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:




 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


March 26th, 2010
7:27 am

I’ve been a Gator fan since 1959 and thought I had seen it all. This takes the cake. I’m sick and tired of the Meyer/Tebow sideshow. Meyer is mentally unbalanced and needs a head doctor to fix whatever is causing his erratic behavior. Also, Foley needs to publicly spank his a$$. What a circus…


March 26th, 2010
7:29 am

Sorry Tony, LOVE what Urban Meyer Did!!!! Hopefully, the public in general will call out the press when they manipulate quotes to misconstrue comments or leave content out to make someone look biased. That’s exactly what Fowler did. I saw or read all interviews. FREEDOM OF SPEECH IS A 2 WAY STREET. If the reporters can dish it out…WELL, he should be able to take it.


March 26th, 2010
7:50 am

bad for gators, the press will back off.


March 26th, 2010
8:00 am

The quote says what it says. Thompson was clearly comparing Tebow and Brantley. Thompson said Brantley was “a REAL quarterback,” thus implying that Tim Tebow wasn’t. It could not be more crystal freaking clear as to what the dude was getting at. I mean its right there in plain english. There is nothing to take out of context. The dude said what he said.

The only reason this is such a big deal is because it is critical of the mighty, righteous, and holy Tim Tebow. You will never see a more coddled college football player in your life. While at Florida, nobody could say anything remotely critical about this guy. Thom Brennehan cries like a little girl during the ‘08 BCS title game telecast over Tim Tebow critics. Somebody asks Tim Tebow if he’s a virgin at SEC media days and all hell breaks lose. The reporter was out of bounds in ambushing Tebow with that question. How old was the dude at the time, 21? He’s a grown effing man. He can take care of himself, or can he? I remember hearing about a posse of Florida players who tasked themselves to “looking after” Tebow on campus. Are you freaking kidding me? Is this middle school or SEC football?

Tebow was a great player but my God the infatuation with this guy was sickening. Sure, he’s a swell guy, goes to church, is a great leader, and stays out of trouble. Big harry deal. There are a million guys like that in college football. To all those Gator fans crying about the media, who do you think put Tebow up on that pedastal to begin with?

Nobody can say anything about St. Timothy ever. That’s what this all boils down to.

J Gator

March 26th, 2010
8:43 am

I completely support Urban and the way he defends his players. The media continues to spin things they way they desire.

Topp Dogg

March 26th, 2010
8:50 am

I think of Urban every time i sit on the toilet and take a dump ,i wonder why?


March 26th, 2010
10:24 am

You think of him Topp Dogg because he beat the $hit out of the Dawgs.


March 26th, 2010
10:43 am

Calling Urban Meyer (Corch Irvin Maya) unstable is unfair? Really?

Also, this is just more evidence that meyer and tebow have a love that dare not speak its name

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March 26th, 2010
3:21 pm

Uh..Tony..I think you are old enough to remember when Bear Bryant, Frank Kush, Woody Hayes, and Bo Schembechler roamed the sidelines. Those guys would have kicked this reporter’s head off and pooped down his throat for less, while the rest of the press core stood around laughing.

All kidding aside, don’t embarrass yourself and pretend to defend this reporter. His tweet was extremely misleading and deserved a spanking.

Are you guys this desperate for news that you keep this one going?


March 26th, 2010
9:49 pm

As usual Barnhart you are wrong. You are a self professed sports guru who is nothing short of being a hack. This reporter has had run ins in the past with many coaches and him being the jerk he is it won’t be the last. Meyer has talked to this clown before and the horses butt doesn’t care. But then again this rag of a paper is known for garbage like this.

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March 27th, 2010
1:43 am

Good gosh!!! Enough about this crap. Got to go to practice so as to get better. See you gators in JAX. Oh, and by the way. You gator fans better hope Brantley has some wheels too. cause me thinks my defence mite be a tad better this comming fall. Fast baby fast. I’m just saying……….


March 27th, 2010
1:46 am

Oh, and who’s to say Urban and this reporter didn’t cook up this whole mess behind closed doors to make sure the news out of Gainsville stays hot!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


March 27th, 2010
1:49 am

No one can get on this blog and deny that The University of Florida sports machine is not a “media darling.”

Notso FASt

March 27th, 2010
2:37 am

If the guy in Athens had said this you would be praising. Come on you just don’t like Urban.


March 27th, 2010
6:16 pm

Hey Tony seriously are you serious?
Trying to blame Urban, and not only Urban pretty much every Head Coach that gets a little hot tempered trying to defend their players, which are like there children.
Tony shut the F^*k up and go suck a fat d^*k, B^*^h.

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help, I live in Ga

March 29th, 2010
8:07 pm

I thought I was glad basketball was over (for TN anyway). And now this non-story is all anybody talks about. Meyer is an average coach. If Brantley had 4 or 5 games of experience and played against Alabama last year, they’d have won the game. Tebow had recievers open all day every Saturday but he was too busy watching the D-line and not letting the ball fly. The kid is right.


March 31st, 2010
6:10 am

[...] we can assume now that the usual parade of finger-wagging reporters — last seen excoriating Urban Meyer for threatening to ban an entire paper from Florida practices — will rush to their aggrieved [...]


April 1st, 2010
12:58 pm

Who died and left the press as judge, jury and executioner? Their arrogance is why I used to like to watch Bill Parcells’ press conferences.

[...] we can assume now that the usual parade of finger-wagging reporters — last seen excoriating Urban Meyer for threatening to ban an entire paper from Florida practices — will rush to their aggrieved [...]

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