Florida coach Urban Meyer’s apparent policy on eye-gouging is now clear. Only a successful blinding or maiming can result in a full-game suspension.
Meyer suspended Brandon Spikes for only the first half of the Gators’ next game against Vanderbilt for eye-gouging Georgia running back Washaun Ealey.
I’m not sure if missing one half of a Vanderbilt game really qualifies as discipline. But apparently SEC commissioner Mike Slive didn’t want to get in Meyer’s way on this one. I guess Slive only worries about the real serious issues: sound bites about referees, not trivial matters like jamming fingers into eyeballs.
What happened Saturday certainly did not affect the outcome of Georgia’s 41-17 loss to Florida. The Bulldogs themselves have devolved into one of the nation’s most-penalized and least-disciplined teams. Meyer felt compelled to say the linebacker was retaliating for earlier incidents that resulted in him having his helmet knocked off and being poked in the eye (he said).
But Spikes’ act was on another level.
“I don’t condone that,” Meyer told reporters in Florida. “I understand what goes on on the football [field], but there’s no place for that. We’re going to suspend Brandon for the first half of the Vanderbilt game. I spoke with him. That’s not who he is. That’s not who we are. He got caught up in emotion.”
Ealey was not available for comment Monday. It was a day off for Georgia players (the NCAA mandates one day off per week for players). Coach Mark Richt declined comment on the incident Sunday night.
But that didn’t stop this from snowballing into a national story Monday. The strongest comments came from Mike Golic, co-host of ESPN’s morning, “Mike and Mike” radio show. Golic has some credibility. He was a defensive lineman at Notre Dame and an eight-year NFL veteran. He has been at the bottom of a few of these piles. So what does it mean when he calls this, “one of the biggest chicken-bleep things I’ve seen in my life”?
And what does it mean when he says it was worse than when Oregon’s LeGarrette Blount punched Boise State’s Byron Hout in the season opener? (Blount initially was suspended for the full season by Oregon. But several weeks later the school announced a tentative reinstatement, and he may return this week against Stanford.)
“You can clearly see Brandon Spikes’ fingers go into the facemask of the running back for Georgia, and, I don’t mean just go in there — go in there and twist around,” Golic said. “It is a bad looking eye-gouge. And I know this guy is a tough player and I know he hits and I know he’s considered one of the best linebackers. But that’s one of the biggest chicken-bleep things I’ve seen in my life. Ever. Ever! To be that good of a player and have to do that – stick your fingers in a facemask and try to blind a guy, eye-gouge him, is pathetic, Brandon! Pathetic, that you would do it!
“There needs to be some disciplinary action. Everybody wants to talk about LeGarrette Blount from Oregon for punching that kid. I’ll tell you what. I’ll take the punch over this garbage. Any day of the week. Any day of the week over that garbage on the field of sticking your fingers in somebody’s facemask and trying to blind him. Stick your fingers in their eye? Are you kidding me…?”
Golic later said: “What a horrible move that is. What a classless, unsportsmanlike move that is.”
Meyer said his wife and defensive coordinator Charlie Strong both mentioned the Spikes’ incident to him. His initial reaction was to move on. Then he saw a replay of the incident decided to speak to Spikes about it.
But his initial balking indicates he didn’t want to suspend Spikes at all.
“Very emotional things happened in that game in particular that were not good for either side,” Meyer said, “but the bottom line is we’re Florida and he’s Brandon Spikes and we expect certain things.”
Nice speech. But it would’ve meant more if there was some action to back it up.