach provides it in a calm, rational manner. Then the story goes away. But now this story has gone viral and, like Gundy, Meyer will soon be in the YouTube Hall of Fame. Not smart.

 

 Meyer made the same mistake when linebacker Brandon Spikes got caught with his hand inside the face mask of Georgia running back Waushan Ealey last season. By suspending Spikes for only one half, Meyer took what should have been a one-day story and turned it into a four-day story. After the national uproar, Spikes “volunteered” to sit out a whole game. It never should have happened. Somebody should have told Meyer that a half-game suspension was wrong and Meyer should have listened.

 

 The media is so large now that it can’t be controlled. But it can be MANAGED with a little rational thought. Meyer has made it clear that he believes he does not have to manage media as part of his job. And that is certainly his right. But it’s not very smart, and Urban Meyer is a very smart man.

 

 And on this I feel strongly: For Meyer to personalize this issue is not only unprofessional, it is not in keeping with the standards of behavior that are generally accepted in the Southeastern Conference.

 

 Urban Meyer doesn’t need my advice but, if asked, I would tell him this: Given the drama of last December’s “retirement” and then “un-retirement” then “extended leave of absence” by Meyer, an incident like this will get the chattering class talking yet again about Meyer’s overall stability. Is that fair to him? Probably not. But if you don’t want people taking shots at you, why in the world would you hand them a gun and do it for all the world to see?

 

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327 comments Add your comment

Jax Dawg

March 25th, 2010
8:55 am

First. I think everyone knew he would pull a stunt this season to take attention off his team, but not during Spring practice.

david

March 25th, 2010
8:57 am

Well said, Tony

#2 BAMA FAN

March 25th, 2010
8:59 am

It sounds like Meyer still has not gotten over the beat down in Atlanta from the crimson tide!!

Vol Dude

March 25th, 2010
9:04 am

Not a gator fan, by any means, but it sounds like these guys have had a history. I think you are a little sensitive because you are the press, Tony.

neil

March 25th, 2010
9:05 am

Its about time someone calls Urban out. He is not “a good guy.” He’s a bully. Gets a free pass because his teams are great.

Bob Newhart

March 25th, 2010
9:06 am

I am not a real psychologist, but all arrows seem to point to Meyer being head-over-heels in love with Tim Tebow. First, he can’t stand the thought of being without him, so he retires. Then, when someone criticizes Tebow fairly mildly, Meyer goes all postal on him. It’s actually kinda creepy.

meh

March 25th, 2010
9:07 am

Being a dousche is a requirement to coach at Florida.

dagnabit

March 25th, 2010
9:08 am

Meyer is just a little high-strung is all. What’s your excuse?

TommyJack

March 25th, 2010
9:14 am

Urb. An a-hole by any name is still an a-hole.

Jax Dawg

March 25th, 2010
9:17 am

Is Urban Meyer defending Thompson or Tebow? If he wants to be mad at someone, take Thompson to task for not being able to speak clearly.

Woodstrock

March 25th, 2010
9:18 am

Tony: you missed the story. Urban did not call out Jeremy Fowler because he quoted Deonte Thompson ‘correctly’ – he called him out because the way this story was pushed in the Orlando Sentinel. The story was hyped that Thompson WAS dissing Tebow (you pointed out correctly that he wasn’t). However, that is NOT what was reported by the Sentinel, and they hyped the story knowing the full context. It was false reporting, and the Sentinel ran with it, which is why he was singled out. Period.

LOL

March 25th, 2010
9:19 am

He’s not called Urban “Cryer” for nothing.

bigdawg01

March 25th, 2010
9:21 am

Meyer has a giant ego that cannot stand any criticism. He is a total jerk. He fits in perfect with the Florida fans..one of many classless jack-asses.

Video would have been made better by 1 thing…Meyer in Jean Shorts.

rob

March 25th, 2010
9:23 am

You’re wrong, Barnhart. Everyone knew what Thompson was getting at when he said what he said. The problem is HOW Fowler wrote the piece. He intimated (by setting the quote up) that Thompson was critical of Tebow as a quarterback – which he very clearly was not. And by you not doing your home work but blindly protecting a fellow member of the media you’re just a guilty. My question is, in your eyes, do media members EVER make mistakes? This guy did and now you protect him? Please, grow up.

What happened to journalism?

Jim Mora Jr.

March 25th, 2010
9:23 am

Urban Meyer is to the SEC East what Les Miles is to the SEC West- smug, arrogant, classless, first rate jerks. It’s a shame the conference is left to take a black eye at the expense of these two clowns.

Tony Barnhart

March 25th, 2010
9:28 am

Enter your comments here

rob

March 25th, 2010
9:29 am

Come on, answer up Tony!! Or do you need to do a little homework before you come back to face the music? Which of course you should have done before hand . . .

DL

March 25th, 2010
9:31 am

Good for Meyer for sticking up for his players. Could/Should it have been handled differently? Absolutely. But at the end of the day, the players are going to look at Meyer and know that he has their backs and they’ll bust it for him in practice and in games.

