Urban Meyer's Suspension Shows Ohio State Values Winning More Than Morality

Matt Hayes@matthayescfbSenior National College Football WriterAugust 23, 2018

Urban Meyer addresses the media at Wednesday's press conference where his suspension was announced.
Urban Meyer addresses the media at Wednesday's press conference where his suspension was announced.Associated Press

We now finally know what happens at Ohio State University when you reach the intersection of integrity and morality.

You choose winning football games.

Urban Meyer is still the football coach at Ohio State, and it has nothing to do with a blue-ribbon investigative committee and a bunch of administrative muckety-mucks deciding that Urb really is a good dude who only deserves a three-game suspension for turning a blind eye to a man whose years of alleged abusive behavior have forever tarnished the university.

This is all about winning football games, doing the right thing be damned.

Following protocol didn't prevent Meyer from getting pink-slipped. A 73-8 record in six seasons did.

Fulfilling obligations of his contract while ignoring any semblance of moral fiber in dealing with disgraced former assistant coach Zach Smith didn't keep Meyer from a humiliating end to his career. A national championship, two Big Ten championships and one unbeaten season did.

The inane idea that a coach can't be responsible for all things under his watch didn't protect Meyer from losing one of the top three jobs in college football. Beating Michigan year after year did.

Urban Meyer after last season's Cotton Bowl victory over USC
Urban Meyer after last season's Cotton Bowl victory over USCLM Otero/Associated Press/Associated Press/Associated Press

Because when you refuse to embrace integrity and morality, football wins by a country mile. When you refuse to take a stand and make a statement, the very coach you just suspended sits at the dais and appears to lie.

"I was not aware of Shelley's text messages," Meyer said at Wednesday's press conference when asked if he knew his wife, Shelley Meyer, was texting with victim Courtney Smith. Last month at Big Ten media days, Meyer made it clear his wife was critical to his success as a football coach.

"She's always weighed in as my best friend and soul mate," Meyer said in July in Chicago. "She's been right there with everything."

Except, apparently, text messages from Courtney Smith that clearly detailed Shelley Meyer's knowledge of the alleged domestic abuse.

But why should we be surprised? This charade of a press conference—on the heels of 12 hours of deliberation—began with the head muckety-muck of the committee to investigate Meyer plainly stating that Meyer "did not, in our view, deliberately lie" about knowledge of an alleged 2015 domestic violence incident.

Mary Jo White, former Chair of the Securities and Exchange Commission and head of the investigative committee, blamed Meyer's denials to nine separate questions at Big Ten media days on "erroneous media reports."

She began the press conference by stating: "In the domestic violence context, especially, there are many cases in which abuse takes place and there is no arrest or prosecution. And so simply regarding law enforcement to take action in the face of allegations is not, in our view, an adequate response."

Meyer (right) along with OSU President Michael Drake (left) and athletic director Gene Smith
Meyer (right) along with OSU President Michael Drake (left) and athletic director Gene SmithPaul Vernon/Associated Press/Associated Press/Associated Press

Moments later, it was clear she and the committee were fully invested in what law enforcement—in this case, the Powell (Ohio) Police Department—said about the 2015 incident despite some interesting bookkeeping by the Powell police.

White's statement of an "erroneous media report" was college football reporter Brett McMurphy detailing a copy of the 2015 incident report that clearly stated Zach Smith had been arrested. The "arrest" box was checked on the report.

Once McMurphy's story was published last month, the Powell police released a "revised" report three years after the fact where the "arrest" box was unchecked. Megan Canavan, director of communications for the department, told McMurphy "the terminology ... was different in the original report" and that's why the box was now unchecked.

So while it's OK for White and the committee to proclaim you can't always believe law enforcement will take action with domestic violence reports, apparently the Ohio State committee felt solid about law enforcement releasing a "revised" report where an arrest box was magically unchecked.

That's some quality investigative work right there, folks—especially considering White said a "significant focus of the investigation" was on Meyer's responses at media days.

Meyer answering questions at Big Ten media days in Chicago
Meyer answering questions at Big Ten media days in ChicagoAnnie Rice/Associated Press/Associated Press

But wait, it gets much worse. In fact, it gets downright sleazy.

White said Meyer "has a sincere commitment to the Respect for Women core value that he espouses and tries to instill in his players." Meanwhile, the official committee report released by Ohio State tells a different story.

The report states that in 2009, Zach Smith was arrested on a charge of aggravated battery of his then-pregnant wife. Courtney Smith says Hiram deFries—Meyer's "life coach"—and former Ohio State coach Earle Bruce (Zach Smith's grandfather) talked her into not pressing charges.

This should've been critical to the investigation, but it wasn't. It shows prior knowledge, and it shows how Meyer reacted, according to Courtney Smith, when he knew of the incident.

The committee report says: "Meyer maintains that shortly after the 2009 arrest, both Zach and Courtney Smith met with him in his office at Florida to inform him that the arrest of Zach Smith had been based on incorrect information provided to authorities by Courtney and that, in fact, Zach Smith had not hit or otherwise been violent toward Mrs. Smith."

But, the committee report continues, "Zach Smith also recalls that only he met with Urban Meyer, but that Courtney Smith did not. We find it more likely that only Zach Smith met with Coach Meyer in 2009, and that Courtney Smith likely did not recant her allegations of abuse at that time to Urban or Shelley Meyer."

This is who you've sold your soul for, Ohio State.

Meyer at Wednesday's press conference
Meyer at Wednesday's press conferencePaul Vernon/Associated Press/Associated Press

This is the man who, while sitting in front of an investigative committee, told a story that made Courtney Smith look like some unstable woman filing false charges. This is who you've decided will lead young men in your football program and be the face of your university.

If Urban Meyer wasn't truthful about meeting with Courtney Smith, what else hasn't he been truthful about?

More pressing for the immediate future of Ohio State: What else that he hasn't been truthful about is still out there to be uncovered?

"Ultimately I'm responsible for the behavior of everyone in the football department," Meyer said. "There was some behavior going on that maybe I wasn't aware of, or that I should've been aware of."

Look, if you're paying a coach $8 million a year to run a business—because that's what Ohio State football is—you expect him to know every last thing about that business, and everything that could potentially harm that business.

You don't allow him the excuse of "I followed proper reporting protocols and procedures." You don't allow him to lie, intentionally or not, to nine different questions at Big Ten media days about his knowledge of something that could stain the university for years, and later admit that "I was not adequately prepared" to speak to the media.

Hey, Urb: Your job is to be adequately prepared for anything.

Just like the answer you had in 2014 when you lost two quarterbacks and won it all with a third-stringer. Just like that 4th-and-1 call last year against Michigan.

Just like the call you made on your employee Zach Smith, who continued to show significant red-flag behavior that could sidetrack a multimillion-dollar business but was allowed to roam free until an enterprising reporter exposed it all.

Late in the hastily called press conference, Meyer was asked if he had any message for Courtney Smith—the woman whom everyone else at the press conference so conveniently forgot.

"I have a message for everyone involved in this," Meyer said. "I'm sorry we're in this situation."

This is what you've decided to keep, Ohio State.

This is what happens when you stand at the intersection of integrity and morality and choose winning.


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