Brady Hoke has become a figurehead of the Big Ten.
Football aside, the Big Ten’s image has taken a hit because of the negative news about the the Buckeyes and Meyer.
From Carlos Hyde’s and Bradley Roby’s incidents to the murder charge against Aaron Hernandez, Meyer’s former All-American tight end at Florida, juicy scandal and TMZ-esque events have made their way to the Midwest.
The Wolverines, who have won more Big Ten games than any team in league history, haven’t been squeaky clean, either. But they’ve long been thought of as a “good guy” in their league.
Would a successful 2013 for UM help negate negative news such as Urban Meyer's track record, issues at OSU?
Just this past season, they had to deal with Fitz Toussaint’s DUI and Frank Clark’s home invasion. Josh Furman had legal issues. Toussaint and Clark each served a one-game suspension, sitting out against Alabama, and Furman was reinstated after being found not guilty of assault and illegal entry. Like Meyer this time around, Michigan coach Brady Hoke contended with off-the-field questions more than he addressed his team’s on-field potential.
Hoke did his duty by reprimanding players who broke the rules. And although 2012 didn’t pan out to his liking, without a trail of player misbehavior behind him, or a list of dozens of players who have been arrested under his watch, Hoke appears to have nipped the problems in the bud.
Entering his third season, he’s focused on the game, not what a select group of knucklehead players do with their free time. Coming off an 8-5 season, the Wolverines are expected to battle the Buckeyes for a league championship.
A future BCS bowl is a distinct possibility.
Devin Gardner is positioned to have a stellar fall. Among favorites to win conference player-of-the-year honors, the Michigan quarterback could even make a run at a certain stiff-armed trophy.
An ironclad 2013 class hopes to contribute to what Hoke has established. Improvements are noticeable all around. The offensive and defensive lines should be sharp. The secondary, minus Jordan Kovacs, of course, has promise, due to versatile young talent.
Michigan must now live up to the hype, step up with authority and claim its role as the Big Ten's flagship program, as it’s been in years past.
Anything short of perfection—or something as close to it as possible—would be overshadowed by all the talk about Meyer’s connection to Hernandez and other former players gone awry.
Depending on action taken against Hyde and Roby, Buckeyes-in-trouble headlines will continue casting a shadow over the entire league until season’s end.
Meyer had this to say about those issues at Big Ten Media Days in Chicago (via ESPN):
Disruption is the biggest thing that bothers me. I think the head coach needs to set a standard— direct, guide, mentor, push and direct these guys. Ultimately, though, every person is ultimately held accountable for their decisions they make. So we've just got to continue to evaluate all the things we do.
At the moment, Ohio State is the highest-profile program in the Big Ten. The Buckeyes rattled off a 12-0 record this past fall, but, due to sanctions, they weren’t allowed to participate in the postseason. A year in, Meyer has dominated the Big Ten in one way or another.
But, for that, he owes an apology to his colleagues. Right now, each of the 12 teams should have enjoyed the limelight in Chicago. Instead, it was all about Meyer and the cost of winning.
The ball is now in the Wolverines’ court. They’re not only facing the teams on their schedule, but they’re facing the monumental task of helping to clean up the Big Ten's image.
It’s time to put on the cape, Michigan.
Follow Bleacher Report’s Michigan Wolverines football writer Adam Biggers on Twitter @AdamBiggers81