GO GATORS!

Jax Dawg

March 25th, 2010
9:33 am

I guess nobody read the article. This was a line from the article: “Thompson’s comment was either intentional or he meant to say Brantley’s a more conventional style of quarterback.”

Tony Barnhart

March 25th, 2010
9:33 am

First of all, I read everything that Jeremy Fowler of the Orlando paper wrote that day. I went back and read it again before I wrote this column. Fowler clearly states that Thompson’s quote, if taken literally, could be misinterpreted. Then he also wrote that what Thompson obviously meant was that Brantley is a more conventional quarterback than Tebow.

We can agree to disagree on the context and the tone of the story. What I am saying is that regardless of what was written or the tone in which it was written, there is a right way and a wrong way for a football coach to resolve a disagreement with the media. Coach Meyer chose the wrong way.

Charlie Bama

March 25th, 2010
9:33 am

Right or wrong, this kind of ‘human drama’ helps sustain college football during that window when BB is winding down and baseball season is, well, baseball season. I don’t think this is a big deal in the larger picture. I think we all recognize that Urban will reap what he sows–we just don’t know when the harvet begins, and that makes for even more drama.

Matthew Schroeder

March 25th, 2010
9:35 am

Meyer was right Tony. I respectfully disagree with you. This guy has stepped on Meyer’s toes more than once – he even went as far to pull aside Meyer’s daughter at a basketball game and try to pull information out of her why he took a leave of absence. That is way out of bounds. Meyer made an example of a guy who has continued to step on his toes. He deserved it. This guy knew that he could follow up with a question about the “real quarterback” quote, but instead doesn’t write in his story that earlier in that interview with Thompson, that Thompson lauded Tebow and called him a legend. If this reporter had done that to my daughter, then ran a kid’s quote out of context and made him look really bad, I’d have done the same thing.

TrueDawg

March 25th, 2010
9:35 am

The real story here is that this guy isn’t going to make it past 55 without keeling over from a heart attack. He’s wound so tight that the slightest criticism of him or his program sets him off. He’s a great coach, but he needs to learn how to let some things go.

Jax Dawg

March 25th, 2010
9:36 am

Agreed Tony. Thompson’s inability to speak clearly doesn’t mean Urban Meyer can threaten a person in the media.

Jax Dawg

March 25th, 2010
9:38 am

Matthew Schroeder, can’t this be handled with class behind closed doors with the reporter?

rob

March 25th, 2010
9:38 am

Pathetic, absolutely pathetic! No wonder journalism is in such a bad way. What happened to being honest and calling it as it happened? Context is everything Tony, context is everything.

No wonder circulation is falling, you guys can’t even be honest any more . . . Admit your mistake, Tony.

Dawg in Jax

March 25th, 2010
9:39 am

Good for Meyer!!! Reporters need to tell the story like it is not how they want it to be. Anyone who knows anything about college football knows that Thompson was not trying to say that Timmy T was not a good quarterback. The only part I don’t like is that Thompson is not Meyer’s son and therefore Meyer did not beat the tar out of the reporter. It would have been nice to see Meyer suspended for the first half of the season opener.

Matthew Schroeder

March 25th, 2010
9:41 am

Jax Dawg – it could have. But I think Meyer felt like it would get his point across to not only Fowler, but other people in the media as well by doing it out in the public. Apparently, Meyer has pulled Fowler aside more than once behind closed doors and that didn’t stop him from continuing to take quotes out of context.

gdawginkalamazoo

March 25th, 2010
9:41 am

Tony, Urban just called and wanted me to tell you that “you are a bad guy, man.”

Southside Dawg

March 25th, 2010
9:41 am

Coach Dooly, Coach Dodd, Coach Bryant all understood that the press was their bread and butter thus they never browbeat any reporter in public. Meyer is the recipient of a hotbed of good players from a pool of 15 million people and an unlimited checkbook. Who couldn’t win with these 2 factors?

McDawg

March 25th, 2010
9:42 am

after watching the video i don’t think it was that big of deal except the part where he threatened violence or at least encouraged Thompson’s father to beat up the reporter-i have not seen the original Orlando Sentinel’s article so can’t commnet on that but i think the reporter definitly has stoked this thing

i personally agree w/ the receiver-with all of the talent UF has had at WR they weren’t that effective except used as RBs or kick returners

Dr. Phil

March 25th, 2010
9:44 am

Meyer did have a “special” relationship with Tebow, but this whole melt down event seems like something directed at the players in order to keep them from talking to the media. Meyer is a drama queen, and his erratic behavior will hurt recruiting in the long run. He’s a girly guy.

Matthew Schroeder

March 25th, 2010
9:45 am

Dr. Phil – as long as he is winning, recruiting isn’t going to be an issue for Meyer.

