Meyer's player policy no issue for AD

April, 23, 2012
4/23/12
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COLUMBUS, Ohio -- From his 10th floor office across the street, Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith has an excellent view of the football practice fields next to the Woody Hayes Athletic Center.

Smith only attended three practices this spring -- a busier-than-normal schedule, highlighted by the men's basketball team's run to the Final Four, kept him occupied -- but he occasionally used his binoculars to check in on the team. When the Buckeyes resume workouts in August, he'll be a regular fixture on the sideline.

"I see things," Smith told ESPN.com. "And the players talk to me. Because of my background [Smith played defensive end at Notre Dame], they come and talk to me. I know when something's out of whack in that regard."

[+] EnlargeGene Smith and Urban Meyer
AP Photo/Terry GilliamOhio State AD Gene Smith, left, said he has "a great deal of trust" in Urban Meyer's football program.
But Smith doesn't expect any issues to surface. He has full confidence in the way new head coach Urban Meyer manages his players.

Smith took notice of the recent Sporting News investigation alleging, among other things, that Meyer coddled star players, oversaw a program filled with drug use among players and let character issues get out of control during his time as Florida's coach. Smith encouraged Meyer to respond to the reporter, Matt Hayes, which Meyer did.

The report "disturbed" Smith because of its timing, not its content.

"It bothers me that there's a continued attack on him about something that happened supposedly two, three years ago," Smith said. "Where are we? I just don't get that. Those are things Urban and I talked about in the hiring process."

Smith addressed the number of Florida players arrested during Meyer's six-year tenure, which varied in media reports.

"There were reports of everywhere from 41 to 26 arrests," Smith said. "I never could figure it out, so I said, 'Urban, where are we at? What's the number?' We actually talked about the issues he had at Florida, talked about the behavioral issues he had at Florida.

"But he talked about his system. He has a system like you and I deal with. As an employee, we get rewarded when we do well. We get bad reviews when we do poorly."

Meyer acknowledges he gives preferential treatment to players who earn it through their commitment to the program both on and off the field. He plans to operate the same way at Ohio State.

"It reminds me of Ara Parseghian a little bit," said Smith, who played for Parseghian at Notre Dame, "in that he's rewarding the guys that ultimately commit themselves. Whether you're a 4.0 student or a 2.2 student, it doesn't matter. If 2.2 is your capacity, that's you, you still get rewarded. We had a long conversation about it, and I like it."

Most Ohio State fans could not care less about the allegations during Meyer's time at Florida, and there haven't been any major player-management incidents during his time with the Buckeyes. Yet the lone connection between the allegations and Ohio State is an important one. Many say Ohio State's recent NCAA maelstrom stemmed from the head coach (Jim Tressel) failing to rein in a key player (Terrelle Pryor).

While Ohio State has put measures in place to prevent problems, Smith reiterates he has full faith in Meyer and his staff.

"We have a compliance officer in the [football complex] now," Smith said. "He's in the building, right next to Urban's office. So that changes things a little bit. We continually talk about how we treat kids, not just in football but all sports. So I don't feel the need to micromanage that.

"I really have a great deal of trust in what they're doing."

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