Meyer, Matthews saga blown way out of proportion

Published: Wednesday, May 13, 2009 at 10:23 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, May 13, 2009 at 10:23 p.m.

He has been on the job for more than four years now so it’s difficult to surprise Urban Meyer with anything.

This, however, has left him stunned.

It started as a shout-out and turned into a cockroach. It just won’t die.

“The intent was certainly not what happened,” Meyer said Wednesday.

For those of you who aren’t aware of a controversy that has been blown up like the Underdog balloon at the Macy’s parade, Meyer was talking to a Gator Club two weeks ago in Orlando. He started to, well, let him tell it.

“Darryl Perry and Jack Youngblood were there and they are two of the most loyal Gators there are,” Meyer said. “I saluted them, told the crowd about how great they were. From the time I put my bags down at Florida Darryl Perry has done everything he can to help with recruiting. Jack Youngblood, as loyal a Gator as you’ll ever find.

“And then I went off on a tangent. It was quick. And it has turned into this.”

Meyer told the club that ex-players who, in his opinion, hurt recruiting are not welcome in the coaches’ offices. Immediately, this became a blogger’s dream because everyone assumed that he was talking about former Gator quarterback Shane Matthews, who co-hosts a radio show in town.

It was a big deal for a week, then died. But on Wednesday, it was resurrected when featured a piece on its front page and ESPN had Matthews on “College Football Live” Wednesday where Matthews said it was all overblown. (I talked to Matthews on Wednesday night and he is just as stunned that this story still has legs. Matthews has been critical of Florida’s offense at times, but insists some of his comments were mis-represented).

Meyer and Matthews have talked and cleared the air. But the Florida coach hasn’t backed down in his principles.

“I love loyalty,” he said.

And nobody has been more loyal to the former players than Meyer. He started the barbecue to bring back former players two weeks before the season, the champions dinner on Homecoming. The $30 million facility that is the new front door for the football program is focused on the players who left their mark on the program.

And any player who comes into the football offices is invited to watch film with the coaches.

But there are exceptions.

“If you go after my family in any way, if you get personal with a player or you hurt recruiting, you’ve crossed the line,” Meyer said. “That’s my whole life — my family, the players and recruiting. I hear things. Things get back to me. I really don’t care if you want to criticize me. If you want to criticize the punting or kicking or dig routes or running up the score, I don’t care. Criticize me as a coach, I don’t care. That’s athletics. That’s journalism. But you go after my family, a player or hurt recruiting, you’re not invited in here.

“Everybody wants to make this out as Meyer vs. Shane. That wasn’t the intent at all. It’s more than just Shane. We’ve talked. He apologized if he offended anyone.”

Very little stings Meyer but one thing does and that is the perception that he has done anything less than embrace the past. No coach at UF has done as much to honor the past and reach out to former players.

This other stuff just makes him scratch his head.

Contact Pat Dooley at 374-5053 or at

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