Urban Meyer’s Suspension Prioritizes Winning Over Morals

Ohio State University issued a three-game suspension to head football coach Urban Meyer on August 22 for his failure to take proper management actions in dealing with assistant coach Zach Smith’s misconduct. Meyer’s failure to act resulted in punishment, but Ohio State could have given more than a three-game suspension.

Meyer technically did all that was required when he was informed wide receivers coach Zach Smith had been arrested on June 21, 2009 and Oct. 26, 2015 by reporting both instances to his superiors upon discovery. Smith’s first arrest was for aggravated battery of his pregnant wife, Courtney, and the second was for domestic violence and felonious assault.

Meyer, however, lied to the media

regarding his knowledge of the 2015 arrest. The lie lead to an Ohio State University internal investigation which began on July 24. At the Big Ten Media Days in Chicago that month, Meyer commented on the 2015 incident. 

“Once again, I don’t know who creates a story like that,” Meyer said.

Smith was part of Meyer’s staff for 12 years prior to his dismissal. Meyer only fired Smith after news of his arrests were made public by former ESPN reporter Brett McMurphy on July 23. 

Meyer is a coach who expounds on the importance of being able to trust leaders. He is also a coach who failed his players, his staff and the fans. In his handling of the Zach Smith case, Meyer demonstrated that he prioritizes what one can do on the field over what one does off of it. In his first round of apologies, Meyer did not mention Courtney Smith, and instead apologized for

the circumstances.

“Well, I have a message for everyone involved in this. I’m sorry we’re in this situation. And, um… I’m just sorry we’re in this situation,” Meyer said.

Two days later, he attempted a second         apology via Twitter.

“Let me say here and now what I should have said on Wednesday. I sincerely apologize to Courtney Smith and her children for what they have gone through,” Meyer said. 

Based on past cases, it is a fool’s errand to     believe that sports, especially college football, will lead the societal discussion on domestic violence and the responsibility held by employers in their handling of the issue. Universities have demonstrated a willingness to overlook and ignore personal failings if the individual can help achieve on-field (court, pitch) success. 

At Colorado University, another case contributes to the pattern of forgiveness of high-achieving coaches in the NCAA. 

In December 2016, Pamela Fine called head coach Mike MacIntyre of the Colorado University football team to inform him that Joe Tumpkin, an assistant coach on his staff, had been beating her. MacIntyre, like Meyer, told his bosses, but failed to notify the authorities. Tumpkin was confronted but no disciplinary action took place and he went on to coach CU’s defense against Oklahoma State during the Alamo Bowl on December 29, 2016. News of the allegations against Tumpkin became public after a Daily Camera reporter called CU, prompting the university to commence an investigation of MacIntyre and his superiors’ handling of the accusation. CU ordered MacIntyre to donate $100,000 to domestic violence awareness on June 12, 2017.

In an official press release, Coach MacIntyre addressed the situation.

“I did not come to CU to run a program or to achieve success at any cost. Nor has the CU leadership ever encouraged such behavior. I can assure the campus community, all CU fans and all of our student-athletes and their families that I personally (and our team and coaching staff collectively) will continue to build the rise of CU football on a bedrock set of values: decency, honor, excellence, respect for women and for all people being chief among them,” MacIntyre said.

Smith was never charged with domestic abuse, as his ex-wife dropped the charges both times. The U.S. District Judge handling the negligence lawsuit against MacIntyre and CU administrators dismissed the lawsuit. Neither Meyer nor MacIntyre need to do anything more. They were not required to fire either respective employee, since no legal charges were processed. The actions both head coaches took were judged insufficient and irresponsible, resulting in their respective suspensions. Meyer, though, has a career record of 177 wins and 31 losses. MacIntyre led CU to their first winning season since 2005 during the 2016 campaign, which has led many to question the priorities of the schools.

Both coaches have shown that they can win on the field, and Urban Meyer is tauted as one of college football’s finest. Both coaches, however, came up short off of the field in handling these cases. Still, a three-game suspension was the verdict.

Contact Ignacio Villar at [email protected].