CHICAGO — Urban Meyer answered few questions about his talented Ohio State team and its championship aspirations at Big Ten media day.
The Buckeyes' coach spent most of his time on the podium at the Hilton in Chicago on Wednesday talking about recent off-field issues involving some of his players and how he ran his program while at Florida.
Ohio State running back Carlos Hyde, star cornerback Bradley Roby and two freshmen were disciplined by the school after a run of legal problems in Columbus that once again put the focus on Meyer and how he disciplines his players.
"When a mistake happens or something happened, you have to react and get it done," Meyer said. "So I'm disappointed. I think furious might be the word that would best describe when I first got the phone call, because, like I said, for 12 months it's been really, really good."
Hyde, who had a team-high 17 touchdowns last season, was suspended indefinitely after he was named a person of interest in an investigation into an alleged assault of a woman at a downtown Columbus bar early Saturday morning. Roby was one of the players selected to represent Ohio State at the kickoff event in Chicago, but he was pulled after he was arrested in Bloomington, Ind., and accused of misdemeanor battery.
Tight end Marcus Baugh also was suspended from all team activities, and Meyer decided to send defensive lineman Tim Gardner back home to Indianapolis. Baugh was arrested last weekend for underage possession of alcohol and possessing a fake identification, and Gardner was charged Saturday night by Columbus police with obstruction of official business.
The problems at Ohio State come not long after Meyer was facing questions about how he treated Aaron Hernandez while the former New England Patriots tight end played for him at Florida. Hernandez has been arrested and charged with murder in Massachusetts.
Asked what it was like to hear his name mentioned in connection with Hernandez in the wake of the charges, Meyer responded: "I felt awful. It's a sick feeling. Your thoughts and prayers are with the family of the victims. Every player situation, every recruit situation, all I know is (it) will always be in the back of my mind. That's all I can say."
Meyer spent six years at Florida, winning national titles in 2006 and 2008. He also had 25 players account for 31 arrests during his tenure with the Gators.
Meyer said he isn't worried about his reputation, but criticism over disciplinary issues still stings.
"I'm a human, so it does," he said. "I don't read. I don't really get involved with following stuff, because I think people need to get facts before they start just making accusations and those type of things. I'm human and I think that is something that I'm constantly evaluating and making sure we are doing the right thing."
BIG TEN: Commissioner Jim Delany was the other headliner at the Big Ten, and he echoed the chorus of power conference leaders calling for changing the way the NCAA does business and how Division I schools run their athletic programs.
"Very optimistic we'll get it," Delany said. "And I think we may get it within a year. And I think the conference commissioners that I've spoken with throughout the range of Division I are open for that discussion.
"I think it's necessary and it's a traditional organization and it needs to innovate as we all do, and I'm pretty optimistic that we do that," Delany added. "But I want us also to keep in mind why we're doing it and I think it's to make better connections between our athletes, the educational and the athletic experience."
Delany's top priorities for a restructured NCAA include a lifetime commitment to education, an examination of the time demands placed on athletes, the eligibility structure for at-risk students and an additional grant for full-scholarship athletes — a hot-button issue for mid-major schools.
All the commissioners from the major conferences have pushed for a stipend for athletes that would add about $2,000 to an athletic scholarship to cover the full cost of attendance, but it could not be passed because smaller schools said they couldn't afford it.
"It's the right thing to do," said Delany, who played college basketball for North Carolina. "Whether that's 2,000, 3,000, or 4,000, I don't know, but we need to address that."