GAINESVILLE — Florida's Urban Meyer was fined $30,000 Friday by the SEC for saying Georgia linebacker Nick Williams should have been penalized for a late hit on quarterback Tim Tebow last week.
Meyer is the first coach to be punished under stricter standards the SEC implemented last week. The conference increased its penalties from reprimands to fines or suspensions for coaches who violate the league rule against publicly criticizing game officials.
Meyer, who makes $4 million annually, must pay the fine out of his pocket.
"I have great respect for commissioner Mike Slive and the Southeastern Conference, and I respect this decision," Meyer, 45, said in a statement released by the school. "There was no intent to criticize an official after being asked about a situation that occurred last Saturday, and I apologize for my remarks."
During Wednesday's SEC teleconference, Meyer was asked if he sent a copy of the play, in which Williams hit Tebow several seconds after a handoff, to the league office for review. (Georgia coach Mark Richt had said he believed the hit could have warranted a penalty.)
Meyer was asked if he had received a response.
"I'm not sure I'm allowed to give you that, what they said," he said. "I don't want to step out of line. Once again, I've always had great confidence in (the SEC). That should have been a penalty, in my opinion. Obviously, it should have been. 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 — I'm not sure how they're going to handle that."
Coaches routinely send the league office video of plays they want reviewed, for rules clarification or a determination of whether a penalty should have been called.
In recent weeks, Mississippi State's Dan Mullen, Tennessee's Lane Kiffin and Arkansas' Bobby Petrino have been reprimanded for complaining about officials, prompting the SEC to strengthen its punishment.
Wednesday, Kiffin, who has had his share of run-ins with Meyer, seemed skeptical that the Gators coach would be punished for his remarks: "Urban Meyer? Criticized the officials? That will be interesting. We'll see."
Asked if Kiffin was under the impression that public criticism was supposed to stop, he said, "You guys got the same memo that I got."