As has been known for quite some time, Ohio State tailback Carlos Hyde—who was expected to retain his starting role in head coach Urban Meyer's offense in 2013—is in hot water with the program and under suspension since a mid-July nightclub incident. Hyde was named a "person of interest" in a complaint of assault to Columbus police by a young woman, and he was swiftly removed from official team activities thereafter.
In the hours leading up to Media Days, a report surfaced on ESPN and other outlets that security footage of the incident was made available to the Columbus Police Department, and that the footage did not show Hyde striking the complainant; rather, according to reports, the footage showed her striking him and Hyde leaving. That report, combined with a simultaneous report that charges had not been filed against Hyde, created a sense that this would all blow over and everything would be okay.
At Media Days, however, Meyer refused to share in that optimism, and (tellingly) maintained that Hyde was still under suspension.
Tuesday afternoon brought news that Hyde would, in fact, not face charges for the incident after the complainant decided not to file them; her statement (available in full here) essentially said that she didn't want to put herself and her family through that. For one, hey, that's her right. Two, the video is ambiguous and doesn't do her a ton of favors either.
But the video isn't as helpful to Hyde as the earlier reports suggested, and it's ambiguous enough that Hyde didn't get out of trouble—not with the law, that aspect is over, but with Meyer and the ubiquitous "team rules." And thus, on Tuesday evening, Ohio State announced that Hyde has been suspended for at least the first three games of the season and must "fulfill additional obligations before he is allowed to play in a game."
Watch the video here. You can skip ahead to about 2:45 for the incident in question.
Now, here's the question: If this were an Iowa football player, would you recommend any team punishment? Would you still want him on the team?
We're leaving that question open-ended because there isn't a very clear answer on this one. We see Hyde instigate a confrontation with the complainant. We see that situation become heated in a hurry. We see her take a swing at him, and we see him swing back; as the Columbus Dispatch notes, it's difficult to tell whether either person actually connects.
And yet, an Iowa-based attorney (no, not Mr. Vint) told BHGP that Hyde could well have been prosecuted for the incident.
"Definite assault," said the attorney who requested not to be named. "Possible battery (only requires an unwanted touch). Hyde has multiple affirmative defenses. Difficult case to prosecute." We asked if the swing itself was enough to warrant assault, and he replied, "Technically yes. Legally assault is an intentional act that creates a fear of imminent harmful or offensive contact. Here, Hyde intentionally swings and the 'victim' could have reasonably feared imminent contact.
"People often say assault when they mean battery. Just pointing a gun at someone is assault. The definitions could be wonky in whatever jurisdiction they were in but that is the standard definition."
That is certainly not to say that Hyde is being let off the hook easy here, however. "Honestly, this is a lot easier to deal with in court than in an athletic office. The burden of proof is much lower in the court of public opinion."
Further, it's not as if Hyde is skating past a substantial penalty compared to some alternate universe where this incident goes to court. "In court, with no priors, Hyde would get a small fine, stern lecture and community service in worst-case scenario." But again—this one's not going to court. Or perhaps it is, but it's Urban Meyer's court.
So we see a punishment of a minimum of three games for Hyde, none of which would come against particularly difficult opponents for Ohio State. And even if they did the Buckeyes have probably the top stable of tailbacks in the Big Ten, so there's not a big dropoff in terms of talent coming for Ohio State as Hyde serves his suspension.
But at the same time, this is the program—and coach—that has a pretty clear-cut policy against violence against women, to the point that the rule made it onto this statement of core values at the OSU complex.
So does Hyde's behavior on that videotape count?
That's a serious, non-rhetorical question, one without an obvious answer. She takes a swing at him, he takes a swing at her, then he leaves immediately. It's probably assault and probably not battery—on both of their parts. It's a confrontation she escalated but he instigated. So does it count?
And if so, if this happened in Iowa City and you were in charge of reinforcing Iowa's core values, what would you do with Hyde? Would you go "no tolerance" and let him go? Would you suspend Hyde, and if so for how long? And what do you say to your players about an incident like this?