With today’s presidential election being arguably one of the largest ever, even the sports world is talking about politics — even Ohio State’s football team.
On Monday, after a 62-3 drubbing of then No. 10 Nebraska, the questions asked by the media should have been all-encompassing of the way the Buckeyes systematically picked apart the Cornhuskers. Instead, OSU coach Urban Meyer fielded a few political questions near the end of the media availability session.
When asked about the election, Meyer cracked a grin and gave one of his patented short replies.
“What election?” Meyer said.
Granted, it seems fair to assume he knows exactly what election he was asked about. Most of Meyer’s day entails dissecting opposing defenses and analyzing how to attack the offense of other Big Ten teams. Still, it would be hard to ignore the current political undertakings.
With some coaxing, Meyer finally addressed the subject. Refraining from speaking any of his own political standpoints, he said the team has had discussions towards the process, and even set aside time during the offseason to further educate the team on how important voting is.
“We had Patriot Week where I wanted to educate because it’s such a big and such an important day, in all seriousness, for all of us,” he said. “And so we had zero discussion about it now. Beat Maryland. I’m sure the families will have their conversations. I hope our guys vote, and we move forward. That’s why we did that, because I wanted to make sure when they go they educate themselves — not themselves. We educate them on the process, the job responsibility and how to.”
Players have been discussing how important the brotherhood they share is for team success this season. An election that has driven a divide through the country could be grounds for ripping apart even the most tight-knit teams and locker rooms.
This would seem bizarre for a team that has spoken so strongly towards the criticism of the media when a player has a down game. Redshirt junior Billy Price is a prime example of standing up for his fellow Buckeyes. When asked about the performance of sophomore Isaiah Prince following a loss to Penn State, Price did not hold anything back.
“I’ll go to war for him right now,” Price said. “I have no problem (with that). I will not sit here and allow someone to nit-pick at him.”
Price was not angered by the criticism, but said he felt the issues after Penn State were team issues, and should not fall on one player. That kind of camaraderie has been a vocal desire of Meyer since his arrival in Columbus.
It seems unlikely every member of the Scarlet and Gray leans towards one side of the aisle. A team of over 100 total members on both the active roster and the practice squad is bound to have political feelings that differ from other teammates.
But OSU has made a point of keeping feelings towards presidential candidates from dividing the team, while ensuring all members fully comprehend the gravity of a vote. Redshirt junior quarterback J.T. Barrett said he, along with the rest of the team, accepts the choices all team members make today at the polls.
“I think we have a team that understands that that’s part of what makes our country great is that people are … they have that opinion and that’s perfectly okay,” Barrett said. “I think that’s something great that we have as Americans and I understand that has something to do with your personal life and personal opinions but I don’t think that’s going to interfere with the way we play.”
Some players have taken to social media with politically charged tweets and links to articles, but that has not stopped the team progress and production so far. Against Nebraska, the team blew away all expectations and showed how well OSU plays together.
Meyer fully understands how easily a group can be separated by opposing viewpoints, especially in a time when the entire country seems to be two-sided. But, through the maturity and character of his players paired with the effort of his staff to keep things together, OSU is standing tall in a time of national turmoil.
“Yeah, this is a pretty mature team in that regard. That’s something I always watch. I have guys around this program that’s their job, to monitor,” Meyer said. “When I talk about good guys, now, I have some guys that are like family in this team that they would tell me if something is going on. And I listen and I hear, and the heartbeat of our team is very solid right now. It’s not always perfect, but it’s very solid, but that’s a great question. And am I concerned about it, you’re damn right. That’s when you start having issues, but I also have great trust in the people that I’m listening to.”