Urban Meyer probably feels like he can’t catch a break these days. In his first season as head coach of The Ohio State University, he had to deal with a postseason ban that he wasn’t expecting and the arrests of veteran leaders like Storm Klein, Jake Stoneburner, and Jack Mewhort. In the offseason since then, he’s seen the University President forced to resign, one of his former high profile recruits at Florida being arrested and charged with first degree murder, incoming recruits having legal issues (Timothy Gardner and Marcus Baugh), and now the issues with junior Bradley Roby and senior Carlos Hyde.
With all of these distractions taking place, it’s a bit of an uneasy time for Ohio State’s football program. As the arrests pile up, all in the wake of one of the biggest scandal’s in OSU history 2 years ago, public perception and national reputation are changing. With so much going on, it seemed like a good time for Kirk, Rick, and myself to talk about some of these issues and to share our opinions on what’s going on, and how much impact this will have on the school and the program.
Andrew Schnitkey: Obviously with the blowback Urban has received from the Aaron Hernandez situation, all eyes are going to be watching how he handles this. Do you think that will impact any discipline Hyde receives, or do you think the situation is serious enough that the end result would be the same no matter what?
Rick Grayshock: I don’t really think the Hernandez situation plays into it really. I think what plays into it more is the fact that the Buckeyes are on double secret NCAA probation. That every year we have something else that detracts from the program. Meyer needed about three years of guys keeping their nose clean.
Kirk Lammers: I don’t think you can apply the Hernandez situation at all here. Urban didn’t recruit Carlos Hyde. I would hope that what a NFL player that Urban coached at Florida several years ago now should have no bearing on what’s going on at OSU. What *should* have an impact on it as Rick alluded to, however, is that Ohio State is in a position where they are under the microscope and any misstep could be a fatal one. If the initial reports are to be considered accurate, this is a very serious crime, and Hyde should absolutely be severely punished.
Andrew: I tend to agree. The timing of this couldn’t be worse for the program. I always struggle with how much blame to put on coaches in these situations. You’d like to think Meyer doesn’t have to explicitly tell his players “Don’t hit females (or anyone for that matter)”. But controlling young men when you’re away isn’t easy no matter what you tell them.
Rick: Controlling young men is impossible. Especially when you are trying to control young men that think violence is a whole lotta fun. We talk about athletes having a ‘killer instinct’. You have to wonder if there isn’t just a hair of truth to that in these elite athletes sometimes.
Andrew: I do think the lines get blurred a lot, especially with young athletes who grew up being mostly taught that there aren’t consequences to their actions.
Even going back to the Tressel era (before tattoo-gate), arrests seemed to be piling up. I feel like Ohio State is starting to get a reputation that is on par with the old Miami teams. Surely the NCAA isn’t happy to see all this happening. Are you concerned about the image of the OSU program right now?
Kirk: I’m VERY concerned about it. It’s one thing when a student-athlete who probably doesn’t pay attention to the rules and compliance meetings they attend as they should commits a NCAA violation involving tattoos, accepting money or a gift from a booster, etc. While I don’t like the fact that this happens, it happens everywhere to some extent and is far from exclusive to OSU. If every major program was combed over as OSU has been in the last couple of years, these things would be uncovered. However, it’s quite another when players are committing physical acts of violence. It’s unacceptable, embarrassing, and in every walk of life, it’s absolutely understood you can’t do that. While I will and have defended players or coaches committing violations at times because of the hypocrisy, ludicrous rules, and greed of the NCAA, I’m not willing to defend players who want to act like thugs and beat up on women or anyone for that matter.
Rick: I am, but with a caveat. You and Kirk are alumni of the school. I never attended Ohio State. While I follow the football team as close as anyone I know, I have to think that feeling of dread about the image of OSU is more gut wrenching to you.
Andrew: I think there’s some truth to that. As an alum, I care deeply about OSU, not just as a football or basketball program, but as a school and a part of the local community here in Columbus. On one hand, it bothers me a lot to see all that’s happened lately, from Tressel covering up player transgressions, to Storm Klein’s issue, to Jake Stoneburner’s arrest, to Gordon Gee, and now to Hyde and Roby.
Kirk: Yea, it’s just a cumulative effect. Most of this stuff began right around the end of my time at Ohio State, so it strikes a particular chord with me, I think. You lose the second greatest coach in school history, erase the records from successful seasons, and lose the ability to play in a national title game while being undefeated last season. Even more than any of that, though, it’s an image thing. I’m forever tied to the university because of that 100 thousand dollar piece of paper and the (almost) five years I spent there, and it sucks to see an institution you care so much about and know should be holding itself to a higher standard deal with an issue that is going to put its image on trial yet again.
