Urban Meyer opened up at Big Ten Media Day, but will anyone listen?

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We’ve cited it before and we’ll cite it again: according to the New York Times, 31 players were arrested under Urban Meyer at Florida. Some of the arrests were of your basic boys-will-be-boys variety, while others were far more disturbing.

But by adding them all up, Meyer’s developed a bad reputation — fair or not — as a lenient coach who cares more about winning than discipline.

Speaking at Big Ten Media Day, Meyer didn’t even attempt to defend himself against the narrative that unfairly went to a new level with the arrest of former New England Patriots and UF tight end Aaron Hernandez.

I don’t worry about my reputation, I worry about my players,” Meyer said in response to one of several questions related to off-the-field headlines. In fact, there was only one question — one — about how the Buckeyes might perform as preseason national title contenders in 2013. The rest? They centered around Carlos Hyde, dealing with behavior problems, “turning in” Florida for a secondary recruiting violation, and the like.

Meyer had to know those questions were coming. He certainly conducted himself in a way that indicates he’d prepared for them. The second-year Buckeyes coach never got angry and he didn’t call out reporters. More importantly, he didn’t administer blame to anyone or play a victim. Perhaps the closest he came to that was admitting “It’s been a rough couple of days,” toward the beginning of his opening statement.

But that comment set Meyer’s tone for the entire Q&A. It was not one made out of martyrdom, but seemingly, openness. Meyer was reflective and anything but shy, with words like “evaluating” coming up more than a few times. There are plenty of qualities you can debate about Meyer, but he is unquestionably constantly looking for ways to improve.

Even, according to him, in the off-the-field department.

“I want to make sure our discipline is as hard or harder than anything out there,” Meyer said.

Critics can… and will… and already have… scoffed at that statement. But even if Meyer has evolved in his approach to player discipline — he says he has, and wondered aloud if he gave some players too many second chances — the narrative is so strong that few will likely change their opinion about him. That’s the reality that Meyer will deal with for the rest of his coaching days.

The only thing Meyer really can control is how he affects his players, something Nick Saban praised Bear Bryant for during SEC Media Days. The embattled Ohio State coach understands that as well as anyone.

“A head coach needs to set a standard, direct, push,” Meyer said. “But ultimately every person is responsible for the decisions they make.”

Including Aaron Hernandez.

Is Meyer guilty of giving some players one too many chances despite their poor decisions? Sure. Name a coach who isn’t (besides Nick Saban). As Meyer explains, it’s similar to dealing with his own children. Has his approach to off-the-field issues changed? We’ll find out soon enough. For all we know, Meyer may be yanking our collective chain. I would venture to guess that plenty of people think he is. And maybe they’re right.

But here’s something we do know Meyer is being truthful about:

“I’m a human.”

Cincinnati, Western Michigan ink home-and-home series

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Cincinnati and Western Michigan have agreed to a 2-game home-and-home series, it was announced Monday.

The Bearcats will host WMU on Sept. 12, 2020, and Western Michigan will host Cincinnati on Sept. 10, 2022.

The programs have met three times prior. Cincinnati and Western Michigan also played a home-and-home in 1949-50; the Bearcats won both games by scores of 27-6. Cincinnati also won their meeting in the 2007 International Bowl in Toronto,  a 27-24 triumph.

Cincinnati already has road games lined up with Miami (Ohio) and Nebraska in 2020, with a Sept. 5 opener still to fill. Considering the Bearcats already have two MAC opponents and a Big Ten trip lined up, that game will almost certainly be a home game and likely against an FCS opponent. In 2022, Cincinnati will host Indiana and play Miami (Ohio) at the Bengals’ Paul Brown Stadium, with their Sept. 3 opener still unfilled.

Western Michigan also has a road trip to Notre Dame on the schedule for Sept. 19, 2020, and does not have any other games slated for 2022.

USC AD Lynn Swann explains wins still trump strength of schedule

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For a long time, college football programs on the west coast have battled to overcome an east coast bias. USC athletics director Lynn Swann says that is still a hurdle USC faces to this day, which is why the Trojans go about trying to build as competitive football schedule as they can.

