There is little doubt that Ohio State football coach Urban Meyer and the Buckeyes will be squarely in the spotlight at Big Ten Media Days on Wednesday and Thursday. This is especially true on the heels of Monday’s announcement by OSU that four players, including starting senior running back Carlos Hyde and starting redshirt junior cornerback Bradley Roby, are facing suspensions and other disciplinary action following separate off-field incidents.
Meyer is certainly going to be asked to address the Buckeyes’ recent off-field troubles, but that will not be the only topic of discussion for OSU. Meyer is also expected to face questions about one of his former players being charged with murder, OSU turning in Florida for alleged recruiting violations and about the Buckeyes’ chances of playing for a national championship.
Joining Meyer at the annual media event in Chicago will be junior quarterback Braxton Miller, redshirt senior left tackle Jack Mewhort and senior safety Christian Bryant. Roby was originally scheduled to be among the players present, but is no longer attending the event after an arrest for misdemeanor battery in Bloomington, Ind. on Sunday.
Coaches and three player representatives from each of the other 11 Big Ten football programs will also be present.
Trouble for the Buckeyes
Hyde and Roby were expected to be among the key figures in a potential title run for the Buckeyes this season, but following separate off-field incidents last weekend, the status of both players is uncertain.
OSU announced Monday that Hyde has been suspended from all football team activities pending the outcome of student code of conduct and criminal investigations. Hyde has been named as a “person of interest” in the reported assault of a woman at a Columbus bar Saturday, according to a Columbus Division of Police report.
Roby has not yet been suspended by the Buckeyes, but could face additional discipline from the team “as more information becomes available,” according to an OSU athletics spokesman.
Discipline for two incoming freshmen on the team was also announced on Monday. Defensive lineman Tim Gardner was sent home and removed from the team for the 2013 season after being charged with obstruction of official business in Columbus on Saturday. Tight end Marcus Baugh has been suspended from football team activities and the team’s Aug. 31 season opener versus Buffalo, following a July 14 arrest for underage possession of alcohol and possessing a fake identification.
These are not the only incidents involving OSU football players this summer. Former linebacker David Perkins was arrested in Bowling Green May 25, a few days before OSU announced that Perkins would no longer be part of the football program.
Meyer may not be ready at media days to provide more clarity on whether Hyde or Roby will be suspended for any games this season, but he will certainly be asked about it. Furthermore, he should face questions about how much he responsibility he takes for the off-field actions of his players.
Are coaches responsible for their players’ off-field activity?
Meyer has been oft-criticized in recent years for the number of former players he coached at Florida who have gotten into off-field trouble either during or since Meyer’s tenure with the Gators. With a recent string of off-field incidents from his Buckeyes, that criticism is not likely to subside anytime soon.
Meyer has recently taken flak for the behavior of former Florida tight end Aaron Hernandez, who was arrested and charged with the murder of semi-pro football player Odin Lloyd in North Attleboro, Mass. Hernandez was also involved in multiple off-field incidents during his three years as a Gator.
Meyer has already addressed this criticism once, in a text message to the Gainesville Sun.
“Our staff, myself and our families worked very hard to mentor and guide him,” Meyer told the Sun. “Relating or blaming these serious charges to Univ. of Florida, myself or our staff is wrong and irresponsible.”
Wednesday will be Meyer’s first scheduled media appearance since Hernandez’s arrest, so he will almost certainly be asked about it again. The potential for Meyer to make comments on Hernandez, and furthermore his take on whether he handled Hernandez’s behavior properly while at Florida, will be among the most anticipated moments of Big Ten media days.
Unsurprisingly, Florida coach Will Muschamp was asked at SEC Media Days about the responsibility of a coach for his players’ behavior.
“You’re 100 percent responsible,” Muschamp said, according to the Florida Times-Union. “I can’t possibly know everything that happens every single night with our football team. But you also can’t stick your head in the sand and pretend everything is okay, either.”
Meyer will likely be prompted to respond to Muschamp’s comments as well.
OSU turned in recruiting violations by Florida
Meyer is also likely to be asked about a recent story, first reported by Fox Sports’ Clay Travis, that OSU reported Florida running backs coach Brian White for an alleged secondary violation. White was hired by Florida in 2009, and his first two years as a Gators assistant coach came during Meyer’s tenure as coach.
