CHICAGO — As expected, Ohio State football coach Urban Meyer addressed his players’ recent off-field incidents Wednesday at Big Ten Media Days.
Meyer promised strong punishment for players who don’t meet the program’s standards but said he’s still collecting information on the exact nature of the issues. On Monday, starting running back Carlos Hyde was suspended after being named a person of interest in an alleged off-campus assault, and starting cornerback Bradley Roby was removed from the trip to Big Ten Media Days following a weekend assault arrest in Bloomington, Ind.
The university’s official release also included news of two freshmen being arrested. Marcus Baugh was suspended one game and stripped of his summer financial aid, and Tim Gardner was booted from the team for the 2013 season. Baugh was charged with underage consumption of alcohol and carrying a fake ID, and Gardner was charged by Columbus police with obstruction of official business.
Meyer opened his time at the podium by saying, “It’s been a great year and a tough couple of days.”
“It will be dealt with in a very serious manner, but we’re getting conflicting stories,” Meyer said of the incidents. “I have to get the facts.”
No charges have been filed against Hyde, and a Yahoo! report Tuesday night said that surveillance video from the incident showed Hyde did not strike a woman in a downtown Columbus bar.
“We have to evaluate the facts and then make some decisions,” Meyer said.
Meyer later said he’d spoken to Roby, heard “his story” and was waiting to hear more facts. He said getting a call hearing that one of his team leaders and top returning players had been arrested at 2:40 a.m. was “a crushing blow.”
Roby is subject to further punishment dependent upon resolution of the matter.
“In the last 12 months, we’ve had three legal issues, and it’s all happened in the last three or four days,” Meyer said. “It drives you insane that you have to deal with that nonsense. My concern is I just don’t want it to disrupt this team. I talk to the players all the time about it.
“I’m disappointed. I think furious might be the word that comes to the mind when I got the phone call. These guys work too hard to have a couple knuckleheads make decisions that reflect the entire program.”
Among the other topics of discussion …
— Meyer admitted that he’s “human” and has at times been bothered by outside criticism. He said he has been bothered by “inaccurate information” about the way he and his staff at the University of Florida handled off-field incidents regarding former New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez when Meyer coached the Gators. Along those lines, he said one area he’s “changed over the years” is that he tries to be as tough as he can on players who run afoul of the law.
— Regarding high expectations surrounding this year’s Ohio State team coming off an unbeaten season, Meyer said “our talent level is pretty good” and that “we could potentially be a championship-level team by November.” As he has said all summer, Meyer maintained that will come down to his team’s ability to replace the leadership it lost when last year’s senior class departed. He said he’s “never started so early” on trying to develop leaders because he noticed last January that it could be an issue and said seeing veteran players involved in non-football incidents is “definitely a concern.”
— Meyer said fifth-year senior offensive lineman Corey Linsley is 85 percent recovered from foot surgery, is out of a boot and working toward returning early in camp. Backup quarterback Kenny Guiton will miss two more weeks with a broken finger, and backup offensive lineman Antonio Underwood will miss camp while recovering from a torn ACL.
— Meyer stuck by his previous statements that he had nothing to do with an Ohio State compliance officer reporting minor recruiting violations against Florida.
“I found out after the fact,” Meyer said. “I don’t know how it became a major story. There was no intent to go after Florida.”