With the media circus about to descend upon Bill Belichick and the Patriots tomorrow, its easy to forget that the Aaron Hernandez saga has football ramifications far beyond Gillette Stadium. That is, easy to forget unless you're an Ohio State fan, where Hernandez' former coach Urban Meyer has taken swift action against several players arrested over the weekend.
Star running back Carlos Hyde, coming off of a 970 yard, 17 touchdown season, has been suspended indefinitely from all football activities after being named a person of interest in the assault of a woman at a Columbus bar. Defensive lineman Tim Gardner was sent home and will not be part of 2013 team after being charged with obstruction of official business. Tight End Marcus Baugh will miss the season opener due to his arrest for underage drinking and possessing a fake identification. Star cornerback Bradley Roby was arrested over the weekend for his role in a bar fight; so far his scheduled media appearance at the Big 10's media day has been canceled.
“Swift, effective and fair discipline is the standard for our entire athletics program" said Ohio State Athletic Director Gene Smith. "I applaud Coach Meyer for his immediate actions.”
The immediate discipline may have drawn praise from his boss, but also stood in stark contrast to Meyer's coaching history. 25 players accounted for 31 total arrests during Meyer's six year run as Florida's Head Coach, many of whom received slaps on the wrist and continued to contribute to Florida's SEC dominance.
Remarkably, none of those arrests were of Hernandez, who totaled 111 receptions, 1,382 yards, 12 touchdowns, one rupturing of a bar employee's eardrum, one time being questioned in a shooting and multiple failed drug tests during his three year Gator career.
Hernandez's troubles during his Florida years were largely swept under the rug. Nothing ever came of police recommendations for felony assault charges against the TE following his punching of a bar employee, possibly because State Attorney Bill Cervone donates yearly to Florida's football program. Hernandez was also initially identified as the gunman in a 2007 shooting. The crime went unsolved when witness Randall Cason backed off of his initial identifications. Hernandez received no discipline for either incident and only missed one game (for a failed drug test) during his time in Gainesville.
Urban Meyer is a coach who once had no problem reinstating a player who had texted his girlfriend "time to die b*tch". The fact that he was so quick to suspend the team's star running back speaks volumes to how massive the PR fallout from Hernandez's situation truly is. So far, Hyde has "merely" been named a person of interest in the assault case. If this had happened a few years ago at Florida, the worst case scenario would likely be Hyde missing one of the cupcakes on the team's early season schedule. Instead, he finds himself indefinitely suspended, despite the team's status as a legitimate National Title contender.
Like Belichick, Meyer is one of the most powerful men in football. The fact that both coaches have been forced to adjust their decision making (hurting their rosters in the process) speaks volumes to just how massive the fallout from the Hernandez case really is.