For his comments about Georgia Bulldogs linebacker Nick Williams‘ blindside hit on Florida Gators senior quarterback Tim Tebow that were made during a Wednesday Southeastern Conference phone call with reporters, head coach Urban Meyer has been fined $30,000 by commissioner Mike Slive.
What did Meyer say that was so blasphemous?
“I’m not sure I’m allowed to give you that, what they said,” Meyer said. “I don’t want to step out of line. Once again, I’ve always had great confidence in [SEC officials]. That should have been a penalty in my opinion. You’ve got to protect quarterbacks. That’s the whole purpose. It’s right in front of the referee. But once again I have great [respect for the SEC officials]. 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.”
He barely seems to bend (let alone break) the SEC bylaw being enforced.
SEC Bylaw 10.5.4 requires that coaches, assistant coaches, players, support personnel and others associated with the institution’s athletics program refrain from public criticism of officials.
Head coaches are advised that suspensions and fines for violations of Bylaw 10.5.4 made by assistant coaches or other support personnel will be enforced against the head coach.
“Coach Meyer has violated the Southeastern Conference Code of Ethics,” Slive said Friday. “SEC Bylaw 10.5.4 clearly states that the coaches, players and support personnel shall refrain from public criticism of officials. The league’s Athletics Directors and Presidents and Chancellors have made it clear that negative public comments on officiating are not acceptable.”
In this particular instance, Meyer did not publicly criticize the officials, which is what the rule is about. Meyer did make a comment about the play, but he did not criticize. He went out of his way to ensure this by actually propping up SEC officiating twice. There is a HUGE difference between what Tennessee Volunteers head coach Lane Kiffin said (questioning the integrity of the conference and its officiating) and Meyer’s innocuous comment following-up on a reporter’s question.
“As I stated last week, I have great respect for Commissioner Mike Slive and the Southeastern Conference and I respect this decision,” Meyer responded. “There was no intent to criticize an official after being asked about a situation that occurred last Saturday, and I apologize for my remarks.”
Even so, Slive had no choice but to levy the fined. Not because Meyer violated the rule (he didn’t), but because Slive’s hands were tied. He couldn’t suspend Meyer because that would have been absurd. Yet he could not refrain from giving Meyer any punishment because he had to enforce a rule that was only five days old at the time. Meyer was strictly a victim of circumstance.