Ohio State coach Urban Meyer had a reputation for sometimes overlooking character issues and handing out too many second chances during his time at Florida, which is why the arrest tally in his program — 31 in six years, by some accounts — gets almost as much attention as his two national titles.
But if his approach to discipline matters with the Buckeyes so far is any indication, no one will ever accuse Meyer again of being soft on crime.
At the Big Ten media event here Wednesday, the second-year OSU coach described himself as being distraught and angry over having to deal with four players facing legal issues, dismissing them as “knuckleheads” for jeopardizing their futures and become a distraction so close to the Aug. 4 start of preseason camp.
Meyer was particularly perturbed because two of the players, running back Carlos Hyde and cornerback Bradley Roby, appear poised for big years and are fourth-year players who presumably should know better.
“It drives you insane that you have to deal with that nonsense. … I talk to them all the time about it. We have an incredible amount of resources and time spent educating players how to do the right thing at the right time,” he said.
“So I’m disappointed. I think ‘furious’ might be the word that would best describe it when I first got the phone call.”
Hyde, a second-team All-Big Ten pick last season, was named as “a person of interest” in a physical-assault complaint filed by a 19-year-old woman after an incident in a Columbus bar. Meyer suspended him from all football-related activities and will address the matter again when police finish their investigation.
Roby, a preseason All-American, was arrested in Bloomington, Ind., for punching a bouncer while trying to re-enter a bar after being asked to leave for starting a fight. He was charged with misdemeanor assault, and Meyer will decide what to do with him when all the facts are in.
Freshman offensive lineman Tim Gardner was charged with obstruction of police business and sent home for the year. And freshman tight end Marcus Baugh was cited for underage possession of alcohol and having a fake ID. He was taken off scholarship until the fall and will sit out the season opener.
“I have a guy (on staff) that watches if 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,” Meyer said. “That’s maybe where I’ve changed over the years. Even as a first-time offense from a freshman, I want to make sure we’re setting the tone.”
One of Meyers’ mantras to his team is to treat women with respect, which is why Hyde’s alleged transgression was so egregious. But OSU quarterback Braxton Miller said he believes his teammate will be cleared because of a surveillance video from the bar, which reportedly shows Hyde being slapped and merely tapping the woman on the cheek and walking away.
“The video shows he didn’t punch her. Carlos isn’t like that. I’ve been out with him,” Miller said.
The former Wayne star says OSU football players are sometimes unfairly targeted in public places.
“People will come up to us and ask us for a picture, and if we say no, they’ll throw a drink at us,” he said.
Former OSU and NFL offensive-line great Jim Lachey, who does color commentary for Buckeye games, pointed out that players have to be more careful than ever because events blow up on social media. Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel has become talk-show fodder all summer for relatively minor missteps.
But the events surrounding the Buckeyes are more troubling.
“There are allegations, and the allegations aren’t good,” Lachey said.
But the St. Henry native, who played for the Buckeyes in the 1980s, believes coaches can only do so much.
“It happens everywhere around the country. I guess you can’t live in a glass house,” he said. “You can’t throw stones and say, ‘In my program, we never go through that.’ Never is a long, long time.
“I have five kids. When some of them mess up, I feel responsible, I feel bad,” Lachey added. “When you’re managing 105 players, that’s a lot of people. I know they have a staff and get paid well, but you can’t watch everybody 24 hours a day. You’ve got to hope some of the things you talk about when they leave there sink in. They’ve got to go out in the real world and be a man and make good situations themselves.”