I’ve got a story to tell you and it’s long enough that this will be a two-parter. This is all about truth and half-truths, perceptions, innuendo and flat out lies. I kind of compare this to recent match-ups between Florida and Florida State on the football field. Even in 2006 when Florida State actually played the Gators close, was there really a doubt who was going to win the game? Well, this story is about a recent Florida-FSU match-up, only this one is of the print variety and once you read all the facts complete with evidence to back it up, do you think there is any doubt who’s going to win?
Here at Gator Country we don’t just throw frivolous accusations and innuendo out there for anyone to read. We back our work with proof or at least what we perceive to be the truth. We check and double check sources. If we are going to make remarks that are negative about anyone in a published story, we will have facts to back that up. This is why we took a little step back when we were attacked last week and made out to be liars for a story we published. The attack came from a Florida State website and it actually just makes it fun to talk about and quite easy to argue. So bear with me. This is a long story but when you see the facts and actually hear the evidence, you’ll understand where we’re coming from and why it is necessary to refute the accusations.
The story starts with this one “reporter” — I use the term loosely because I hold real reporters who demonstrate a command of the English language and good grammar in very high regard. Little Natediggy on the network Gator Country just left is a Florida State fan who has been provided a forum to publish his stories and call recruits. Nate is known for going on the national message boards and stirring it up and adding hyperbole (my favorite Nateyism: I’m going to throw up in my mouth) over his beloved Noles to the fans of other teams. I do give him credit for being a die-hard Seminole fan.
But a journalist he isn’t (someone please show him how to use a thesaurus, spell check and teach him the rules of grammar!).
Last week, Gator Country spent an entire week covering the Under Armour All-American game in Orlando. There were many players of interest to Gator fans including seventeen prospects the Gators were bringing in for visits and still had a chance of signing on signing day. Gator Country Radio host Mark McLeod was there and did a fair share of interviews with these Gator prospects. He also did one with a Seminole commitment and had a completely innocuous reason for doing the story.
You see, the Gator Country Radio Show (****shameless plug****airs 8-10 a.m. every weekday in Gainesville and Ocala on ESPN Radio, AM900 and AM1230), while it does cater to Gators, also has listeners who are fans from other teams. Mark was basically interviewing quarterback E.J. Manuel for the Nole fans that listen to the show from time to time. What he got was a surprise.
Here is Natediggy’s interpretation of the piece written by McLeod. Published on NoleDigest.com.
“Friday afternoon we briefly spoke to E.J. about the article that came out from that infamous site FSU fans are aware of. When asked about it, Manuel said, ‘Man, some guys came up to me and just said they were reporters. They asked me about the scandal and I told them my thoughts. I had no idea they were from a Florida site. Had I known that I would have stayed away from that. I know the FSU fan base doesn’t like the Gators.’ It looks like Manuel was taken advantage of. To his knowledge, it was just another reporter trying to get an update with him. He was emphatic in apologizing, but it looks as though he isn’t the one who should be apologizing; it’s the unscrupulous, grubby reporters looking for information based off lies and untruth.”
A paragraph later, little Natey opined: “As Nole fans we’ve had to sit and listen to the endless bantering from websites like Gator Country as they wax poetic about the greatness that is UF football.”
We won’t even argue anymore, we will let you be the judge on this certain bit of lies about our storied website and it’s writers. Here is the transcription of the interview, followed by the audio proof of such interview.
E.J. Manuel: “You got Gator Country on your shirt?”
McLeod: “I know. We are…we’re the Gator Country Radio show, but Florida State fans listen too.”
Manuel: “That’s cool.”
McLeod: “Talk about the year you had and the publicity … Good Lord, everyone had you number one or two in the country.”
Manuel: “We had a pretty good year and I base that on we finished 7-3, made it to the playoffs…the first time in eight years at my school. We lost in the first round, but we made a good run. Personally I think I had a pretty good season. I threw for about 1,996 yards, close to 2,000. I had couple of good receivers, especially one that caught about 900 yards of passes. I had a pretty good season … I was happy with it. I am glad, I left a good legacy at Bayside.”
McLeod: “Now you committed to Florida State pretty early in the process. Any of the things that are happening right now, does that shake it at all?”
Manuel: “It was …about two or three weeks ago, it was kind of shaky. But, Coach (Jimbo) Fisher and Coach (Bobby) Bowden made a home visit about two or three weeks ago and clarified everything. I heard all these things about academic cheating and stuff, I heard about it before it came out publicly. They told me it happened about three years ago. It has nothing to do with the people that are there now. It was shaky at first, but they cleared it up for me and I am fine, I am solid.”
