Thursday, November 5, 2009

Urban Meyer and the price of victory

Franz Beard, the man who gave us our new favorite "curlers in their hair", has a good piece on Urban Meyer and how he deals with the press, and why, and why it won't change. We also find the detail that the Media reported without a source interesting.

At dinner Wednesday night, Urban Meyer savored the last bite of his steak but failed to finish the last of the Brussels sprouts, sparking an unprecedented uproar from two organizations. PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) was appalled by the news that Meyer eats meat and called for a boycott of Meyer and the University of Florida because cows are people, too. Feed the Famished issued a statement of grave disappointment, claiming that a man in Meyer’s position should show more sensitivity to the starving people around the world rather than throw out a perfectly edible Brussels sprout that could have fed an entire family.

Now, that didn’t actually happen but given the way things have been going these last two months, it’s only a matter of time before organizations for social change target Urban Meyer. It seems that everybody else has, particularly the national media, which just can’t seem to criticize Meyer enough.

Urban Meyer is nobody’s victim and you won’t hear him complain about the treatment he’s gotten in the media although you might think that there has been an orchestrated campaign to bring him down ever since the football season began. While there are some writers and talking heads out there who really do have an agenda, the vast majority are simply looking for chinks in the armor because Urban Meyer has the Florida Gators poised to dominate college football the way Alabama and Bear Bryant dominated from 1961-80.

Bryant, who won six national championships in his 25-year run as Alabama’s head coach, needed four years to win his first Southeastern Conference and national championship. Bryant was 41-8-5 in his first five years in Tuscaloosa. Meyer is in his fifth season at Florida. He’s 52-9 and already has two SEC and two national championships. The Gators are 8-0 so far this year and the way they’re cranking up, they could very well steamroll their way to a third national championship in four years.

That’s part of Meyer’s problem right there. The Gators are starting to look like they’ll not only be the bully on the college football block for a long time to come, but they’ll do it at the expense of traditional powers like Alabama, which had won 19 SEC championships before the Gators had won their first one. Before Florida won its first national championship in 1996, Alabama had already won 11 but since Alabama’s last national championship in 1992, the Gators have won seven SEC championships and three national titles. Alabama’s only SEC championship since 1992 was won in 1999 and that title was stained by NCAA probation.

Bryant coached in an era when there was limited television coverage of college football, no talk radio and no such thing as blogging. He knew reporters by their first name and was known to share game plans and intimate secrets over a shot of Maker’s Mark with the ones he trusted.

Meyer has no such luxury. His every move is chronicled by a corps of beat writers and radio and television reporters that is as large or perhaps larger than the one following any other college football coach in the country. He is so easily recognized in Gainesville that the owner of Ballyhoo’s gives him a private room so he can take his family and friends out to eat without fear of being disturbed by autograph seekers.

It shouldn’t be a shock to anyone that Meyer places such a high value on what little privacy he actually has. It’s not that he doesn’t like the press, it’s just that he doesn’t have time for them nor can he afford to risk opening his family and friends to such close scrutiny by embracing the media. He already lives life in a fish bowl. Close relations with the media only jeopardizes his family’s ability to live a normal life and it takes away the time he spends with his players. The door at the Meyer home and office is always open to his players. Media rarely sees the door of his office and never sees the door of his home in a small gated neighborhod.

But that doesn’t stop the media from clamoring for information and with the national media, their lack of access only makes Meyer a serious target. For example, there is a talking head/columnist in a neighboring state who has claimed on the air that if Urban Meyer caught on fire, he “wouldn’t even piss on him to help put the fire out.” Earlier this week when Meyer was first dealing with the Brandon Spikes incident from last Saturday’s Georgia game, this same talking head/columnist called Spikes a “thug” and Florida football under Meyer a “thug program.”

That’s actually mild compared to some of his outbursts in which he tries to give the impression he’s got an inside source who has the goods on Meyer. His source is a former well-respected member of the media who has absolutely zero access to Urban Meyer. That, folks, is a fact.

And that, precisely, is their problem. Both these guys have Steve Spurrier on speed dial. Not only do they not have Urban Meyer’s cell phone number but Meyer doesn’t return their calls when they go through the football office. The reality is Meyer rarely returns phone calls to anyone in the media. He doesn’t have time. He tries to devote his on-the-job time to his players and coaches and to potential recruits. Any remaining time he tries to devote to his wife, kids and family members.

Full the complete story, click here.

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