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Context on the Urban Meyer's Mike Gundy Moment

Yesterday, Urban Meyer went off on Orlando Sentinel beat writer Jeremy Fowler over his quoting of Deonte Thompson's about John Brantley being a "real quarterback." Alligator Army has a great writeup and links aplenty, so if you're unfamiliar with what went down, go there first.

For me the most interesting thing was not that Meyer went off on a reporter, because coaches do that all the time. There was Mike Gundy's infamous rant of course, and Nick Saban has practically earned the title of "press conference gladiator" for some of his relations with the media. As a general rule, coaches should refrain from that because there's no way to do it and not come off as a world class jerk, especially if the press is just doing its job.

The money quote I think is, "I told you five years ago: Don’t mess with our players. Don’t do it. You did it. You do it one more time and the Orlando Sentinel’s not welcome here ever again."

The Sentinel was my hometown newspaper growing up, and it's always had a controversial reputation. Some locals call it the "Slantinel" because they feel it attacks the political party/sports team/university/whatever they like best. It's especially true in the realm of college sports because it attempts to cover Florida, Florida State, and UCF fully with some supplementary coverage on Miami and USF. The Florida and FSU contingents believe it favors one over the other, the UCF fans often think it doesn't take the hometown school as seriously as the first two, and what few Miami and USF fans there are complain that they don't get enough coverage.

Beyond that though, it has a history of getting under coaches' skins. Steve Spurrier feuded with (now retired) columnist Larry Guest back in the '90s. More recently, UCF head coach George O'Leary stonewalled the paper entirely for a time over its investigative reporting into the death of football player Ereck Plancher. It also employs Mike Bianchi, whose style can reasonably be described as linkbait for newspapers.

I know Meyer talks with Spurrier regularly. I don't know what relationship (if any) he has with O'Leary, but I'd be surprised if he wasn't aware of what happened with the Plancher affair. 

I don't know why Meyer picked Fowler in particular to spar with, as other publications quoted Thompson similarly and the Gainesville Sun even has a video of Thompson saying it on its website. It might be that the Sentinel is just on UF's bad side now, which wouldn't be a first. Considering a ban for a big in-state newspaper for something like this though is incredibly shortsighted no matter the history there.

I know some will try to hand wave this away, saying that Meyer was trying to protect a player and that everyone on the team appreciates his doing so. To some extent that's true, although I thought we all agreed back while Lane Kiffin was around that saying things that make players happy but cause controversy outside the program aren't good. Regardless, it wasn't the proudest day in Florida football's history.