This past week, Urban Meyer was reinstated as the head coach of the Ohio State football team (though he will serve his suspension from the team until September 2, and will be suspended from coaching the first three games).
What’s frightening about the situation is how poorly it was handled at times, and how football in America is seemingly above life. Meyer made no mention of Courtney Smith or her kids in the press conference OSU held on August 22 — nor did president Michael V. Drake, or Gene Smith, the OSU Athletic Director.
The first red flag: Meyer admitted in the press conference that he allowed his view of Zach Smith to be construed because of Smith being the grandson of legendary OSU head coach and mentor to Meyer, Earl Bruce. This shows a lack of ability for Meyer to separate his professional life from his personal life, and why he thought it was a good idea to keep Zach Smith employed for so long with all of his red flags is confusing.
Red flag number two: when Meyer was asked during his press conference what led to his decision to fire Smith in July, he said that he had told Smith if anything happened (with regards to run ins with the law, personal issues) he had to inform Meyer. When Smith didn’t inform Meyer of the trespassing charge in May, and Meyer found out about it in July, he decided it was time to fire Smith. So, in essence, Meyer would have been fine with the trespassing charge and kept Smith on staff, but because Smith didn’t tell Meyer about it, that’s what got him fired. Of all the things Smith did over the past six seasons at Ohio State and his time on Meyer’s staff at Florida — it was not informing Meyer of a trespassing charge that did him in.
Red flag number three: Meyer’s response that really turned heads was, “I’m sorry we’re in the situation we’re in.” Meyer wasn’t prepared to say that he was sorry for mishandling the situation, or to apologize to Courtney Smith for essentially enabling Zach Smith. No, instead, Meyer seemed to be more concerned about how hard it was for him to be away from his team for a few weeks. The three people who sat up at the table at the press conference failed to do what was right in this situation.
Meyer was more sorry to have been in the situation he was in, than he was sorry about continuing to employ someone who did not adhere to the standards he set for his program. Meyer preaches respect for women in his program, but yet, for someone reason the rules were made for everyone but Zach Smith. And all because he was related to Earl Bruce.
Schools and teams like OSU set an example for high schools and youth organizations in their state as well as across the country. So what message is being sent when the school keeps a coach on staff — who kept another coach on staff who had abused his wife? What message is being sent when you continue to employ someone who compromises the integrity of your program, your school’s name, and your professional name?
I think what has happened at Ohio State has shown just how far the whole world has to go in terms of what takes precedent. Meyer likely shouldn’t have hired Smith a second time when he became the head coach at Ohio State. But, he did. But there were still more opportunities for Meyer to have shown that he means what he says about respect for women. The second Urban Meyer had been made aware of the domestic violence allegations against his staff member, that’s when an investigation should have happened. How do we get to the point where Smith was fired — simply for not making Meyer aware of a trespassing charge? How does Smith not face any consequences prior to being fired on July 23?
It’s troubling to see how Ohio State handled the situation with Urban Meyer and Zach Smith, and it’s sad to see that the cache of a football program, of a coach, has taken precedence over the protection of a victim of domestic violence.