URBAN MEYER is a football coach. This is a fact he seems to forget, as he stands on the pedestal he built for himself, extolling his virtues and integrity and values. Meyer's holier-than-thou attitude has grated on his fellow coaches over the years, and now it may cost him. His job might not be in jeopardy today if he thought of himself as just a football coach. Though he will probably keep his job because he is a great football coach.
Meyer was placed on paid administrative leave on Aug. 1 while the school investigates whether his handling of domestic violence allegations against receivers coach Zach Smith violated Ohio State's policy and Meyer's own contract, which requires employees to report any incidents involving domestic violence to OSU's Title IX office. At a minimum, based on what we know, those allegations were handled poorly.
Smith was arrested in June 2009 after allegedly assaulting his pregnant wife, Courtney, when Smith worked for Meyer at Florida. (No charges were filed.) Smith was accused of domestic violence again in October 2015, when he worked for Meyer at Ohio State. (Again, there were no charges.) Smith kept his job both times, and when he was cited for criminal trespassing against Courtney earlier this year. Ohio State issued a statement on July 23, calling the situation a personnel matter and offering no further comment. Later that day Smith was fired after a judge granted Courtney a civil protection order against Smith, and college football reporter Brett McMurphy posted on his Facebook page the first of several stories detailing Smith's transgressions and what Meyer knew about them.
Meyer was in some hot water, but maybe he figured he would get out of it because he is Urban Meyer, and Urban Meyer gets to decide how hot the water is. At Big Ten media days last month, he claimed that he did not know about the 2015 incident at the time. That was a lie. And when McMurphy made it clear that Meyer was lying, Meyer said he had properly reported the incident back then. He also said, "I deeply regret if I have failed in my words." Let's pause here to imagine a Buckeyes running back saying he "deeply regrets if he has failed in his ball-carrying," rather than just admitting he fumbled. Surely, the head football coach would roll his eyes at that.
Many of the harshest criticisms of Meyer in the past week were over-the-top and many were reductive: Urban Meyer doesn't care about domestic violence. He will do anything to win. The truth is that Meyer could easily pick up the phone and find a dozen coaches who are just as good as Zach Smith and are eager to work for Meyer. It is easy to assume Meyer has the wrong values. More likely, he acted as if he could control more than he could. Hubris snares coaches as often as intentional rule-breaking.
Meyer has some free time on his hands, so he could ask himself: If his values are so strong, why did his program do such a poor job of enforcing them? It was telling that Meyer said of Smith's 2009 arrest, "What was reported wasn't actually what happened," and that Zach and Courtney Smith were a "young couple" at the time. This is the same picture Zach Smith painted during several interviews with local media outlets in early August.
Urban Meyer is 73--8 at Ohio State. Last weekend, the school issued a press release that awarded him three more wins: It came out on a Sunday night, when the media was at low tide, as though the school hoped nobody would notice; it was unsigned, implying that no administrator wants to take on any critics; and it promised a resolution within 14 days, which suggests that the school's primary goal is to finish the investigation well before the season opener on Sept. 1. Who do you think wants this over in 14 days? Hint: It's not Courtney Smith.
Perhaps the investigation, or another damning news report, will force Ohio State to fire Meyer. But the school clearly does not want to get rid of a man who won the 2014 national championship for the Buckeyes and is 6--0 against Michigan. If Meyer gets his whistle back, he would be wise to remember why: He is a great football coach.
FACES IN THE CROWD
SIGN OF THE APOCALYPSE
A MAN IS CHARGED WITH POSING AS AN EMPLOYEE OF A RESTAURANT SO HE COULD MODIFY ITS CABLE TV PACKAGE TO WATCH AN ARIZONA WILDCATS BASKETBALL GAME.
THEY SAID IT
"I SENT IT TO MY MOM AND SAID IT LOOKS LIKE I JUST GOT TO JAIL."
WIZARDS GUARD JOHN WALL on his headshot from Team USA camp, which was tweeted by Washington. After it went viral for the wrong reasons, the team deleted it.