March 25, 2010
As viral coaching outbursts go, it's not exactly on the level of "I'm a man, I'm 40!" or any of the many classic clips by the king of entertaining beat reporter confrontations, Jim Mora. In fact, much of Florida coach Urban Meyer's finger-wagging upbraiding of Orlando Sentinel reporter Jeremy Fowler after Wednesday's spring practice session is barely audible on the clip below, until the moment an obviously simmering Meyer turns around to suggest Foley call UF receiver Deonte Thompson's family about a widely circulated blog post Fowler posted after Thompson told reporters Monday he was glad to have "a real quarterback" after two years of playing with Tim Tebow. You'll recognize that as about the same point the Meyer tells Fowler, "If that was my son, we'd be going at it right now":
The post that set Meyer off was slightly toned down from its original version after it started making the rounds on Monday night and Tuesday morning, but that didn't stop Thompson's "real quarterback" quote -- heard by at least a half dozen other reporters in the same interview, but only printed by Fowler -- from blowing up across the Web (including on this site) and on major national radio shows as a shocking "rip" against the golden child of college quarterbacks. Almost everyone who writes or talks about college football was discussing Thompson's seemingly unfavorable contrast between Tebow and heir apparent John Brantley, mostly in far more inflammatory terms than Fowler used in his account.
As the source, though, it was Fowler who Meyer singled out face-to-face as "a bad guy," and threatened to ban from Florida practices if he doesn't fall in line, forever enshrining himself into the Hall of Angry Coaches in the process.
For what it's worth, other Florida beat reporters contend Thompson's quote was merely a poor, vastly overblown choice of words by a 21-year-old who will never be mistaken for Barack Obama as a public speaker, and I can tell you some of them think Fowler has had it coming for a long time. Meyer's not the first in-state coach to threaten the Orlando Sentinel's access to his team, either. But as ESPN's Ivan Maisel points out, a fight with any entity that buys its ink (or browser capacity) by the barrel is a fight Meyer can never win, at least in the media -- nothing rouses jaded reporters' sabres of justice like an attack on another reporter, which in their eyes might as well be an attack on the First Amendment itself. Meyer may win the Gator message boards out of hand, but two of the most popular columnists in the South, Tony Barnhart and the Sentinel's own Mike Bianchi are already unloading on the coach this morning, you can bet the national columnists are already preparing to pounce today, too.
And after spring practice is over and this has died down, maybe Meyer can finally get a little rest, huh? Maybe?