Like Penn State and Michigan State before it, Ohio State has been embroiled in an institution-defining crisis for the past several weeks.
Reports that assistant football coach Zach Smith had been accused of abusing his wife, Courtney, on at least two occasions revealed what now appears to have been a conspiracy to hide Mr. Smith’s alleged action. Head coach Urban Meyer knew about the allegations, lied about that knowledge, and did nothing to ensure a proper investigation took place.
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Over the past two weeks-plus, an independent group assembled by Ohio State has investigated Mr. Meyer, his knowledge of the allegations, and his actions (or lack thereof). Its verdict? Mr. Meyer’s conduct is worthy of a three game suspension. Ohio State also suspended athletic director Gene Smith for two weeks without pay.
So Ohio State was facing a test of its courage (it would take courage to fire or seriously discipline Mr. Meyer) and its moral integrity. It failed. And courage and moral integrity, it could be argued, are the ultimate measures of an institution of higher learning.
We all know the tragic stories of abuse and the sickening stories of indifference and cover up at multiple universities. The Buckeyes had a chance to be different; to reform. They took a pass.
And Urban Meyer is the now poster boy for coaches who just don’t get it because they don’t think they have to.
Even at the press conference announcing his suspension, Mr. Meyer was arrogant, generally unconvincing as to his remorse, and clueless. He apologized to “Buckeye Nation” but neglected to apologize to Courtney Smith by name, the only real victim in this whole ordeal.
What reason is there for retaining Mr. Meyer? Simple: He is a good football coach.
What was the reason for OSU to give him more meaningful punishment? Simple: It would have been right. It would have changed the culture at OSU, which badly needs to change and, clearly, now will not. And it would have been one small step forward into the light of decency for college sports.
By choosing to suspend Mr. Meyer rather than fire him, Ohio State has permanently enshrined itself in the Hall of Shame.
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