Marvin

March 25th, 2010
9:47 am

Somebody please get Urban a Thesaurus. He calls the reporter a “bad guy” which, I assume, in Meyerese means “Jerk.” He referred to UGA’s end zone celebration as a “bad deal”. What does that even mean? Maybe he meant “classless”. Or, to paraphrase CMR, maybe he meant “I really upset that Georgia totally took over the game with that stunt. Plus, they took over the media attention which is supposed to be directed solely at us (me and Tebow). And the penalties had nothing to do with the outcome of the game.”

Musashi

March 25th, 2010
9:48 am

I think Vol Dude hit the nail on the head, these guys have a history… and there may be more to come.

1eyedJack

March 25th, 2010
9:51 am

The fuse is lit…when will the bomb explode?

Jax Dawg

March 25th, 2010
9:53 am

Matthew Schroeder. I knew Urban Meyer had issues with Mike Bianchi in the past, but that’s no reason to come off like the “40 year old” Oklahoma State coach. Show the class of a national championship coach.

Matthew Schroeder

March 25th, 2010
9:54 am

Fair enough Jax Dawg. I’m not saying he handled it the best way, just that I don’t blame him for doing it that way. The thing regarding his daughter probably had him chomping at the bit to get ahold of this guy. Which is also probably why he mentioned what he’d do if he were Deonte’s father.

Thompson griped about Tebow before

March 25th, 2010
9:56 am

Quit slamming Barnhart and do some research of your own. Thompson was whining all season long about not getting the ball more from Tebow, and he’d be 40 yards down field waving his hands in frustration. He clearly was not happy. He said what he meant and meant what he said – Tebow was not a true, traditional quarterback. He was a fullback who could throw. He had a few seconds to decide if he wanted throw, but option A for Tebow was always to run. Thompson didn’t like him as the signal caller and didn’t like his lack of receptions. Honestly, since Florida’s offense isn’t blessed with a wealth of receiver play (it preys on corners playing run first) Thompson should’ve gone elsewhere to play ball.

Florida recruits ought to look at and worry about the fact that Tebow spent four years at Florida and came out without the skills set to be an NFL quarterback.

Mikey

March 25th, 2010
9:56 am

Meyer is a jerk and a jerk is as a jerk does.

Meyer Rips Reporter, « MrSEC.com

March 25th, 2010
9:57 am

[...] News wonders if Meyer went too far.Tony Barnhart of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution says Meyer is “wrong again” in this confrontation.Mike Bianchi of The Orland Sentinel believes Meyer should think again about [...]

Matthew Schroeder

March 25th, 2010
9:59 am

Thompson Griped — lets wait and see if Tebow can play in the pros. Don’t bet against the guy just yet. If you were saying that I was bashing Barnhart, please go back and read my original post. I respectfully disagreed with him. Thompson may have not been happy, but earlier in the same interview with the infamous quote, he called Tebow a legend. If Thompson’s hands had been better, Tebow might have thrown to him more.

BILLY

March 25th, 2010
10:00 am

Tony is only reporting the truth! CUM is a scumbag and is all about himself! I hate bammer but enjoyed the gator meltdown on the sideline toward the end of the game!!!

AlphG8r

March 25th, 2010
10:00 am

Oh look! ANOTHER Gators story! Could you guys be anymore obsessed with us?

azcat225

March 25th, 2010
10:00 am

rob: Admit his mistake? What mistake? He gave you a clear and cogent reply to your harping and all you do is harp some more. He stated it was wrong way for Meyer to deal with the issue and why, and you disagree (obviously). I guess that’s Tony’s “mistake”—taking a position you disagree with.

Why don’t you go out to the garage and polish that Gator license plate frame one more time?

AlphG8r

March 25th, 2010
10:04 am

I heard Mark Richt did the same thing but no reporters were there because no one cares…

RAMBLE ON!!!

March 25th, 2010
10:06 am

THIS IS NEWS!?!

REALLY?!?

I MEAN, REALLY?!?

TONY this must be a fill in for you till Mark Richt does a back flip off the high dive.

Jax Dawg

March 25th, 2010
10:08 am

AlphG8r

March 25th, 2010
10:00 am
Oh look! ANOTHER Gators story! Could you guys be anymore obsessed with us?

It is actually refreshing to see Gator fan comment on an article about the Florida Gators for once.

JB

March 25th, 2010
10:10 am

More proof that Meyer is a great football coach no doubt, but can be a jerk. He makes big money and is the most high profile state employee in the state of Florida, you would think Tony, he would handle it as you suggest. No Georgia fan is saying he’s not a great coach, but a jerk, he’s proven that over and over.

youknowwhob**ch

March 25th, 2010
10:15 am

Barnhart, you ever write a piece like this again and you’re banned and your fricking paper from any practice, do you read me mister, do you, huh do you, answer me boy….I’ll tell you one thing if that piece had been written about one of my coaches you and I would be going at it b**ch. no one and I mean no one tells me what to do you read me mister…