Meyer: Ex-Gators need to support us

Updated: May 13, 2009, 4:21 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

Shane Matthews played quarterback at Florida in the early 1990s, and says he supports the Gators and coach Urban Meyer.

But when Matthews criticized Meyer's game strategy during Florida's upset loss to Mississippi on his radio show last fall, Meyer was not happy. And though he didn't mention Matthews by name in a recent Gator Club appearance, it seemed that his comments about ex-players pledging allegiance to the orange and blue were made with Matthews in mind, the Orlando Sentinel reported.

"If you want to be critical of a player on our team or a coach on our team you can buy a ticket for seat 37F, you're not welcome back in the football office," Meyer said, according to the report. "You're either a Gator or you're not a Gator."

The rift apparently started when Matthews criticized the offense following the 31-30 loss to Mississippi -- the game that produced Tim Tebow's now-famous postgame speech.

"When I watched the Ole Miss game and Ole Miss played our wide receivers about 90 percent man-to-man, it was a slap in the face to our wide receivers and passing game. I can't understand why we didn't take advantage of that," Matthews said at the time, according to the report.

On ESPN's "College Football Live" on Wednesday, Matthews said he has talked to Meyer and cleared the air, letting him know that he's solidly behind the program. But he said he also told Meyer that as a radio show host, it's his job to offer opinions on game decisions.

Matthews, the Gators' quarterback from 1990 to 1992, also said he was "shocked [this] has been blown out of proportion."

"Basically, I understand where Coach Meyer's coming from," Matthews said. "I'm sure when I played here, people criticized things I did."

"He knows I'm a Gator," Matthews added. "He's done a remarkable job for our program."

The Sentinel reported that in a recent appearance on a radio show in Birmingham, Ala. -- hosted by two former SEC players, Al Del Greco of Auburn and Jay Barker of Alabama -- Matthews explained why he said what he said early last season.

"If [the offense isn't] attacking the weakness of that defense it drives me crazy, that's what set me off early in the season," Matthews said, according to the report. "I am a supporter of this program no matter what, but I'm going to give my opinion when things go wrong. When things go well, I state that as well, but a lot of people don't hear that."

If you want to be critical of a player on our team or a coach on our team you can buy a ticket for seat 37F, you're not welcome back in the football office. You're either a Gator or you're not a Gator.

-- Urban Meyer

Other former college football players in the media came to Matthews' defense, but added that former athletes turned commentators need to be honest to do their jobs.

"Shane, because he bled and sweat for the Gators, has a right to say whatever he wants about the program," former Miami defensive lineman Dan Sileo said, according to the report.

"Urban Meyer's not a Gator. He's a caretaker of the Gator program," Sileo said. "Most times these coaches think they're the programs, but really, the program is the players. That's the problem I have with coaches whose egos get too big for their britches. If Urban doesn't like it, that's too bad."

Meyer came to Florida from Utah after the 2004 season and has won a pair of BCS national championships, in 2006 and 2008.

Matthews says he'll keep supporting Meyer and keep voicing his opinions.

"I'm as Gator as there is and very supportive of the program," he said on "College Football Live." "You can be critical of a coaching decision here and there, but that's just being a Monday morning quarterback, everyone does that."