Embattled Ohio State football coach Urban Meyer offered a mea cupla of sorts on Friday to explain, partially and far too insufficiently, how he properly fulfilled his responsibilities in reporting the serial domestic abuse alleged against his now-former assistant Zach Smith.
Smith, in turn, went on 105.7 FM in Columbus Friday afternoon to relate his side of a story first detailed by the spectacular reporting of former ESPN reporter Brett McMurphy earlier in the week. The gist of the radio interview was Smith believes every altercation that turned physical was his out-of-control wife's fault.
The still-unfolding soap opera, one surely to be bogged down by lawyers and continued media spins like the one concocted by Meyer and Smith on Friday, would be shocking if such situations weren't so commonplace. Just ask Colorado fans.
It was just a year ago that football coach Mike MacIntyre attempted to lead his team's defense of its 2016 Pac-12 South Division crown after a tumultuous offseason dogged by his own missteps in properly reporting the alleged serial domestic abuse by now-former assistant Joe Tumpkin. Like the drama in Columbus, blame was passed up the food chain, and dispersed evenly so no one person was set up to take the fall among the university brass.
A meaningful clarification: As detestable as the situations at Ohio State and CU are, the mire that Meyer is sinking into is far more damning than anything that occurred in Boulder. While MacIntyre's decision to allow Tumpkin to serve as the Buffaloes' defensive coordinator for the Alamo Bowl while these allegations were gaining steam in the background remains a head-scratching decision difficult to comprehend, his most glaring misstep in terms of his contractual obligations was not reporting the allegations against Tumpkin to CU's Office of Institutional Equity and Compliance.
Instead, MacIntyre reported to his immediate supervisors, athletic director Rick George and Chancellor Phil DiStefano, who in turn followed MacIntyre's lead in not reporting to the Office of Institutional Equity and Compliance. All three men were punished, albeit leniently. Three days after MacIntyre was levied a $100,000 fine (a donation mandated for domestic violence organizations) he received his long-delayed contract extension worth a total of $14.85 million through 2021. Tumpkin was fired as quickly as institutional procedures allowed.
At Ohio State, the drama has been simmering for much longer, and Meyer's longstanding devotion to Smith is boggling. At the very least, Meyer was aware of the first reported instances of Smith's alleged abuse in 2009, when Smith was a graduate assistant for Meyer at Florida. As it turns out, it seems Meyer knew much more that he alleged with his misleading statements at the Big Ten football media days a few weeks ago.
Second chances are commendable, but the idea that every person deserves a second chance in all of life's situations is a fallacy. Coaching at the Division I level is a privilege, and Meyer's odd devotion to Smith reeks of nepotism. Smith is the grandson of former OSU coach Earl Bruce, whom Meyer worked under as an assistant at Colorado State at the start of his coaching career. Meyer brought Smith to Florida, and in Smith's only two coaching stops between Florida and Ohio State, he worked for other former Meyer assistants — Doc Holliday at Marshall and Steve Addazio at Temple.
Basically, the man never has achieved anything professionally outside the Meyer coaching bubble.
Meyer willingly brought Smith to OSU despite his 2009 arrest for shoving his then-pregnant wife (the charges later were dropped, with Smith's ex-wife telling McMurphy that Smith's mother and Bruce strong-armed her into not pursuing charges). Given Meyer's prepared statement he released Friday, it seems he was well aware of the 2015 allegations against Smith, the same allegations Meyer claimed to know nothing about at the Big Ten media days. Meyer also had the audacity to state he was unprepared to field questions about an assistant that was officially fired just a day previous. Remember, this is a coach who prepares for each and every wild scenario that might unfold on the gridiron. To believe he was unprepared for questions about a recently fired, scandal-shrouded assistant is more ludicrous than believing the Buffs have a shot at the College Football Playoff.
This is what happens when enablers believe they are smarter than everyone else. The biggest difference between Ohio State's mess and CU's from a year-plus ago is that, despite the missteps along the way, Tumpkin was fired as soon as possible. If there remains a shred of morality in the OSU hierarchy, the same needs to happen for Meyer and athletic director Gene Smith.
Perhaps this can be the epitaph of Meyer's OSU career. In a 2009 Sports Illustrated profile, Meyer outlined his "core values." The first, offered here without comment, simply was "honesty." The second was this somewhat surreal gem:
"Number 2 is: Treat women with respect. If you touch a female, I don't want to hear she hit you first."