Mike Norvell being introduced at a Florida State basketball game in December 2019.

Even before coaching a game at Florida State, Mike Norvell appears to be in some hot water. The Seminoles hired Norvell to be their football coach last December following his success in four seasons at Memphis (and following their firing of Willie Taggart less than two years after his hiring), but he’s now caused a controversy with his comments to Tashan Reed of The Athletic. (Update: Our post on further developments here, including an apology from Norvell, can be found here. Read on for a discussion of the initial situation that sparked those developments.)

Reed, a former Florida State beat writer with The Athletic who’s now covering the Las Vegas Raiders for that publication, posted a quote from an interview he did with Norvell (who’s seen above during his introduction at a December 2019 Florida State basketball game) to Twitter Tuesday night, with that quote featuring Norvell saying “I went back and forth with every player individually this weekend” (after the killing of George Floyd in police custody in Minneapolis and the subsequent nationwide protests). Early Thursday morning, Seminoles’ star defensive lineman Marvin Wilson called that comment “a lie,” saying players only received a generated text from Norvell, and said he and his teammates “would not be working out until further notice” (Florida State players returned to campus Monday for voluntary workouts). Here’s Wilson’s tweet:

Several other Florida State players appeared to share Wilson’s sentiments in tweets posted soon after his initial tweet:

Some people decided to respond to this with attacks on Reed, including questioning why the quote wasn’t posted on The Athletic’s site, questioning what the quote was in response to, and questioning if he had audio of it. Reed said in response that the interview was for an upcoming overall piece on the program, that he asked Norvell if the staff had been checking in with players, and that he taped the interview as per standard practices.

While it’s a little unusual to see a story like this come out of a tweet rather than a full story on a website, the circumstances here make total sense. With Reed the outgoing Florida State beat writer, it makes sense for him to be involved in putting together a state of the program piece on them. It also makes sense for him to ask about what Florida State has done to check in on its athletes in the wake of Floyd’s death and the resulting protests. And it makes sense for him to tweet that quote out; that’s a time-sensitive comment, so it doesn’t make sense to put it in the later state of the program piece. Going after the reporter here is the wrong move.

This wouldn’t be a particularly newsworthy comment if it was accurate, and it probably wouldn’t be worth a full story (especially for someone who’s no longer on the team beat). It would fit in with the general wave of statements we’ve seen from college football coaches on this. But Wilson calling this out as inaccurate and having that claim supported by teammates makes this notable.

And it seems like this could lead to a lot of problems for Norvell. This might mark just the latest case of someone getting backlash for ill-advised comments in the wake of the protests, with other examples including Bill Simmons, Ryen Russillo, Grant Napear, Drew Brees, and the NFL as a whole, but this situation has an interesting difference; it’s not about Norvell saying the wrong thing, but about players saying he didn’t actually do what he told the media he did. And that’s certainly not a great look.

As per Brendan Sonnone of 247 Sports’ Noles 247 site, Norvell held a meeting with players Thursday morning. Sonnone’s piece says “FSU athletic director David Coburn said that the meeting between Norvell and players went well, and that it was candid and open.” So maybe this will blow over in the end.

Update: Here’s our post on Norvell’s apology and Wilson’s comments on moving forward.

[ESPN]

About Andrew Bucholtz

Andrew Bucholtz is a staff writer for Awful Announcing and The Comeback. He previously worked at Yahoo! Sports Canada and Black Press.