Over the weekend, Muirfield Village Golf Course held its annual Memorial Tournament. Being from the Central Ohio area, I am very familiar as to what a big event this is for the community of Dublin. In a city with just one and a half professional sports franchise’s (the Columbus Crew being the ½), anytime a professional sporting event comes to town, it’s a big deal. Naturally if you live on the course, you grow up entertaining family and friends during this weekend on a yearly basis. This year was no different for Jake Stoneburner. Aside from being a stud Tight End at THE Ohio State University, Jake is from Dublin and his parents own a home on the course.
As I am sure he has done for many years in the past, Jake, fellow Buckeye Jack Mewhort and another friend took part in the nightly festivities surrounding the Dublin area during the tournament. In the early hours of Saturday morning, the three felt the need to relieve themselves and they did just that behind a building. Unfortunately, in this one week of the year every cop in the area thinks it’s an episode of “The Wire” and that any minor violation should be sent to the Supreme Court.
So the local enforcer of the law saw this and did his due diligence to over react and over compensate for his position. Jake being a likely All-American in Urban’s offense, I’m assuming didn’t want the embarrassment of such a petty citation and felt that he could out run the cop. Unfortunately, he did not and after I’m sure what was an epic display of “police work” the Shawnee Hills Police apprehended the dangerous threats to society.
I live in an area of Baltimore, MD which has a thriving young social scene. It is quite common on Friday and Saturday nights for me to socialize in an area known as Fells Point. When the bars close we make the 10-15 minute walk home and the only restrooms during the walk home are trees, alley-ways and brush in a large city park. The difference is, Baltimore is one of the most dangerous cities in the country and our police department is too busy seeking out real criminals and not harassing the good tax-paying citizens of the city. I understand that what Jake and his buddies did was wrong, but how many times have you and I done the same? Granted, we may not have run away if caught; and that’s where Jake made his biggest mistake. Being a resident of the area, he knew how absurd the cops can be during this week and knew that even if he had stayed put, there was already a good chance that he was going to get arrested or at least cited for a misdemeanor. The Columbus Dispatch would no doubt be notified and he would end up embarrassing the entire football program. So he had nothing to lose in his mind.
It is no secret that while at UF, Urban Meyer had a bit of an issue with players getting arrested. It was also addressed I’m sure by the administration of Ohio State during his hiring process. Under Jim Tressel, players were rarely in trouble with the law and while some schools seem to be repeatedly in the news with off the field issues, Ohio State rarely was. So I know this was addressed when Urban came in.
This was his first opportunity to address an off the field situation, of high-profile players nonetheless. Urban acted quickly, suspended the players indefinitely. Barring them from all football facilities until the legal matter is resolved. I believe that this is the only move Urban had in this situation. It showed the fan base and the school that this will not be tolerated. It also told the players, you screw up, you will pay.
But, it’s the off-season. They aren’t missing practice; they are just missing team workouts. Workouts I am sure they are doing on their own until they are reinstated. The question is, would such swift action been taken mid-season? I don’t believe that Urban suspends Stoneburner and Mewhort indefinitely in October until the legal matter is concluded. Which I’m sure is a view that is not lost on the players.
The key is that while at UF, the rumors were that his best players were given preferential treatment when it came to discipline and some of the less-heralded players didn’t receive the same treatment.
What’s important to take away from these suspensions is that Urban suspended two of his best offensive players right away. I believe that tells the rest of the team that no single individual is above discipline. Coach Tressel never shied away from punishing a star player (remember Clarett) and I believe that his players respected him for that. They also understood that no matter how good they were on Saturday, that didn’t preclude them from following the rules. It is my belief that Urban will be the same. His program at UF, got away from him and was spiraling in a direction that he couldn’t be a part of anymore. He will not let that happen again.