“Because of time zones, people on the East Coast aren’t really seeing us,” Swann said in a Q&A with The Orange County Register. “We have to play a tougher schedule. If the voters are going to look at four teams to be in the top four, the Pac-12 playing the Pac-12 won’t get it by itself.”

That comment alone could be received as a veiled (or not-so-veiled) shot at the rest of the Pac-12, but it is a fair comment to say, especially after the postseason the Pac-12 as a whole just had this past bowl season (it was… not very good). Swann’s comment though backs up the overall philosophy power conferences and programs within them have taken to heart since the introduction of the College Football Playoff, where strength of schedule is held in high regard and placed on a pedestal above most other factors to determine a playoff contender and separate them from playoff pretenders.

“We have to schedule teams and we have to have that very competitive schedule to be able to get that look,” Swann said. “And we’ve got to win those games. So it’s important to have Texas on the schedule. It’s important that Notre Dame is playing well and we play them and we beat them along the way.”

Scheduling attractive games is great, and it allows for a slightly wider margin for error, but recent history has shown that the strength of schedule does not act alone in getting a team into the playoff as much as actually winning games. The last two seasons have seen one-loss teams without a division championship invited to the College Football Playoff (Ohio State in 2016, Alabama last year). Last year, USC lost two games but won the Pac-12 championship but was largely left out of the conversation that involved Alabama and Ohio State.

“The committee who’s going to vote on this is going to look at strength of schedule. They’re going to look at how you win games,” Swann explained. “They’re going to look at a lot of factors. They’re going to look at the competition inside your conference, outside your conference, all those kind of things. It won’t ever be just one thing.”

USC has yet to play in a College Football Playoff and the 2018 season could be an uphill climb to get there with so many key losses from last season. Regardless, the Trojans continue to be improving with depth and scoring big wins to return to work their way back to the big championship stage.

Florida is opening spring practices to fans

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What’s one easy way to get fans on board with a new head coach? Invite them to practice.

Florida head coach Dan Mullen wants the doors to be open to fans to come watch the Gators practice during the first two spring practices the Gators will conduct next month. Seats will be limited at the practice field, of course, but Mullen seems optimistic this will help get the energy going for the program from the jump this spring, and that could potentially lead to a good crowd at Florida’s spring game to wrap up the spring practice schedule.

Florida is scheduled to begin their spring football practices on March 16. That practice and the next day will be open to fans to attend practice, which likely will lead to some personal interactions with coaches and players for any fans who take Mullen up on his offer. Florida’s spring game is scheduled for April 14.

Florida fans may be getting a chance to see a hard-working bunch of Gators. Early indications are Florida players are already claiming to be working harder than they have in years in the offseason workout routine.

But it won’t be just the fans that will be given some exclusive first-hand looks at the Gators this spring. Mullen will also look to extend an open invitation to Florida faculty and staff to some spring practices. Those dates are yet to be determined.

Helmet sticker to SEC Country.

Clemson commit wins free Chick-fil-A for a year

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Who doesn’t love a good meal from Chick-fil-A? Hopefully Clemson commit BT Potter does because he just won free Chick-fil-A for an entire year.

Potter was voted the Chandler Catanzaro Kicker of the Year, and to the victor go the waffle fries. In addition to a $1,000 scholarship, Potter will have a one-year supply of Chick-fil-A meals on the house. That could add up to a lot of chicken sandwiches for the second-ranked kicker in the Class of 2018, according to Rivals.

This wasn’t a contest won by asking for retweets on Twitter, but Potter did have Clemson fans come to his support by stuffing an online ballot box. Maybe Potter can use his Chick-fil-A year-long supply to hand out some milkshakes.

The best part about all this? There doesn’t seem to be any way for the NCAA to come in and ruin the fun, as there are no NCAA violations in play here. Score one for the good guys.

Potter, a native of South Carolina, committed to the Tigers back in June 2017.