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National Columnist

Urban is no longer lax on discipline, if you've been paying attention

Haters gonna hate, but Ohio State coach Urban Meyer is becoming somebody to like.

Lots of you don't like him. What happened at Florida was so awful you'll never get over it. Up to a point, I understand that. What happened at Florida will follow Meyer for the rest of his career, and that's the way it goes. Decisions have consequences, whether you're a college football player telling your girlfriend it's time to die or whether you're that player's coach, telling him -- and so many of his police-challenged teammates -- that he can stay on your team.

People screw up, and we judge them. Lots of us have judged Urban Meyer because of what happened at Florida, but here's the thing: His story didn't end at Florida. That was a mind-boggling story, true crime meets Mad Magazine, something so awful that it was kind of funny. How many players were arrested in his five years there? Enough to fill out one entire recruiting class and spill over into the next? That's so awful ... we're laughing. And we're laughing at you, Urban.

That's how it was.

That's not how it is.

Like I say, his story didn't end at Florida. Lots of people can't be bothered to process new information, but there is new information here. Urban Meyer is not what he was.

In fact, Meyer has changed so radically that part of me feels badly about bringing up his Florida era as early as I did. It might look like I'm still hammering him for Florida, but that's not the case. To show how far a person has come, you can't just show where he is. You have to show where he was. There's a before, and there's an after. Before? Urban Meyer was lax on discipline at Florida.

After? Urban Meyer has become as tough as any coach in big-time college football. And he's become a lot tougher than you, Les Miles.

Meyer just suspended two of his best players, safety Bradley Roby and running back Rod Smith, for the team's opener against Buffalo. Haters gonna hate because it's "just" Buffalo, but that's the way the schedule falls. Would it be better for Meyer to let Smith and Roby play four games and then suspend them for the Buckeyes' Big Ten opener against Wisconsin on Sept. 28? Of course not. That's stupid.

Would it be better for Meyer to suspended Smith and Roby for five games, to make sure they miss the first four easily winnable games and then the truly difficult fifth? Of course not. That wouldn't be fair to Smith and Roby. The schedule is what it is. The players screwed up when they screwed up. Life is like a golf course -- you play it as it lies.

This is fair. More than that, this is beautiful.

Because Roby didn't have to be suspended at all. From the beginning we had a rough idea of what he did in Bloomington, Ind., on July 21. When it was first reported, Roby was alleged to have attacked a bouncer outside a bar. He was arrested and charged with battery. Sounds bad.

What really happened -- based on police reports and video -- was that Roby was removed from the bar and then shoved by security three times outside. After the third shove, Roby tried to retaliate.

Quick aside: Being "removed from the bar" is not a good look. Something happened inside the bar, obviously. But what? Roby plays for Ohio State. He was in a bar in another college town -- the town that is home to Big Ten rival Indiana. Whatever happened inside the bar, it isn't why Roby was charged with battery. It was the stuff outside the bar, where the latest information suggests Roby was as much victim as perpetrator.

Meyer suspended him anyway.

Just like Meyer suspended Carlos Hyde even after police decided they didn't have a case against him. Video is available of the Hyde incident as well, and it shows a woman swatting Hyde inside a bar and then him reacting ... somehow. His hand goes toward her face. Did he push her head? Did he miss her? The video is inconclusive. The police dropped charges.

Meyer suspended him for at least three games.

Understand, Carlos Hyde is the best running back on the team, a guy who played 10 games last season and ran for 970 yards and 16 touchdowns. Bradley Roby is even better -- a projected top-10 pick in the 2014 NFL Draft. Hyde faces no charges. Roby's charges were downgraded and reportedly will be dismissed after he goes through a diversion program.

Meyer hammered them both. And also he suspended Rod Smith -- who would have started at tailback, in place of Hyde -- for an offseason rules violation.

Meyer is not who we thought he was, although I'll say it again -- haters gonna hate. The Florida stuff was so offensive, some will never get over it. The Buckeyes' early season quality of opposition is so weak, some will say Meyer isn't being tough at all.

Some people will never be happy. Want to dislike someone badly enough, you can find something to hang your hat -- and your hate -- on. That is Urban Meyer's lot in life, and so be it. Decisions have consequences, and he made some when he was at Florida.

He's making different decisions now at Ohio State. Ignore them if you want, but ignoring them is what you would be doing.

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