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Urban Meyer faces questions on disciplinary tactics

Ohio State head football coach Urban Meyer speaks during news conference Big Ten conference football mediday Wednesday July 24 2013

Ohio State head football coach Urban Meyer speaks during a news conference at the Big Ten conference football media day Wednesday, July 24, 2013, in Chicago. (AP Photo/M. Spencer Green)

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Updated: July 24, 2013 11:59PM

Urban Meyer sat down for dinner with Gary Andersen one night in 2004 expecting not to hire him. Preparing for his second season as football coach at Utah, Meyer had someone else in mind for the vacancy on his staff. By the time the entrées were served, though, he found himself being swayed.

“I was blown completely away,” said Meyer, now at Ohio State, of that first meeting with Andersen.

Meyer’s hearty endorsement of Wisconsin’s new head coach isn’t one of the major stories that will come out of the annual Big Ten media gathering that commenced at a downtown hotel here on Wednesday, but it sure was interesting. It was about one coach impressing another with character, conviction and a clear sense of purpose. Frankly, it sounded like so many descriptions through the years of Meyer himself.

But times have changed. A much longer, far less flattering book on Meyer continues to be written. The career of the Big Ten’s most successful, highest-profile coach is now marked, perhaps indelibly, by elements of scandal.

As has been widely discussed in recent weeks, 41 players on Meyer’s 2008 national championship team at Florida have been arrested, either while in college or afterward. One of them, former New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez, awaits a murder trial. Then along came last weekend, when a pair of Buckeyes starters were arrested in separate incidents at bars, as well as news this week that two incoming freshmen players were disciplined for non-football indiscretions.

Discipline was the subject at hand throughout the two press conferences Meyer withstood on Wednesday. If player behavior at Ohio State hasn’t exactly gone awry — “In the last 12 months we’ve had three legal issues, and it all happened in three days,” Meyer pointed out — it’s still casting the Buckeyes, and their coach, in a harsh light.

Meyer used words such as “sick,” “furious” and “insane” to describe his feelings of late. But “disciplinarian” is the word of the moment. Specifically: Is Meyer a good one or a bad one?

“I want to make sure our punishment is as hard or harder than any discipline that’s out there,” he said. “That’s maybe where I’ve changed over the years.”

It was a subtle acknowledgement by a superstar coach that he may have been too lax during six mostly glorious seasons in Gainesville. Undoubtedly, Meyer intends to eventually leave behind a far better off-the-field record in Columbus.

“In the end,” he said, “you’ve got to feel in your heart we’re doing the right thing, that we’re in the people business and we have to do what’s right by those people… Sometimes I sit back and evaluate that we gave too many second chances. That seems to be a big key, and that’s something I’m going to continue to evaluate.”

In the media, on fan message boards and on Twitter, a great number of people are eagerly evaluating it for him. And their tone is getting more and more unfriendly.

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