Within the confines of the bunker-like Woody Hayes Athletic Center, Urban Meyer has painted on a wall the visual manifestation of the Ohio State football program’s core values.
At the top of the wall in bright-red, capital letters reads the word “DECISIONS.”
Below that: “HONESTY.”
The next two rows read “TREAT WOMEN WITH RESPECT,” before the mural’s final lines remind its onlookers “NO DRUGS STEALING WEAPONS.”
The second-year OSU coach’s code of conduct appears to be a simple creed; its trespassers, as Meyer has shown in his some-18 months in Columbus, are often dealt with swiftly (i.e. Jake Stoneburner, Jack Mewhort, Storm Klein, Cardale Jones).
And for certain infractions, like violence against women, Meyer has preached a “zero tolerance” policy that ultimately (and deservedly) now needs to be applauded with caution.
What’s been Columbus’ obnoxious equivalent to the world’s royal birth story mercifully drew near a close Tuesday after senior running back Carlos Hyde learned he would not face charges after being implicated in an alleged assault case involving a girl at a local nightclub 11 days ago.
Hours later Tuesday, Columbus police released surveillance footage of the incident from the Sugar Bar 2 which shows the girl and Hyde, who was suspended indefinitely July 22, try to slap each other (he flips her off with both hands, she lunges at him as he walks away and he swings back in retaliation).
Because of the camera’s quality, it’s inconclusive whether he or the woman made contact.
That’s why — in part — Meyer announced Tuesday night that Hyde would be suspended for the first three game of the 2013 season and have to jump through some hoops to find himself back in the good graces of the coaching staff.
What’s not inconclusive, though, is Hyde’s intent — that the 240-pound running back swung back against someone half his size before running away to his homies posted up against the wall.
While Hyde never faced charges for what would have likely been a misdemeanor offense, the very idea of trying to hit the girl boldly challenges the culture Meyer says he’s trying to create in Columbus.
Respecting women is one of its chief pillars — you know, like the rest of the ones painted on that wall at the Woody.
It’s a list of tenets so basic, so elementary, so “Well, duh!” that screwing up would take legitimate effort rather than the occasional lapses of judgement that 18-22 year olds have.
It’s intended to draw a clear, firm line between stupid things and thuggish things; the difference between relieving yourself behind a restaurant after one too many beers and robbing a UDF with a Glock in one pocket and bag of Molly in the other. And while Hyde’s case isn’t even technically a criminal one anymore, it belongs in the latter category.
Hitting a girl or attempting to hit a girl (they’re the same thing) is being a bully and being a punk. It’s asking for trouble. It’s inexcusable.
Zero tolerance means zero tolerance. Hyde’s punishment looks like a lot of tolerance for disregarding a rule so important that Meyer had it painted on a freaking wall in big bold letters.
The suspension, while better than nothing, completely undermines and pokes holes in a really sincere idea that aims at breaking cycles of appeasement and enabling in college athletics.
Now, it seems a bit hollow.
If you’re going to preach “zero tolerance,” the notion must be an intrepid one. If you’re going to practice “zero tolerance most of the time depending on the situation,” then preach that instead.
You can qualify the situation all you want, but Meyer’s supposed zero tolerance policy has carried the implication that if you break one of his core values, you’re gone. Done. No questions asked.
Meyer likes to reiterate at press conferences with local media that he doesn’t have “bad guys” on his squad.
He might be right and I’m certainly not an authoritative voice on the matter.
But what Hyde did? That’s something good guys don’t usually do.