McLeod: “So they said it happened about three years ago?”
Manuel: “Right, and it was about 800 students and of course they are going to single out the football players. But, that is what happened.”
McLeod: “Are you an early enrollee?”
Manuel: “I was going to try to but … I was going to go in January, but I can’t because of the way it is set up in my state. We have a four-year of English and a four-year of government. It’s cool. I will be there in June. As soon as I graduate I will be on my way.”
McLeod: “Obviously with Jimbo Fisher on offense and some of the things going on, you have a chance to go in there and learn things and perhaps contribute early?”
Manuel: “Yes sir, and that is why I chose Florida State. Coach Fisher is going to be the head coach very soon. Just getting the opportunity to learn from him. He has produced a lot of great quarterbacks in the past. Hopefully I will be one of those guys he puts in the league, Hopefully I will bring FSU back to where everyone wants them to be.”
McLeod: “Two guys that have come out of Virginia Beach in the last couple of years, Percy Harvin and you? Do you guys get grief about that.”
Manuel: “Not so much grief … the people in our town, they are very proud of us. Both of us were really good in high school and like Percy did, hopefully it will carry over for me in college too.”
McLeod: “Those people in Virginia Beach have to be pretty tired of losing their best players to the state of Florida?”
Manuel: “That is probably true. I am not particularly going to go to a Virginia school just because I am from Virginia. I am sure they are upset about it, but they are still our fans, so it’s cool.”
Here is proof for even little Natey that this isn’t a doctored transcript—complete audio of the above interview. It was recorded by Mark McLeod and broadcast on the Gator Country Radio show later. Click the play button to listen in:
I have a hard time believing that Manuel lied to anyone. I would like to believe and do, that Natediggy made up the quotes he got from Manuel. With our audio proof we certainly did not do that. I think you can also see how innocent the questioning was. Since the rumors were out there about Manuel wavering in his commitment, McLeod was looking to reassure Nole fans.
Instead, he exposed lies. I don’t think there is any denying the staff at Florida State lied to Manuel. He believes the incidents were all three years ago and that it involved no one on the team now … ”They told me it happened about three years ago. It has nothing to do with the people that are there now,” Manuel said.
Yet among the suspended players for the Kentucky game and many for the start of next season were Marcus Ball, Brandon Davis, Tyler Graves, Paul Griffin, Kevin McNeil, Justin Mincey, Caz Piurowski, Marcus Sims, Budd Thacker, and Dekoda Watson, all from the recruiting class of 2006. Unless there was a wide spread drug usage among these players, most were involved in the academic scandal. None were even on campus before the summer of 2006, less than a year and a half before yet the staff at Florida State told Manuel it was actually three years earlier.
The funniest thing that I find in Nate’s “reporting” is that he never asked the real question he should have asked as a reporter. He should have asked, “Did Florida State coaches tell you that the incidents took place three years ago or more?”
I am far from a trained journalist, but I know that would be journalism. Nate wants to expound on Gator Country’s lack of journalistic integrity, yet he misses the chance to really dispel the supposed “rumors” Gator Country published.
He was afraid to do it, and here is why.
Manuel is the top rated prospect in Florida State’s 2008 class. It is a class that started off strong, but with all of the allegations at the school on cheating and whatever other academic issues they may have, the recruiting has come to a grinding halt. They need Manuel in the class. I will let you decide how far they would go to keep him happy with his school of choice. Manuel was wishy-washy with his decision before the “coaching staff of the century” eased his mind about what may happen.
The fact is they don’t know what will happen. The NCAA could do any number of things. If it is actually three years that this has been going on, the NCAA could really slap the “lack of institutional control” tag on the school and they could lose scholarships, forfeit games, made bowl ineligible … there are all sorts of sanctions that could be handed down.
Of course Nate took shots at the lack of discipline that has been linked to the Florida football team in the last year. This accusation is undeniable. It has been a rough year on the police blotter for many Gators. No one has denied that.
Urban Meyer came to Florida wanting to sign the top “one percent of the one percent.” He wants his team to live by the law and several other rules he has in place. When they don’t do that, they are punished. He wants choir boys off the field and animals on the field.
Inevitably, a roster of 85 players is going to have its issues. After his players have gotten into trouble in the past, Bobby Bowden has been quoted, “Boys will be boys.” That isn’t good enough for Meyer, but this was an issue year for the Gators and a reason that Meyer has not used the “one percent of the one percent” phrase to describe any part of his team.
