Increase the availability of college football’s coaches and the overall access to their players during the offseason? Maybe that’s one solution for preventing the kind of offseason troubles that Ohio State football faced last week.
A quiet year off-the-field for the Buckeyes got loud quickly in the last week when four of the team’s players – senior running back Carlos Hyde, senior corner back Bradley Roby, freshman tight end Marcus Baugh and freshman defensive lineman Tim Gardner – were all involved in separate legal issues.
The remedy for these maladies, as discussed during Big Ten Media Days gathering by members of the OSU and Big Ten football communities, should be more contact between coaches their players, as well as more official team activities.
“The one difficult thing is when freshmen show up, coaches usually leave for vacation,” OSU head coach Urban Meyer said. “That’s tough, and that's something I'm going to reevaluate, whether I keep some coaches back and try to break that up a little bit. I really thought about that.”
Hyde has been suspended from all football team activities as a person of interest in an assault that happened downtown this weekend, while Roby, who was arrested for misdemeanor battery at a Bloomington, Ind., bar, was swapped out this week’s Big Ten Media Day’s activities. Meyer said he expects Roby to face some sort of suspension.
Baugh has been given a one-game suspension and lost his summer financial aid for possessing alcohol and fake identification while Gardner will sit out the 2013 season and was sent home after he was charged Saturday night by Columbus police with obstructing official business.
With exception of summer conditioning workouts with the team’s strength and conditioning staff, it could be said that OSU players have a disproportionate amount of free time in the summer compared to other times of the year.
The team’s on-field coaching staff is unable to conduct team activities or practices during the summer and contact between coaches and players is at a minimum, which is a problem because freshmen like Baugh and Gardner arrived on campus in June.
In response to what might be a lack of adult supervision, several Big Ten coaches and former OSU running back and Heisman Trophy winner Eddie George propose making coaches available during the summer months.
“I think the NCAA should look at this and say, ‘OK, maybe the coaches need to have more contact with the players during the offseason so they (the coaches) can give the players guidance,’ ” George told BSB. “More guidance just to make sure that they don’t get in trouble because coaching, to me, is not just about wins and losses. It’s also about developing the players off the field as men to win in life.”
The mere suggestion of players being on the wrong side of the law is enough to rile Illinois head coach Tim Beckman, who said he would continue to advocate for some form of official offseason involvement with his team.
Members of Beckman’s 23-player freshmen class have been moving onto the Illinois campus in recent days and weeks. Like Meyer and other coaches, Beckman’s coaching staff is mostly forbidden from the new collegians.
“I think the student-athlete loves being around their coach,” Beckman said. “Us not being to be around them during the summer… I think the structure that we put in place is proven.”
A 12-0 season last year and a bounty of returning talent has OSU, as well as its fans, prepping for a possible BCS title run in the upcoming season. The loss of Hyde, Roby or even both players – top playmakers during the historic undefeated 2012 season – could hamper the team’s chase for title glory.
Meyer seems to advocate for a holistic approach to offseason involvement by coaches, saying Thursday he believes they can occupy players’ time in productive ways both on the field and in life.
“I think you always can do more,” he said. “I mean, that's something you wake up every day with.”