Keith Niebuhr of GatorBait.net reports that Urban Meyer privately apologized to a reporter from the ORLANDO SENTINEL today after verbally confronting the writer following a Florida football practice last Wednesday.
(Video of Wednesday’s confrontation below)
Meyer met with Sentinel reporter Jeremy Fowler for 22 minutes on Saturday after a Gators practice. Fowler said, “I won’t go into the details of the conversation, but I would say that Urban did apologize. And I feel like as a work-related conversation it was constructive.”
Fowler added that he “absolutely” accepted Meyer’s apology. Meyer declined media requests to discuss the private conversation.
On Wednesday, Meyer confronted Fowler in front of the gathered media - and a video camera - to question a quote the reporter had recently attributed to Gators wide receiver Deonte Thompson.
In reference to the transition from Tim Tebow to new Florida starting quarterback John Brantley, Fowler reported Thompson said, “With (new QB John) Brantley, everything’s with rhythm, time. You know what I mean, a real quarterback.”
During his outburst at Fowler on Wednesday, Meyer said, “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. Is that clear? It’s yes or no.”
Fowler said of Saturday’s conversation with the coach:
“I tried to explain to him where I was coming from. And try to explain to him how I do my job. I think he understands that and it was constructive, and that’s all I really want to say. I don’t want to get into all the details, but he was definitely receptive to what I had to say. I’m glad he approached me and talked to me about it constructively.“
Most of the media backlash from the incident was directed at Meyer, who some thought crossed the line by questioning a reporter for merely publishing a quote from a player. But some reporters who were present when Thompson made the statement felt Fowler may have misrepresented the quote as a direct criticism of Tebow in his Sentinel blog.
With the negative reaction, I think Meyer may have realized that warring with the media is always a futile endeavor. It can only hurt public perception of the Florida program, which then injures his ability to recruit. Yes, Meyer was defending his player, but as Fowler’s offense was only reporting what came out of the mouth of a Thompson, the coach did go overboard.
By attacking Fowler verbally on video the way he did, Meyer made the story infinitely bigger than if he’d addressed the reporter in private or in a more publicly professional manner.