COLUMBUS, Ohio -- The list of core values was barely tested in Urban Meyer’s first season.
The Ohio State coach had only one case with which to establish precedent last year, and if that wasn’t enough to make it clear that he would react swiftly and fiercely, Carlos Hyde apparently handed him an even bigger platform to deliver the message on Saturday.
And if Hyde's indefinite suspension from the roster less than two weeks before the start of training camp doesn’t help paint the picture well enough for the Buckeyes, maybe nothing will.
The impact was far different last summer, but it set a precedent on alleged acts of violence against women. Storm Klein’s instant dismissal for an offseason incident with a woman last summer ultimately didn’t stick when the domestic violence charges against the linebacker were dismissed, and he was allowed to return to the team after missing the first two games of the season following a guilty plea to a lesser charge of misdemeanor disorderly conduct.
But Klein, a senior, wasn’t expected to be a major contributor, wasn’t on watch lists honoring the best players in the country at his position and couldn’t help the team win a national title thanks to the NCAA sanctions that blocked the Buckeyes from a bowl game. Hyde checks all of those boxes for Ohio State a season after scoring 17 touchdowns and forming one of the most effective inside-outside rushing combinations in the country with quarterback Braxton Miller.
Suspending Hyde from the program before charges have even been filed in an alleged assault case in a Columbus bar sends a signal that’s effectively impossible for the rest of the Buckeyes to ignore, even if he might ultimately be able to return to the fold.
There’s still another disciplinary matter that will require Meyer’s attention thanks to star cornerback Bradley Roby’s arrest in Indiana over the weekend. He's charged with hitting a security guard in a bar, and if it’s possible, the handling of that situation might be even more important for Ohio State in setting the tone for the program moving forward.
The Buckeyes will likely survive just fine offensively without Hyde, thanks to a deep stable of running backs and the incomparable Miller calling the signals for the spread attack. But any potential loss of playing time for Roby could be a significant hurdle for a defense that already must replace seven starters and was counting on the first-team All-American to provide as much leadership this season as he did athleticism last year.
At a minimum, Roby has opened up some doubt about his ability to be a leader while also putting Meyer’s approach to discipline under a much brighter spotlight than it was heading into his first season at Ohio State.
Aside from Klein a year ago, the only other legal issues involving football players in 2012 were a couple of misdemeanor charges against veterans Jack Mewhort and Jake Stoneburner, and both of those players were quickly suspended last summer despite the relatively harmless nature of their arrests. Neither missed a game. Those transgressions didn’t include any alleged violence, and in the extremely limited sample size available since Meyer took over at Ohio State, that’s a core value he appears unwilling to compromise.
Hyde received that message before an arrest was even made in his alleged assault case. Roby is already staring at a charge of battery resulting in bodily injury, and he could be next in line for Meyer to hand out his own sentence, albeit one that is likely to be lighter, given the reported circumstances.
But one way or another, Meyer’s stance on discipline with the Buckeyes will be widely known and surely better understood now. And he has two of his highest-profile players to thank for it.