COLUMBUS, Ohio – Coaches love to talk about the state of 'their locker room' but that piece of 'coach speak' deals with the psyche and make up of a team, not the physical condition of the actual locker room.
Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh brought the actual condition of locker rooms into focus this week when he took to his press conference to complain about the condition of visiting locker rooms within the Big Ten. The Wolverines played last week at Purdue and the away accommodations were subpar including the lack of air conditioning and the distance for certain pieces of medical equipment to the facilities.
Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer was asked about Harbaugh's comments during Monday's weekly press conference at the WHAC and the question came up against during the weekly Big Ten teleconference.
"I think years ago there was some gamesmanship about putting people in bad places and all that." Meyer said. "Right when I got off the phone, I asked our people to make sure that we would never do that. That is not something that I check very often but this is Ohio State and you never want to put a team without air conditioning or those type of things."
Stories of locker rooms not having enough hot water or minimal furnishings were definitely a thing in the not too distant past but according to a couple of coaches from within the league, some of the settings are just downright terrible.
"We were in a couple of situations where you just look around and, 'You have got to be kidding me'," Meyer recalled about visits within the league.
The move is not a case of calling out schools, the end game is to get the situation fixed and to get the league to step in if need be.
"I just think that the commissioner… and (Director of Athletics) Gene Smith said that was going to be brought up at Big Ten meetings," Meyer said.
It just seems like the right thing to do.
"These players do a lot for us, and a lot for our conference, they should be treated right," Meyer said. "A very clean environment and obviously the proper heat and the proper air conditioning and a sanitary environment. I would imagine that from this point forward that they are able to look at that closely."
In the news
While the focus of a few from the Big Ten is on the condition of locker rooms for visiting teams, it is hard to avoid what is happening nationally with player protests in the NFL during the national anthem.
The conversation around this issue has been heated from the top down in terms of the national discussion and to date college football has not been drawn into the mix of any sort of public display.
Meyer feels that his 'locker room' (the make-up of the team, not the physical structure) is strong and that one of the key words around his team is respect.
"I think that goes back to developing a culture," Meyer said. "A culture of team, a culture of respect and a culture of focus. I was unaware that anything was going on until yesterday. I talked to some players, we will do what we normally do and have good conversation and I will let people have their opinions and never cross the R-word, which is respect."
But don't look for Meyer to weigh-in on the national discussion or to share any internal discussion with his team. Some things remain close to the team and this is one of them.
"I don’t usually have these conversations… that is between me and the player and to be honest I don't know," Meyer said. "If I did, I probably would not share it with you because that is, to me that is sanctuary type meetings that you have with your players, that you have trust in. It is no different than you say what if my son or daughter came home and asked me what would I do. That is between me and them."
Focusing on the team
The Buckeyes are one-quarter of the way through the regular season and that generally marks a point where people want to get a report card for how the team is performing from the coaching staff.
Urban Meyer was asked about the status of his team and what is going right and what is going wrong still. The Ohio State head coach was quick to point out a couple of points of emphasis on what needs to get better.
"Pass defense continues to be number one on the hit parade as far as we had three pass interference penalties last week," Meyer said. "Other than that, we played well. That is number one where we need to improve."
The other focal point moves to the offensive side of the ball.
"Number two is consistency on offense and especially when you start getting (in to) conference play and facing better defenses," Meyer said. "You have to play much better. It was a somewhat experienced team coming back but a lot of new players at some key positions. I think we are doing pretty (well). The normal development that you have with young players is taking place. This week is a big one to continue to get better."
And as for young players, the Buckeyes were able to clear the bench last weekend against UNLV and more than a dozen true freshmen saw playing time. Meyer was asked about several and offered up opinions on four.
* "I can see Pete Werner and Baron Browning, they have really made strides. Plus, they are very talented guys."
* "Jeffrey Okudah is a guy that has taken a giant step and has earned some playing time."
* "Trevon Grimes had a couple of really good weeks of practice, he is not in the position to be in the rotation yet but he is working towards that."