Meyer isn’t blind to the issues and has taken serious steps to penalize those that step outside the rules. Nate makes several accusations about players in trouble, but fails to mention their punishment, or disagrees with the punishment altogether.
Nate evidently has no problem with Florida State linebacker Geno Hayes’ mid-season fight and eventual resisting arrest tussle with police. Hayes had to be tasered for resisting arrest, no doubt an embarrassing black eye on a program that has already been tarnished in recent years. Hayes missed a start in the game following the incident but he was inserted in the lineup on the second series of the game and finished it.
In his arguments, Nate uses as his subject two former Gator players who are not even on the team — Ronnie Wilson and Jon Demps. Are we reaching here?
Nate accuses Wilson of firing an automatic weapon at people. Here is a clue Nate: an automatic AK-47 is an illegal weapon. This weapon was not illegal. It was a semi-automatic. The other fact you are evidently left without is that Wilson didn’t fire at anyone. He was being chased and fired a gun into the air to scare off the chasers. There are 911 calls and plenty of written proof to back this up, yet Nate decided to make far more of the situation than it actually was. It was a stupid decision by Wilson, yet one that resulted in charges being reduced or totally dropped.
Nate throws out a false accusation of Gator fans paying recruit Chris Rainey with cash and gifts. This is a completely unfounded lie that Nate perhaps was told by the FSU coaching staff. Rainey was quoted by a reporter as getting money as a high schooler from old ladies that thought he needed to eat. Rainey practically lived on the streets in Lakeland for much of his teen-age life, surviving because people cared for this charismatic kid. They were not necessarily Gator fans and that has never even been argued. The Florida High School Activities Association investigated the situation and declared Rainey innocent, another fact little Natey conveniently left out.
Nate pointed out drug related suspensions for two former Gator defensive linemen. They were suspended for the appropriate amount of time, and Marcus Thomas was even permanently removed from the team when he failed to adhere to other team rules. All of this during a national championship run when the Gators could have really used these guys against major competition.
This seems an appropriate time to borrow a quote from one of Bowden’s most prized former players Peter Warrick: “At least I didn’t shoot the President.”
Nate points out three defensive backs that were supposedly necessary for the Gators to have a successful season in 2007. All three got in trouble in the off-season and according to Nate, given far less punishment than their trouble required. Yet he fails to mention that only one of the three actually started, and that was only one game. Of course that was Jacques Rickerson’s all-star performance against FSU during the last game of the season.
All three were suspended for at least a game, which would be adequate suspensions in most programs for their discrepancies.
Then “Mr. Journalism” makes another huge mistake in his “writing”. He completely misquotes Urban Meyer. I kind of feel sorry for Nate, as he probably has no idea that the quotes he published about Meyer came from a Nole fan posting on a national message board. Oh yes Nate, you quoted a Nole and put Meyer’s name on it.
Here is what the Nole “paraphrased” on a message board that Nate took the liberty of publishing as fact. This was supposed to be in the locker room following the Gators new Years Day Capital One Bowl loss to Michigan.
“Well, for those guys who just put in their time and didn’t make any real contributions, it’s time for you to go. It won’t be hard to say goodbye to some of those guys who just went through the motions. Now for those kids who actually bought into the program, and who made some sacrifices and contributions—you know, like Bubba Caldwell … he’s a graduate of UF and had a great career — you’ll really miss those guys. But just because you’re a senior doesn’t mean you have any value.”
Of course with a little work and a bit of know how, the quotes were easily obtainable (no I’m not going to teach you how Nate). Meyer clearly points out that he is talking about players on the team that did not care enough to try hard. What is so wrong with that Nate?
“Let’s make this clear,” Meyer said. “It’s not difficult to say goodbye to a senior. A senior that maybe just put in time and didn’t do a whole lot…no, it’s time for you to go and move on. It’s really hard to say goodbye to seniors that are invested in your program and jumped in with both feet and graduate. Bubba’s (Caldwell) a graduate and (Clint) McMillan’s a graduate of Florida and they were a part of the national championship team, part of a team that played in a January 1 bowl. It’s hard to say goodbye to those guys and so when you say ‘seniors,’ just because you’re a senior doesn’t make you a value to the team. A value to the team means that you contribute and you’re part of the team and I’m going to really miss some of those guys.”
Coming Soon: Part II, More Lies