Chelsea Castle / Managing editor for content
At the Fawcett Center on Ohio State’s campus Monday night, some clapped as Urban Meyer was introduced as the 24th coach in OSU football history, but others remain skeptical.
The six-year, $24 million contract Meyer signed earlier that day has stirred Buckeye Nation just days after the conclusion of a 6-6 regular-season campaign.
The former University of Florida coach arrives at OSU as it awaits a final ruling from the NCAA regarding rule infractions committed by the football program, though OSU’s newest hire also departed a Florida program that was rife with off-field transgressions.
The Associated Press reported Monday that 27 UF players were arrested a combined 30 times during Meyer’s tenure in Gainesville, Fla.
Meyer said during the Monday press conference that the reports of charges against his former players were inflated.
“I see numbers of arrests and the numbers I see are exaggerated,” Meyer said. “We’ve had a pretty good track record. We ran some bumps in the road at the University of Florida. Does that mean we had bad kids? I’ll fight that forever. No, absolutely not — we did not have bad guys. Did they make stupid mistakes? Yeah, I’ve made a few stupid mistakes.”
George Diaz, a sports columnist for the Orlando Sentinel in Orlando, Fla., said that it’s on Meyer to choose to deny documented arrests and cases against UF players that ranged from marijuana busts to domestic violence.
“(Meyer) certainly had some issues with discipline and keeping everyone in order,” Diaz said. “That’s on his record. It doesn’t overshadow everything that he has done, which is a lot of great things, but it’s a part of his permanent record.”
Tom Green, a UF student and sports editor of The Independent Florida Alligator, said that the off-field arrests and run-ins with law enforcement by UF players made headlines in the Sunshine State.
“It got a lot of headlines because of the number of arrests,” Green said. “It got a lot of attention. A lot of the arrests were either marijuana related or underage drinking and, you know, stuff that a lot of college students get arrested for.”
Green said he disagreed with Meyer’s claim that the charges against UF players were exaggerated.
“(Players) got arrested and it got reported,” Green said. “The arrests just piled up over the years.”
OSU athletic director Gene Smith said that should OSU receive a bid to a postseason bowl game, Meyer would not be involved with preparing or coaching the team for the game. Once Meyer takes the reigns at OSU, he said he would apply a set of core values that will help Buckeye players stay out of trouble.
“We have a set of core values. Honesty (and) respect,” Meyer said. “Number one, treat everyone with respect. Number 2, no drugs, no stealing, no weapons. Those are core value issues. You’re either dismissed or you miss a good bunch of time playing the game.”
Both Diaz and Green said a bitter taste will remain in the mouths of Florida fans because Meyer, who left college football to address health concerns and family issues, returned to the sidelines so soon.
“Florida fans are understandably disgruntled and upset and confused,” Diaz said. “There’s a lot of emotions going on. I think (Florida fans) are just upset by the mixed signals he’s sending out by taking the (OSU) job.”
“Just from what I’ve seen from friends, Facebook and on Twitter and online, all of the people are mad because they didn’t think that (Meyer) would do that,” Green said. “A lot of them feel betrayed.”
Meyer said during his introduction as OSU coach that he would always consider himself a member of the Florida family, having won two national championships in Gainesville. Green said he didn’t think those words would console many Gators fans.
“I personally don’t think he lied to (Florida fans),” Green said. “An opportunity of a lifetime presented itself to him and he couldn’t turn that down. (Fans) shouldn’t feel betrayed.”
Meyer boasts a 104-23 overall record in 10 seasons as an NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision coach, as well as a 7-1 mark in bowl games and a 4-0 record in Bowl Championship Series games.
Diaz said OSU fans can look forward to having one of the most talented and capable coaches in the country patrolling the Ohio Stadium sidelines when the 2012 season begins.
That isn’t to say there aren’t potential draw backs to having Meyer lead OSU football.
“He’s gone through some significant health issues and had to deal with some family matters. He said he’s come out of it differently and will approach things differently,” Diaz said. “Now, we’ll see if that new approach changes what transpires on the field. That’s the great unknown.”
OSU (6-6, 3-5) is currently awaiting a postseason bowl bid.