Urban Meyer deserves more than a wrist slap
The tweet from Paul Hembekides of ESPN Research says everything you need to know about the NCAA’s relationship with truth, justice and the American way:
“Terrelle Pryor: suspended 5 games for selling gear in exchange for tattoos.
“Todd Gurley: suspended 4 games for accepting $3,000 to autograph memorabilia.
“9 UNC football players: suspended 4 games for selling sneakers in exchange for up to $2,500.
“Urban Meyer: suspended 3 games.”
There you have it: College athletes who make a little cash on the side are treated harsher than college coaches who ignore domestic abuse allegations.
Ohio State’s punishment of Meyer isn’t a wrist slap; it’s a love tap. It’s a wink-and-nod. It’s the administration telling us that Meyer’s pristine won-loss record is more important than his smudge-filled ethics record.
The Board of Trustees spent 11 hours reviewing an investigation that took two weeks and decided a three-game suspension was appropriate for multiple types of misconduct in Meyer’s handling former assistant coach Zach Smith.
Fortunately for Meyer, his dereliction only involved domestic violence. His predecessor, Jim Tressel, was forced to resign in 2011 for impropriety regarding his players’ impermissible benefits.
Apparently, looking the other way and lying only works when a woman is victimized, not the NCAA rulebook.
Ohio State had more than enough information to cut Meyer loose, but clearly didn’t want to fire him with or without cause. He’s set to collect more than $38 million over the next five years, and his winning percentage with the Buckeyes (.901) says he’s worth every cent.
Along with Alabama’s Nick Saban, Meyer is considered the top of his profession. Coaches of that caliber aren’t dismissed easily ... unless their school lands in the crosshairs for NCAA sanctions. Tressel was 106-22 with a national title, but he had to go because his scandal led to a bowl ban and other penalties.
Call me crazy, but I’d need to send a stronger message if my coach behaved like Meyer. He might not have been fired, but he’d take a seat for half the season, maybe the whole thing.
His supporters say he did nothing to deserve a harsher punishment, but I wouldn’t be too adamant about. The future could bring more charges, perhaps even criminal.
Consider the first thing Meyer did upon learning that Courtney Smith publicly accused him of ignoring her domestic violence claims. According to the university investigation, Meyer on Aug. 1 asked an assistant how to delete old text messages. When investigators examined Meyer’s phone the next day, his text messages went back only to last year.
That’s potentially a problem.
As a public employee, Meyer is subject to open-record laws. Hiding information by deleting work-related messages on a school-issued phone is illegal. The investigative report deemed it “concerning” that Meyer’s reaction to Courtney Smith’s claims “was to worry about the media getting access to information.”
I have equal concern about the university’s “Oh well” attitude.
With the right software and forensic experts, Meyer’s deleted tweets could be retrieved. Moreover, the school didn’t respond promptly when the student newspaper filed open record requests on July 25.
I wonder if there’s more to hide besides incriminating text messages that might confirm Courtney Smith’s allegations. Could Meyer’s phone lead to revelations of recruiting violations? Impermissible benefits? Other cases of misconduct?
Looks like Ohio State’s stance is “don’t ask, don’t tell.”
We’ll see if prosecutors play along.
Meyer and Ohio State can talk all they want about their respect for women. But they didn’t show any to Courtney Smith. Her name wasn’t mentioned in prepared remarks from Meyer, athletic director Gene Smith (also suspended for three weeks) or university president Michael Drake during last week’s news conference.
Meyer didn’t apologize to her until two days later on Twitter, at that and only after mounting criticism of his “I’m sorry we’re in this situation” response when asked what he would say to her. He said that sorry message was “for everyone involved” and he didn’t acknowledge her directly for 48 hours.
“Let me say here and now what I should have said on Wednesday,” Meyer wrote Friday. “I sincerely apologize to Courtney Smith and her children for what they have gone through.” He said his words and demeanor at the news conference “did not show how seriously I take relationship violence.”
Maybe they don’t.
But if it wasn’t clear before, we know how seriously Meyer and Ohio State take winning.
Aside from avoiding NCAA sanctions, nothing else matters.
⦁ Brooklyn-born and Howard-educated, Deron Snyder writes his award-winning column for The Washington Times on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Follow him on Twitter @DeronSnyder.