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Buckeye fans rally to support Urban Meyer

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    Stacy Elliott, father of former Ohio State Buckeyes running back Ezekiel Elliott, speaks to members of the media following a rally in support of Ohio State Buckeyes head football coach Urban Meyer on Monday.

    Joshua A. Bickel/Columbus Dispatch

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    Supporters of Ohio State Buckeyes football coach Urban Meyer cheer during a rally in support of Meyer on Monday.

    Joshua A. Bickel/Columbus Dispatch

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    Mark Harnisch, of Port Clinton, Ohio, stands outside Ohio Stadium following a rally in support of Ohio State Buckeyes head football coach Urban Meyer on Monday.

    Joshua A. Bickel/Columbus Dispatch

  • Jeff-Hamms

    Ohio State fan Jeff Hamms, left, with head coach Urban Meyer at a prior event. Hamms has organized a rally for the embattled coach Monday on campus.

    Photo provided by Jeff Hamms

COLUMBUS — There’s no shortage of support for Urban Meyer.

Buckeye Nation, which the embattled coach addressed in a statement Friday, has mobilized with a full-throated roar.

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Ohio State fan Jeff Hamms, left, with head coach Urban Meyer at a prior event. Hamms has organized a rally for the embattled coach Monday on campus.

Photo provided by Jeff Hamms Enlarge

Jeff Hamms, better known as “Tennessee Jeff” to Ohio State fans, organized a rally Monday at the Ohio Stadium rotunda in support of Meyer, an event that attracted an estimated 200 people.

Dozens of fans had signs disparaging ESPN and others pledged their allegiance for Meyer. One read “Me Too! I support: Urban Meyer & the Bucks. O-H-I-O.” Another said “Innocent ‘til proven guilty. ESPN guilty of abuse!”

“We need to take a stand,” Hamms said. “I thought if, in fact, Urban did follow protocol, we should hold a rally. I want to support our head football coach Urban Meyer and put a positive light on him as a man and as a coach. Sure, we like him because he wins 90 percent of his games. Obviously, we’re not stupid. But I’ve seen him interact with players, coaches, their families — I’m at everything — and he’s just a good guy.”

Meyer was placed on paid administrative leave Wednesday as the university investigates what he knew of allegations of domestic abuse involving former wide receivers coach Zach Smith in 2015. Ohio State announced Sunday evening that the investigation is expected to be complete within the next two weeks. The team, ranked third in the country, began practice for the upcoming season Friday.

The rally started with a prayer and featured Ohio State songs and fans shouting reasons why Meyer should be reinstated as the Buckeyes’ coach. Stacy Elliott, the father of former Buckeye running back Ezekiel Elliott, who was suspended by the NFL for six games last season after domestic abuse allegations by a former girlfriend, drove from St. Louis to attend the rally. 

“I love Urban Meyer,” Stacy Elliott said. “He’s a man of integrity.” 

Hamms, a frequent caller into Meyer’s call-in radio show and Columbus sports-talk radio, is a 49-year-old AdvoCare sales rep who’s missed one OSU game since 1987. He’s known for signing off with “I love ya, brother,” during his calls to Meyer during the coach's weekly, in-season show.

The Canton, Ohio, native, who moved to Tennessee — hence the nickname — and now lives in Myrtle Beach, has a Friday segment during football season on 97.1 The Fan in Columbus called “Pep Talk with Tennessee Jeff.”

When Meyer released a statement Friday saying he followed proper protocols regarding the 2015 allegations, Hamms sprung into action. Ironically, Facebook, where reporter Brett McMurphy broke the Smith news, became Hamms’ vehicle for organizing the Meyer rally.

“This is not about domestic violence. This is not about supporting any of that,” Hamms said. “What I’m doing is for the Paul Finebaums of the world who call Urban a fraud and say he has no respect for humanity. That irks me, and we need to set the record straight about who he is as a football coach.”

A petition on Change.org to save Meyer from being “wrongfully fired” had nearly 30,000 signatures Monday night. The petition, addressed to Ohio State president Michael Drake, says, “Urban Meyer is on the hot seat and can be wrongfully fired from Ohio State it is up to us Buckeye Nation to help him not just for him but for THE Ohio State University and the great state of Ohio!”

On Sunday, the Meyer saga reached conspiracy theory status with a post on Reddit in which the poster, who claims to be an attorney from Ohio, provides screenshots of McMurphy’s original story about the allegations against Smith and later versions that were edited, somehow signaling that there’s a vast media conspiracy trying to oust Meyer.

If no more information emerges and Meyer is fired by Ohio State, Hamms is prepared for his love of all things scarlet and gray to be impacted.

“If there’s no new earth-shattering news and they get rid of him because it’s a public relations nightmare, absolutely 100 percent,” he said. “Get ready to write the $38 million [buyout] check because you have nothing on him. I’ve even talked about boycotting the season. One man is not bigger than the brand or the program, but I also believe if there’s nothing else on him, he should be back to work Tuesday.”

Contact Kyle Rowland at krowland@theblade.com, 419-724-6110, or on Twitter @KyleRowland.

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