Jeremy Fowler, a reporter for the Orlando Sentinel, was in the line of fire Wednesday at the close of a Florida spring practice session.
Fowler was among two dozen reporters watching coaches and players exit the field when coach Urban Meyer approached the group and went after Fowler for a story he filed Monday. Fowler's story contained a quote from Deonte Thompson suggesting the receiver was happy to be playing with a quarterback not named Tim Tebow.
"You never know with Tim," Thompson said. "You can bolt, you think he's running but he'll come up and pass it to you. You just have to be ready at all times. With [John] Brantley, everything's with rhythm, time. You know what I mean, a real quarterback."
Meyer, who claimed Fowler misrepresented Thompson's comments, ripped into the reporter, with the exchange videotaped by Steve Johnson of Gator Bait.
Meyer: "You’ll be out of practice — you understand that? — if you do that again. 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: "Urban, come on. Don't make any threats. That’s fine. I'll play by rules. But all I was doing is quoting the guy. I don't think I was the only one."
Meyer: "You're a bad guy, man. You’re a bad guy."
Fowler: "Thanks Urban, I appreciate that."
Meyer: "Maybe when you get a chance, call his family and all that and help them out with it [the controversy Fowler's blog post created]. The kid has never been in trouble one time. He's a great student, a great kid and you're going to do that [to him]?"
Meyer then issued his threats: "If that was my son, we'd be going at it right now."
As he walked away, Meyer told Fowler to "be very careful."
Meyer retreated to greet his daughter Nikki. "Seconds later, they both turned in our direction and Meyer pointed toward me," Fowler wrote on the newspaper's Swamp Things blog.
It's one thing to try and bully a reporter, but another to threaten one. At the least, Meyer owes Fowler and apology before the same group of reporters who witnessed the threats. A reprimand would be in order, but Florida's probably as spineless as its coach.
Wednesday marked the latest round of irrational behavior and jackassery from Meyer, who has barred reporters from talking with players or coaches until further notice.
In the December run-up to the Sugar Bowl, Meyer announced that he would be taking an indefinite leave for health reasons. But he hung around long enough for the recruiting season to end before taking a vacation to Hawaii, which apparently did him little good.
Meyer is said to be one who can never relax, and a check of the local criminal justice system is probably why. The Sentinel reported last year that the "arrest rate for the football team going back to Meyer's first season in 2005 is roughly 10 percent (24 arrests out of 239 players listed on the official roster).
"Compare these numbers to the general population. In 2004, the last year statistics are available, the Uniform Crime Reporting Program of the Department of Justice reported the arrest rate in the United States to be 4.7 percent (4,752.4 arrests per 100,000 residents)."
To put it in perspective, Florida players are more than twice as likely to be arrested than a member of the general population.
Meyer took a shot last August at Illinois' Ron Zook, who preceded Meyer at Florida. Meyer said freshmen under Zook were treated as "non-people." Zook fired back, saying he was disappointed because the comment came "from someone who wasn't there at the time."
Florida's next practice is Friday, and Fowler writes that he'll be there, "with questions ready."