""If you want to be critical of a player on our team or a coach on our team you can buy a ticket for seat 37F, you're not welcome back in the football office....You're either a Gator or you're not a Gator.'"
The quote above is from a speech that Urban Meyer gave at a Central Florida Gator Club meeting a couple of weeks ago.
In that speech, Meyer also lashed out at NFL draft pundits for thinking that Tim Tebow is not going to be an NFL caliber quarterback. Meyer described draft pundits as, "[G]uys with a microphone who have no idea what they’re talking about. They’ve never played football, never had to be accountable, they just babble, go home and drink a Heineken.
“They think (Tebow) can’t play quarterback at the next level. So the job description in the National Football League, the job description is different in college? Winning, leadership, all those things aren’t real important. Can he throw the ball far? Can it come out cool? On fourth- and-two, I’ve got mine. We’ve got ours, right?”
Look, I can understand the allegiance that Meyer has to Tebow. He's not the only person in the country with a man-crush on the quarterback. And after all, Tebow has gotten Meyer two BCS championships in three years. Why wouldn't he defend the guy?
My bigger issue is with the quote I used to open this piece.
Because that quote is completely and utterly appalling to me as someone who works in higher education.
At every college and university, head coaches are paid professional staff members. Since they work with students participating in what is essentially extracurricular activity, the head coach should do whatever they can to provide the students in their charge with what we call "life skills or soft skills."
In other words, the tools that the student needs to be successful in the real world.
When I see a quote like the one above, it makes me gag, because it appears that Urban just wants to build a bubble around his program, allowing only sycophantic yes-men to have access to his players. Heaven forbid someone offer any criticism of Saint Urban, his disciples and his followers—constructive or otherwise.
Most of the reports I've read about this comment are saying that it is being directed at former Gators players. Apparently, former Florida quarterback Shane Matthews was critical of the play-calling during the sole loss of the season last year to Ole Miss, 31-30.
I know, I know. Most coaches are demagogish to some degree. They want to micromanage as many aspects of their players's lives as possible.
But to say that I can't be honest if I see something that deserves criticism? That I'm just supposed to slap them on the back and say, "Good job, Billy" when there is clearly something that they could be doing differently? And to do the opposite is to be viewed as someone who is not loyal to my alma mater?
Let me go ahead and place my order for a season ticket in section 37F.
Unless Meyer is going to bug the bleachers and get me thrown out of Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.
Way to be a molder of men, Urban. Way to teach your players to deal with the harsh realities that will face them when their college careers are over.