The captains of the Ohio State football team say Urban Meyer’s absence has not had much effect on them this month.
If so, that is a testament to the work Meyer has done.
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The veteran coach, who was put on leave two days before the start of preseason camp and who is suspended through the end of this week after an independent investigation found he mismanaged a former assistant, set out to create a self-sustaining culture of excellence after a disappointing end to his second season in Columbus.
By most appearances, he has succeeded.
“One of our core values is the brotherhood of trust and just leaning on each other in these times,” said Terry McLaurin, a senior receiver who was voted captain. “There are things we can’t really control, but we can control our reaction and get the outcome that we want. Tim Kight is a really big part of that in just coaching our coaches and the players and how to react to things when the unforeseeable happens.”
Kight is a leadership training guru based in Columbus. Since he started working with Meyer’s program, the coach has become fanatical about implementing his teachings, citing them frequently in interviews and pushing them hard with coaches and players.
Kight’s message boils down to an equation: E + R = O.
That stands for event plus reaction equals outcome, with the overriding message being the value of reacting positively to any setback because it can set up an individual to succeed when the next opportunity comes along.
The approach was heavily credited for Ohio State’s ability to overcome two quarterback injuries, an early-season loss and the death of a teammate to win the 2014 national championship.
Now it appears to be helping members of the program cope with losing their leader for six weeks and three games.
The two glimpses of training camp media members were allowed left an impression nothing had really changed with Ryan Day serving as acting head coach, and players confirmed that was the case.
“I don’t know what other way it would be,” defensive end Nick Bosa said. “We have amazing coordinators and amazing position coaches and they’ve taken their roles in stride. I think that’s what Coach would want us to do, just to keep everything normal and keep the same routine, practicing hard and just focusing on getting better.”
Fellow captain Parris Campbell agreed.
“Honestly, day one we came in ready to work,” said Campbell, another senior receiver. “We put the adversity to the side. We’re experienced guys, older guys. It was always going to be about the players no matter what, if Coach Meyer was there or not. We just took it as adversity we had to fight through and we got better for it.”
Meyer was allowed to talk to the team last week after his punishment was handed down, but members of the Ohio State sports information staff forbade the players from revealing anything he said during interviews Tuesday night.
Speaking earlier on a conference call, Day declined to go into specifics about Meyer’s message.
“I will tell you obviously the guys were happy to see him,” Day said. “Shoot, I was happy to see him. It was a long time. We’re used to seeing each other every day, so I hadn’t see him in a few weeks so that was good. There were a lot of hugs. I know Coach was rally happy to see the guys and as you can imagine he was kind of giving them an update of what was going on, explaining the situation and talking about moving forward.
“We try to keep most of those meeting between us, but that was the gist of it.”