Urban Meyer: A Lesson in Self-Accountability

5.5 players per year. No, that isn’t the number of players Coach Meyer puts in to the NFL on average; or how many 5 star recruits he brings in per year. That number represents the average number of players arrested under Coach Meyer, during his time at Florida from 2005-2010. 31 players over six years. Those crimes included stealing computers and credit cards, assault, and illegal drug use. While some of those crimes were just college kids being stupid, others, such as domestic violence, really put a stain on Meyer. Meyer was not the first, nor the last, to have disciplinary issues with his team, but the high-profile Meyer carries has made him a target of criticism, in the past year to year and a half. However, Meyer certainly had good reason for his approach of trying to rehab players, instead of trying to bring the hammer down on them.

Avery Atkins was a four star defensive back out of Daytona Beach, Florida. In 2005, he verbally committed to play for the Gators. He was dismissed from the team in the fall of 2005, after pushing the mother of his child. He then transferred to Bethune-Cookman College for the 2006 season, where he only played in three games. In 2007, Meyer, and his staff, almost had Atkins re-enrolled, until Atkins disappeared. Atkins would only turn up when he was arrested on drug and gun charges. In July 2007, Atkins was found in his car, dead from an ecstasy overdose. The death was ruled a suicide. Having dealt with being close with someone who has committed suicide, I can say from first hand experience, it shakes you to your core. You question every bone in your body to see if you could have done more. Not only Meyer, but his wife Shelley, are, to this day, shaken and choked up when asked about Atkins. Meyer was quoted in an SI Article as saying, “I can’t let go of that. I can’t let go of saying, ‘Is there something else we could have done?'” After this occasion Meyer refused to turn his back on any player, and he may have done that to a fault.

It was no secret to Florida players that if you got in to legal trouble that there was a good chance you would be allowed back on to the team. Janoris Jenkins, a former Florida defensive back, now with the St. Louis Rams, wasquoted as sayng “If Coach Meyer were still coaching, I’d still be playing for the Gators.” Jenkins was dismissed from the Florida football team, by current head coach Will Muschamp, in April of 2011 after his second drug charge. These second chances aren’t uncommon in college football programs, but at times they may have been excessive with Meyer. We ultimately don’t know what happened behind closed doors at Florida between the players and coaches, but this quote did not flatter Meyer’s reputation. Media members have made sure to publish not only this quote, but also other former players dissatisfaction with how the Florida program was run.

Coach Meyer was hired in December 2011, and a large amount of Buckeye Nation rejoiced. After coming from a season where the program, and fans, kept getting punched in the gut, finally some good news. However, I met several fans who weren’t ready to anoint Meyer. Those fans brought up his arrest issues at Florida. Not only that, they questioned Meyer’s ability to keep up the prestige of the Ohio State program, that Jim Tressel, for the most part, had instilled and upheld so well. What Urban Meyer were we getting? The one who was so young, and hell-bent on the pursuit of perfection at Florida, that he may have sacrificed the reputation of the program for it; or were we getting a more mature Meyer, who had learned his lessons.

In his first summer as head coach, he faced his first disciplinary problems as starting tight end, Jake Stoneburner, and starting left tackle, Jack Mewhort, were arrested for urinating in public in the summer of 2012. Some fans groaned. Was Meyer just a magnet for moronic college students? Was his atmosphere already having a negative effect on his players? Meyer made sure to quell any of the doubt, or fear, from fans. The players were immediately suspended from the team, and only able to work out at the Woody Hayes Athletic Facility with each other, and no other Buckeyes. They also had their summer scholarships revoked, and had to earn them back in Fall camp. This punishment was harsh, but it set the tone for a no non-sense atmosphere under Meyer.

Again, Meyer was the magnet of negative activity this past off-season. It was well documented that the Buckeyes had several off the field issues. Most Buckeye fans know of the legal troubles freshman tight end Marcus Baugh, starting running back Carlos Hyde, starting corner Bradley Roby, and running back Rod Smith, had encountered. Meyer dealt with these situations, in again, his no non-sense approach. Baugh’s issues, resulted in the exact punishment that Stoneburner and Mewhort received the year earlier, loss of scholarship and suspension from team activities. Roby, Hyde, and Smith’s punishments were more severe. Roby and Smith have both been suspended for the opener against Buffalo. Carlos Hyde received a three game suspension for his problems. While these suspensions were deemed harsh, Meyer stated in an interview with ESPN’s Chris Fowler, that he is flat-out tired of dealing with the non-sense. For this reason he is punishing players, even if they are legally cleared of charges. In the cases of Roby and Hyde, Meyer stated that regardless of all charges being dismissed, the players should not have been in that situation to begin with. This position seems to be one that many coaches shy away from.

There was no excuse for Florida to have the problems that they did, Meyer now spends more time at Ohio State than he did anywhere else focusing on his student athletes lives after football. Meyer, and the coaching staff, hold a “Real Life Wednesday”, that is mandatory for players to attend. This weekly workshop helps guys to organize their lives, and prepare them for the traps and challenges they will face as a Buckeye, and during life after football. This program is not required by Ohio State. It is an original idea from Meyer and his staff.

There is a heightened sense of accountability around the Ohio State program. Urban is giving his players everything they need to be successful on, and off the field. If you violate one of the core values, then expect swift and harsh punishment. The message is simple at Ohio State, under Urban Meyer: Make the great state of Ohio proud. The Buckeyes are working tirelessly towards accomplishing that, thanks to its inspired, matured, and refreshed leader, Urban Meyer.

Comments

  1. Great piece, Ronnie. Watching that interview with Fowler really affirmed in me the belief that Urban wants to win but also wants to do the right thing, even if that means being the harshest disciplinarian. I applaud his efforts, no matter how much it “hurts” the team.

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