There have been conflicting reports on Meyer’s knowledge of the situation. Meyer denied that he was involved in reporting the allegation in a text message to multiple media outlets. However, ESPN’s Brett McMurphy reported that a source told him that “Urban was aware of it and he endorsed it.”
“It is absolutely not true that I turned in the University of Florida,” Meyer said in the text message, according to the Gainesville Sun. “Weeks after, I learned our compliance guy (without any coach involvement) forwarded an article to the conference office. This is standard procedure. Once again, zero coach involvement.”’
It is almost certain that Meyer will be asked again about these reports, especially after comments made about the allegations by Muschamp at SEC Media Days.
“That’s really a dead issue with me,” Muschamp said. “In both situations, we were turned in by Ohio. We didn’t do anything wrong. The University of Florida didn’t do anything wrong. And so we appreciated our friends from Ohio making sure we’re compliant with NCAA rules. They certainly know a little bit about that subject.”
High expectations for the Buckeyes
Coming off of a 12-0 season, OSU is considered to be among the favorites to play in the final BCS National Championship Game at the end of the season. Miller, Mewhort and Bryant are among the players who will lead that charge, and they will certainly be asked about their expectations for the season.
For Miller, the expectations will be more than just winning a national championship. After being named Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year as a sophomore, the junior quarterback ranks among the favorites to win the 2013 Heisman Trophy.
Miller will likely be asked about what he thinks his chances are of winning the Heisman, along with the team’s chances of winning the national championship. He should also be asked about how he has continue to develop as a passer and leader since last season.
Mewhort was named to the watch list for the Outland Trophy, which is awarded to the nation’s best lineman. Bryant was named to watch lists for the Thorpe Award, given to the nation’s best defensive back, and the Nagurski Award, given to the nation’s best defensive players. Both players were second-team all-Big Ten selections last season.
The Buckeyes did not face major expectations last year coming off of a losing season, but still went undefeated. This year, the Buckeyes will have to learn to play with the pressure of being a national championship favorite, and they will get their first taste of that pressure with the questions they will have to answer at media day.
For the rest of the Big Ten, the goal will be to stop the Buckeyes from realizing those expectations. There should be no shortage of questions to representatives from other teams regarding Ohio State’s potential, especially for Michigan coach Brady Hoke and their players in attendance (quarterback Devin Gardner, safety Thomas Gordon, left tackle Taylor Lewan).
State of the Big Ten
Outside of the Buckeyes, one of the most anticipated parts of media days will be Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany’s address to the media on the state of the conference.
The Big Ten remains a 12-team conference consisting of Leaders and Legends divisions this year, but will expand to a 14-team conference with East and West divisions in 2014. Additionally, the Big Ten is slated to expand to a nine-game conference football schedule in 2016.
Delany will likely address the conference’s new set of bowl agreements, which have been coming together over the course of the summer and are also set to begin in 2014.
The Big Ten will remain aligned with the Rose Bowl as college football shifts to a playoff format in 2014, while they have also announced partnerships with the CapitalOne Bowl, Outback Bowl, Holiday Bowl, Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl, Pinstripe Bowl and New Detroit Bowl. The Big Ten also announced a shared tie-in with the Atlantic Coast Conference between the Gator Bowl and Music City Bowl.
Commissioner Delany is also likely to be asked about the newest developments in the Penn State sexual abuse scandal. According to a report from the Wall Street Journal, Penn State’s board of trustees has authorized approximately $60 million in payments from the university to victims of Jerry Sandusky’s sexual abuse during his time at State College.
Another topic of discussion could focus on the lawsuit being brought against the NCAA by former college basketball player Ed O’Bannon, which is attempting to force the NCAA to pay revenues to players for their usage of their likenesses.
Last week, the NCAA announced that they would not renew their video game partnership with EA Sports for “NCAA Football 14,” citing litigation costs. Additionally, two Minnesota players (tight end Moses Alipate and wide receiver Victor Keise) are among the first six active NCAA athletes to join the lawsuit as plaintiffs. Both Delany and Minnesota coach Jerry Kill are expected to face questions about the impact of having Golden Gophers athletes involved in the lawsuit.