Ohio State Must Get Ahead of Scandal, Fire Urban Meyer Immediately

Matt Hayes@matthayescfbSenior National College Football WriterAugust 1, 2018

Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer speaks at the Big Ten Conference NCAA college football Media Days in Chicago, Tuesday, July 24, 2018. (AP Photo/Annie Rice)
Annie Rice/Associated Press

Let's make this as clear and concise as possible, right away: Everyone affiliated with Ohio State University, from university president Michael Drake to athletic director Gene Smith to the common Buckeyes fan, should be absolutely terrified of what comes next.         

How much has football coach Urban Meyer lied about? What does former assistant coach Zach Smith have on the rest of the football program? How big will this scandal become?

When you can't trust a coach you're paying more than $6 million per year, it's time to let him go.

Not place him on paid administrative leave (as the school did Wednesday) or some other half-measure. Let him go. If you don't know what else lurks beneath a damning and detailed report from college football reporter Brett McMurphy—a report that presents evidence that Meyer had knowledge of his former assistant coach's alleged domestic abuse of his wife—it's time to fire Meyer and avoid further embarrassment.

At the end of McMurphy's report, he quotes Courtney Smith, the ex-wife of Zach, saying her ex-husband once told her if he ever got fired and details of this came to light, "I'll take everyone at Ohio State down with me."

Absolutely terrifying.

It is here where we pause with reflection: Jim Tressel was forced to resign as coach of Ohio State in 2011 because he covered up an NCAA violation (players trading tattoos for memorabilia) and lied to his superiors about it.

That, everyone, is but a drop of sweat off Meyer's brow after the revelations of Wednesday morning.

Already, if McMurphy's report is accurate, Ohio State may have violated federal Title IX law, which says that "a college or university that receives federal funds may be held legally responsible when it knows about and ignores sexual harassment or assault in its programs or activities," and its own university policy on domestic violence.

If the school fires Meyer now, maybe it can mitigate the damage by arguing it fired him as soon as it found out. If not, the fallout will only increase in the court of public opinion—for a university already embroiled in a lawsuit from former wrestlers who allege sexual misconduct from a now-deceased doctor employed by the university in the 1970s, '80s and '90s. That case has reached all the way to Washington, D.C., where Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan—a former Ohio State assistant wrestling coach—has been accused by the former wrestlers of knowing about the misconduct and ignoring it.

The concurrence of the two—while they shouldn't be unfairly correlated—cannot be overlooked.

This is a public relations nightmare for Ohio State, which seven years ago set precedent for coaches who lie to their superiors. Why would this be any different?

Until it fires Meyer, Ohio State is merely underscoring the idea that football supersedes all for big-time colleges—publicly stating that it is willing to look past not only Meyer apparently allowing Smith to stay employed despite knowledge of alleged domestic abuse but also vehemently lying about that knowledge on national television at Big Ten media days.

"I was never told about anything," Meyer said at Big Ten media days during a session with more than 50 reporters. "Never anything came to light, never had a conversation about it. So I know nothing about it."

Based on McMurphy's report, that statement appears to be a clear lie. Courtney Smith told him: "All the [coaches'] wives knew. They all did. Every single one." And she had the texts to prove it.

More troubling is the idea that something worse could be on the horizon, its revelation at the whim of a now-disgraced former coach who was recently fired by Meyer.

So why wait to take action on Meyer? What has to be done eventually must be done immediately.

It's not like this is unchartered water, for Ohio State or Meyer. Tressel's failing cost him his job, and Meyer's failings at Florida cost the Gators their program.

When Meyer left Florida after the 2010 season, he said the program was "broken." What he didn't explain—and what wasn't exposed until after he left—was that he was the reason it was broken.

Rampant drug use on the team, roster manipulation and preferential treatment for those in his "Circle of Trust" crippled a program that won two national titles in a three-year period from 2006 to 2008 and had three 13-win seasons in Meyer's tenure. The Gators are on their third coach since Meyer resigned after the 2010 season—citing health issues—and are a shell of the former program.

Meyer's Circle of Trust was key to the breakdown at Florida. He allowed elite players to run amuck and infect the program with an entitlement disease. If you were valuable to the program, you had a long leash.

John Raoux/Associated Press

If the same type of disease has infected Ohio State, and if Zach Smith really does have information that can "take everyone at Ohio State down with me," he was the most valuable person in the Ohio State program—until he could no longer be protected.

It's easy to see why Meyer might want to ignore the alleged domestic abuse and lie about knowledge of it.

It's easy to see why officials at Ohio State must be terrified of what comes next.

The only way to get ahead of it is to fire Meyer.

What has to be done eventually must be done immediately.

       

Matt Hayes covers college football for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter: @matthayesCFB.

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