Rick: That said, yes. I would hate for OSU to have the Hurricane type of reputation. I don’t think it is quite there, bit how long before it is?
Andrew: Some of this comes with the territory of being an elite football program. The more high caliber athletes you bring in, the more raw individuals with a skewed understanding of entitlement that you get. I love the OSU football program and all the success we’ve had recently. But I think there has to be a better balance.
Kirk: When you’re recruiting high-profile athletes from all over the country, there are going to be slip-ups and arrests when you put them in the college environment, unfortunately. I do think it’s about how OSU handles these issues. There needs to be swift action taken and a near zero-tolerance policy for not living up to expectations. Urban has shown in his short time here that he can recruit like no other. That should be a warning to all the recruits and current players. If you slip up, you WILL get kicked off the team and your scholarship WILL be taken by somebody else. The coaches can’t police these guys 24/7/365, but they have to be both a better judge of character in recruiting and come down on these guys hard when they screw up.
Andrew: It seems like a program should be judged based on how they handle arrests, not just the raw number of arrests that occur. But in the court of public opinion, that’s simply not how it works. That’s why OSU is getting closer and closer to a reputation similar to those Miami teams.
So lets wrap up with a quick on-field discussion. Assuming Hyde misses most if not all of the season, and Roby misses 2-4 games, what real impact would you say this has on any national championship hopes?
Kirk: If Roby is back by the Big Ten slate, the impact to the national title hopes is probably minimal. Hyde is the best running back that OSU has, but the stable is far from empty. Jordan Hall, Rod Smith, Bri’onte Dunn, and Warren Ball can all contribute this season and provide a number of options for Urban and Braxton Miller on offense. The offensive line returns four starters, and that is where the running game’s greatest asset lies. If Roby misses more time, then it does effect their title hopes as Roby is arguably their best defender, and there isn’t a ton of experience at the corner position this season. More than anything, I want to see how this team’s leadership forms over the season. We’ve already seen two fourth-year players at the bare minimum in the wrong place at the wrong time (and likely worse). Can this team shut out all the distractions and external noise and go out and win week after week? That’s the ultimate question as it pertains to the upcoming season.
Rick: With Ohio State’s weak schedule? I’d say they still have a pretty good shot. Assuming Roby is back for the second half of the season, they’ll be ok at DB. Carlos was a game changer. The pressure will be squarely on Braxton’s shoulders without him.
Andrew: I think there are 2 areas where losing Hyde hurts the most. The first is in leadership. By all accounts Hyde was one of the guys who most bought into Urban’s program and he was positioned to be the John Simon of this year. I think that’s why this situation is so surprising. Secondly, Hyde was a workhorse. He was the most dependable and reliable back. I think Rod Smith and Brionte Dunn will split carries, with Warren Ball getting some opportunities as well. Worst case scenario, Jordan Hall can take some carries as well.
Rick: I think Carlos was the bailout offense last year. When nothing else was working he smashed holes in the defense. Several games there was a Carlos Hyde drive. Just kept feeding him the ball and letting him work. Not too mention he was a TD machine. Short yardage was cake for him.
Andrew: Exactly. And as much as I do like the younger backs, that workhouse mentality was invaluable. Urban loves power running in his schemes, and now he has to hope Rod Smith is up for it and can find better holes and take some hits without losing the ball.
Rick: That’s another great point. Smith did have a fumbling problem last year. Carlos was rock solid.
Andrew: In some ways I feel like talking about how losing Carlos Hyde hurts the team is a symptom of the problem. If the allegations are true, that’s a serious offense and something none of us mean to trivialize by talking about on field issues. College Football is just a weird thing because on one hand it’s glorified high school football, only with more attention being paid to following the rules. On the other hand, it’s mini-professional football with the amount of money being made and the fact that players are all trying to get drafted.
Is it “win at all cost”, or should we be emphasizing the “student athlete” title that these young men carry? Because doing both is pretty hard to do. But at the end of the day, I still feel like the responsibility lies with the players to do the right thing and the coaches to discipline the players and not cover things up. Jim Tressel was fired not because Mike Adams, DeVier Posey, and Terrelle Pryor sold their stuff for free tattoos. He was fired because he covered it up rather than turn it over to compliance.
The most important thing to me, as a fan and as an alum, is not how many arrests occur, but how Urban Meyer handles the discipline. So I guess from that standpoint, we’ll all have to wait and see how this plays out on the field and in what kind of penalty Carlos Hyde ultimately receives.