On Wednesday August 22, 2018 we witnessed the end of a powerful and mostly proud era of Ohio State University.
I say mostly proud because the recent controversy isn’t the first time that the school and its football program have been implicated in scandal. Seven years ago, amid an NCAA investigation into improper benefits violations involving OSU football players, then head coach Jim Tressel was forced to resign from the program after a 94-22 win-loss record, six conference titles and a national championship in 2002. Long before that, the school fired its long-time patriarch Woody Hayes after he punched a Clemson nose guard during the 1978 Gator Bowl. He had coached OSU for 28 years with a 205-61-10 record, 13 conference titles, and five national championships.
The two coaches that had arguably the most success for the Buckeyes in their time were both dismissed summarily amid scandal, which clearly indicated that no matter how successful a coach was for OSU, one man was never bigger than the team or the school itself.
That’s all over now with the revelation that OSU’s current head coach, Urban Meyer, will retain his job and only receive a three-game suspension for his dereliction of duty in properly reporting the domestic abuse perpetrated by one of his ex-coaches, Zach Smith in 2015. For comparison sake, Meyer’s record with the Buckeyes in six seasons is 73-8 with two conference titles and a national championship in 2014. Those numbers and records clearly seem to mean more now than they did back in the days of Tressel or Hayes that’s for sure.
Since the Zach Smith scandal began at OSU and Meyer was implicated to have known about it since it happened, a great debate has raged across the country about exactly what punishment Meyer should receive coming off of the administrative leave he had been placed on after it was determined that he openly lied to several reporters at Big Ten Media Days when he said he didn’t know about the domestic violence situation and even suggested that it was fabricated. OSU fans have been outright defiant in their defense of him, stating that Meyer did nothing wrong and in many cases, victim blaming Courtney Smith, the ex-wife of Zach Smith who says he was abusing her in the past. Questions of legalities, procedures and all manner of ethics were thrown on the table at once for everyone to discuss for the two weeks that OSU investigated the situation.
In the end, none of it mattered because the board of trustees wanted him to remain, providing a statement that seems to openly admit and sanction his lying about the situation in the first place.
Thus, brings us to the end of an era with Ohio State where it didn’t matter how much success a coach had at the program, the program and the school always came first, and they would simply find a new head coach to pick up where the previous one had left off in terms of success on the field. That’s clearly not the case anymore since Meyer will be keeping his job and serving a paltry suspension that ends before the bulk of the Big Ten season even begins, which now has the school and the program sending two messages to all of us:
1 – Urban Meyer is bigger than Ohio State.
2 – Enabling domestic violence is not a serious offense at Ohio State.
The actions of the Board of Trustees and the school president completely confirm both of these things and it’s extremely unfortunate, because not only does it tarnish the perception of OSU as a school that is respectful to women, but it also eliminates the “blueblood” status of the football program being the most important entity on campus. Clearly that’s no longer the case, as Urban Meyer has won said status for himself against the football program with his tone-deaf and clumsily arranged “victory” over the board and the school.
Sadly, the OSU faithful will never even realize the truly monstrous defeat they have just suffered at the hands of a single head coach. Right now, Meyer has the entire city of Columbus putty in his hands. They’re openly defending his lies, they’re attacking journalists on social media like a mob and they’re holding rallies to support his deceitful employment and make no mistake it is PROVEN deceitful. He openly LIED about knowing of Smith’s domestic violence and then later admitted that he lied MULTIPLE times. That alone should be enough to warrant termination on the grounds that no one in or outside the program should ever trust you again. If you lied to dozens of reporters to cover up the abuse of one of your coaches, how do the parents of a recruit know you won’t lie to them? How do the players, other coaches or administration know? What do you tell the mothers of recruits about your lack of attention to domestic violence? What do you tell the female students on campus as well? How can anyone rightfully trust you again?
For Buckeye fans, it seems all he has to do is win at a 90 percent clip and beat Michigan on a regular basis. As long as he does that, his assistants can do whatever they want, as Smith did for far too long. If that’s how the school is going to treat this from now on, then I suggest renaming the school “The Urban Meyer University,” or at least stop saying “The Ohio State University,” because if you’re good with this suspension, then you don’t believe your school is big enough to warrant such a stately title. If you did, Meyer’s fate would have been the same as Tressel or Hayes and you’d be talking about how you’ll still win the Big Ten no matter who coaches your team. It’s too bad you don’t have any more confidence in your program as a whole……or self-respect.
P.S. OSU defenders, please save your "whataboutisms" when reading this post. We have heard them all and quite frankly, when you are scrutinized enough by everyone else to the point that you have to deflect attention from your own troubles by claiming that everyone else has them as well, that just makes you look more pathetic and fanboyish. Not a good look. Just a thought.