By now, many Florida fans have seen, read or at least heard about coach Will Muschamp’s two-minute tirade chastising the media -- specifically the website GatorCountry.com, The Gainesville Sun and The Palm Beach Post -- for erroneously reporting that freshman defensive lineman Jay-nard Bostwick was suspended for Saturday’s season opener.
I’m not going to rehash the tedious play-by-play of how everything was reported, nor am I here to start some finger-pointing contest. If you want a solid recap of the timeline of everything, check out Andy Hutchins’ piece on the SB Nation site Alligator Army.
Hopefully my thoughts don’t read as some ombudsman’s analysis, but rather the opinion of a young writer -- who admittedly has plenty to learn -- but who is on the beat and was present for the public lampooning.
Yes, the three named outlets screwed up, and they screwed up pretty badly. Muschamp was defensible in standing up for Bostwick and his family. He was right in saying a kid who’s done nothing wrong shouldn’t see his name lumped in with a bunch of knuckleheads who did. It is no secret Muschamp is a player’s coach, and Saturday’s public stance is a big reason why.
But Muschamp’s whole Col. Jessup routine lost all credence the second he dressed down reporters with a lesson on ethics and journalism. While he deserves an ‘A’ for showmanship, it was more like a ‘C+’ on material.
Who can really handle the truth?
Again, the outlets who reported the inaccurate information messed up. Hopefully as an honest mistake -- although how two outlets independently cited (via separate sources) the same incorrect name without ever mentioning the original report -- who first reported the wrong name -- is quite peculiar, but alas, I said I wouldn’t get into that.
Anyways, Muschamp’s ardent table-pounding of “irresponsible journalism” and “who was your source” is rather laughable considering Muschamp brazenly lied Wednesday during the weekly SEC Teleconference. Muschamp told the media, “No. Not at this time,” when asked if Florida had any other looming suspensions besides linebacker Antonio Morrison.
Well about that, here’s what Muschamp -- Accidentally? Purposefully? -- said later in Saturday’s postgame press conference:
“I announced to our football team last Thursday (presumably August 22) we’re going to be down some guys. They knew who I was talking about because they were on special teams. I told them exactly who they were. They made a mistake, and we have consequences in our program. Our players understand that, and we move forward.”
So why wait until two hours until kickoff to announce the suspensions?
“We were going to announce it before the game. It was going to be announced before the game. That’s my prerogative as the head coach at Florida is for our football team, right? That’s what we were going to do.”
And there you have it. It is Muschamp’s prerogative, and yet erring on the side of secrecy or stubbornly being evasive (all in the name of some arbitrary competitive advantage) preemptively damaged the very player(s) Muschamp later doggedly defended.
Mistakes -- honest or not -- happen.
It was a bad error by multiple publications, but for some time now, the UAA has had a rather adversarial relationship with the media -- and both sides were exposed in a situation like Saturday’s.
While Florida’s Iron Fist keeps a select few close, it mostly acts as an invisible gate between players/coaches/administration and reporters.
The "us" vs. "them" mentality must change. We are not the enemy, nor the players/coaches/administration the combatant(s). It's a give-and-take relationship, and if everyone wants to avoid situations like this in the future -- something's got to change.
Hopefully, sooner rather than later.Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton