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When Media Blackouts Backfire

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Rumors are a tricky thing. They don't tend to spread based on the amount of truth to them, but rather the degree to which they're interesting.

Yesterday, rumors began to spread around message boards and Twitter about Florida freshmen Ronald Powell and Dominique Easley. Here's a quick recap from the Gainesville Sun:

The original rumor was five-star Florida freshmen defensive linemen Ronald Powell and Dominique Easley failed to show up for Tuesday's practice because they were unhappy with the way some of the older players were treating them.

By noon, this little nugget was added: Powell and senior offensive lineman and team leader Mike Pouncey had gotten into a fight the day before.

By the middle of the afternoon it mushroomed into this: Someone "reported" that Powell and Easley had cleaned out their lockers and were on their way out of town.

People didn't know where to turn for information. We had Mike Pouncey's comments on how the freshmen were "cocky." We had a non-answer from John Brantley regarding the rumors. Reporters turned to the players' high school coaches to get quotes on the matter and any scrap of info they might have had.

As the rumors wound their way to their ridiculous extreme with those supposed cleaned out lockers, suddenly, real news broke. Powell and Easley were spotted on their way to practice. Powell was even seen smiling. Clearly this whole thing was overblown.

But why was it overblown? Why did those rumors get as far as they did?

Primarily, it was because the silence coming from the Florida football offices was deafening. All practices this summer have been closed to the media. The coaches stiff armed the media after Wednesday's practice, so no one could ask for details. Urban Meyer doesn't trust the media, so he has tried to keep it as far away from the program as possible.

The most detailed report therefore comes from Adam Silverstein of, who has a source in the program. Powell basically hit a frustration point that many highly touted freshmen do where it fully sinks in that they're not the best guy on the field. A day later, everything was fine. Easley had a "personal issue" not revealed for privacy, but it's unrelated to Powell's situation. Both have talked with the coaches about their respective concerns.

That's a big difference from the wild rumors, and Silverstein's source reports that Meyer's far more upset about these rumors than he was with Jeremy Fowler earlier this summer. He has no one to blame for them but himself though.

If media had been at practice on Tuesday, they could have seen whether Powell and Easley were there. If the coaches had even as much media availability as they did last year, reporters could have gotten details about Powell's frustration and Easley's personal issue (just that it exists, not what it is). Then, there wouldn't have been any rumors on Wednesday afternoon because the issue would have been resolved in Wednesday morning's fish wrap.

Meyer seems dedicated to his media blackout, but if he doesn't reconsider, we're going to have more days like yesterday. No matter how tightly he closes his fist, information will slip out between his fingers. Partial truths will only lead to rumors like we saw yesterday. Reporters can be pesky and annoying sometimes, but Meyer appears to consider the rumors even worse.

Keeping out agents, runners, and the professional autograph hounds is a noble cause, but it's not terribly difficult to sort reporters out from the rabble. Maybe UF just needs to issue credentials for practices. Hopefully, Meyer will realize that his media blackout isn't doing him any favors and let some more sunlight shine in on his program.