The recent earthquakes that some say are threatening to turn major-college football into a stranger few of us recognize apparently didn’t so much as jiggle the ice in Urban Meyer’s Gatorade.
Last week’s earth-shaking developments — a court ruling in favor of former UCLA basketball star Ed O’Bannon against the NCAA giving players the right to be paid for use of their likeness, and the NCAA’s vote to grant autonomy for the big five conferences to make their own rules — barely registered 1.0 on the Meyer scale.
When the coach was asked about those topics at the Ohio State football team’s media day yesterday, his eyes glazed over like a guy whose enthusiasm had been drained by a Golden Girls marathon.
“I apologize, I probably should know more about the whole situation,” he said. “I don’t. (OSU athletic director) Gene Smith and I have had minor discussions about it. I’ve got to get a team ready to play a very good Navy team and very good Virginia Tech team. I have not read it. I know I probably should be more up to speed on that, but I’m not.”
Any thoughts on the autonomy issue?
“No,” he said. “I really don’t. … Honestly I have no idea what all that stuff means.”
With the Buckeyes’ season opener against Navy less than three weeks away, Meyer’s focus on football is understandable. Whether last week’s developments turn college football into the smoldering ruins of San Francisco after its famous 1906 earthquake or the sleek, futuristic model that gives athletes what they deserve, the changes aren’t on the immediate horizon.
Still, it’s hard to believe a bright, successful college coach with Meyer’s thirst for details would treat the O’Bannon ruling like just another news story about Lindsay Lohan or Justin Bieber. But the tremors from O’Bannon and the NCAA apparently didn’t jolt the OSU players from their beds, either. Autonomy proposals (such as paying athletes for the full cost of their scholarship) won’t be eligible for a vote until January, at the earliest, and if they pass, implementation could be delayed until 2016.
That means the players who might be impacted the most by all of this are the ones who can’t afford the time to think about it.
“I’m not really paying any attention to that,” freshman linebacker
Raekwon McMillan said. “I’m trying to focus on football right now, trying to focus on the season.”
Sophomore H-back Dontre Wilson is, too — “it’s football three weeks constantly, that’s all I have to worry about” — and … he would like some extra spending money.
“I hope they pass that,” he said. “I would love to get paid. It’s a grind we go through every day that regular college students wouldn’t do. I think we should be rewarded with pay, but you know, rules are rules. If they do pass it, that will be a great thing, not just for me but for everybody.
“Sometimes they will give us food and try to give us a per diem to keep us on our feet, but sometimes it’s rough, especially when we get a break and we’re not doing anything associated with the team. … When we are hungry and we don’t have money, that’s one of the hard things.”
That obviously isn’t a concern during preseason camp, and it isn’t on the minds of players or coaches with Navy stalking them like Oliver Hazard Perry. It also would be a mistake to believe the players are as oblivious to the rulings as Meyer claims to be.
They are student-athletes, right?
“I think it’s a good thing that happened,” junior linebacker Joshua Perry said. “We’ll see what comes of it. Ohio State does a really, really good job of making sure it takes care of athletes, so everything they can do within the rules they’ve been doing for us already.
“Whether or not it’s going to get done what everybody thinks it is, who knows? But being at a place like this, it’s not something that we’re sitting by looking at the ticker on ESPN waiting to see what happens. We already know that we’re going to be taken care of either way.”
Bob Hunter is a sports columnist for The Dispatch.