CHICAGO — Ohio State coach Urban Meyer took the podium in the Hilton Chicago ballroom and tried, in his opening statement, to “focus on the positives created by tremendous momentum” of the Buckeyes’ 12-0 season and top-rated recruiting class.
But the collected reporters for Big Ten media days had different ideas — and mostly tough questions — surrounding recent disciplinary problems in Meyer’s OSU program and how he handled alleged murderer Aaron Hernandez when the NFL star played for Meyer at Florida.
Meyer is Meyer. So he handled it by leaning against the podium, dropping his voice perhaps an octave lower, and occasionally glancing downward, perhaps at notes he’d put together for the event. As a primer: Four Buckeyes — including running back Carlos Hyde and cornerback Bradley Roby — got in one form of trouble or another last weekend. Hyde was immediately put on indefinite suspension after he became a “person of interest” in a case that involved assault against a female. It appears that video may exonerate Hyde from any wrongdoing.
Here’s a quick recap:
How disappointing last weekend was: “It was very tough. In the last 12 months, we’ve had three legal issues, and they all happened in the last 3-4 days. We had two freshmen who have been with us for three weeks who made very stupid decisions that were dealt with very firmly. One was sent home. One lost his scholarship… furious might have been the word to best describe when I first got the phone call. For the last 12 months, it’s been really, really good. I don’t want to disrupt this team. The guys work too hard.”
On how if he and his staff can do more to address player behavior: “You can always do more. That’s what you wake up every day with… the difficult thing about when freshmen show up, that’s when coaches go on vacation. That’s tough. That’s something I’m going to reevaluate, try to keep some coaches back. Because that was really disappointing, two young people that I don’t even really know yet do stupid things like that.”
My thought: Shouldn’t Meyer know them? He recruited them.
On Hyde’s situation: “I’m getting all these different conflicting stories. I gotta get the facts — and then react.”
On a coach’s responsibility: “He needs to set a standard, needs to direct, guide, mentor, push and direct these guys. Ultimately every person is held accountable for the decisions they make. We just gotta continue to evaluate all the things we do. That seems to be a big topic. I watch very closely — I have a guy who watches — that when a certain situation takes place across the country, I want to make sure our punishment is as hard or harder than any discipline that’s out there. That’s changed over the years.”
On whether OSU talked to Meyer about Florida’s disciplinary problems when he was coach: “We had a good conversation about it.”
Does media criticism bother him: “I’m a human so it does. People need to get facts because they start making accusations… at the end of the day, in your heart you have to do what you think is right.”
On whether OSU turned in Florida for a minor “coach bump” violation, and what Meyer knew about it: “I’m not sure how that all became a major story. There was certainly no intent to go after Florida.”
On how he views his own reputation: “I don’t view my own reputation. Reputation is what others think of ya. I’m worried about my team, about our players. I’m 49 years old. I’ve been doing this a long time.”