After being suspended half a game by head coach Urban Meyer on Monday for reaching into the helmet of Georgia Bulldogs running back Washaun Ealey on Saturday, Florida Gators senior linebacker Brandon Spikes decided to remove himself from the entire game this week against the Vanderbilt Commodores. According to Meyer, Spikes sat down with him and defensive coordinator Charlie Strong on Tuesday night and expressed that he thought it would be best for the team if he sat the entire game. The threesome came to a group decision on a full-game suspension.
“I really don’t want to be a distraction to the team,” Spikes told reporters in a brief statement. “I want the guys to prepare without any negative things going on, and I feel like if I would play it would be a big thing. I’m just trying to stay out of the way and just motivate the guys and I’m pretty sure that [Ryan] Stamper’s got my back and my teammates support me my decision.”
Spikes and Meyer have both received heavy criticism this week. Spikes for his maneuver and Meyer for supposedly dealing out a “soft” punishment (one which was agreed upon by the Southeastern Conference). Whether or not you believe what Spikes did was “dirty” or that Meyer’s punishment was lenient, you must respect the player for stepping up, taking the pressure off the team and owning up to his mistake for a second time.
“A lot of the negative things out there are really weighing heavy on his heart,” Meyer said. “[Spikes sitting the entire game is] a group decision and we’re doing it out of respect for our team so we can focus on trying to win our ninth game. We think it’s the right thing to do and we support Brandon for it. We look forward to him getting back and finishing the season the right way.”
As for Meyer, he is now subject to a potential fine or suspension after commenting about a missed personal foul call on a cheap shot thrown by linebacker Nick Williams on quarterback Tim Tebow. “I don’t want to step out of line, (but) there should have been a penalty, in my opinion,” Meyer said. “You have to protect quarterbacks, that’s the whole purpose. It’s right in front of the referee. I’m not sure how they’re going to handle that, but we do send it in and that was one of the plays we did send in.”
Meyer and the Gators staff sent in tape of the play for the SEC to review, but his comments came one week after commissioner Mike Slive laid down the hammer on coaches criticizing conference officials. What Meyer said in this regard was more of a “comment” than a “criticism,” as he was directly responding to a posed question and made it a point to say he had “great respect” for officials both before and after making the statement. Nevertheless, ESPN’s SEC blogger Chris Low (who spoke with conference officials) believes some type of punishment is coming for Meyer.
OGGOA will have more on these stories as information is made available.