After the three-game suspension was handed down to Ohio State football coach Urban Meyer last week, the message was sent that winning matters more than the well-being of other humans.
After reports of domestic abuse about one of his assistant coaches came to light, Meyer fired one of his top assistants, Zach Smith. Smith was accused of domestic abuse by his ex-wife on multiple occasions, with the state of Ohio issuing a protection order that says Smith can’t get within 500 feet of his ex-wife, according to Dan Murphy of ESPN.
The first domestic abuse case happened in June 2009, when Smith was arrested after his ex-wife Courtney said that he grabbed her by the neck and threw her up against the wall. Another case came forward in 2015 after Courtney claims Smith refused to return their son after a visit. Other incidents have been reported as late as May 2018.
When questioned originally at Big Ten Media Days, Meyer said he had no knowledge of any allegations or the investigation. Former ESPN reporter Brett McMurphy published a story on Facebook detailing text messages between Courtney Smith and Meyer’s wife, Shelley, about the incidents. A few weeks later in early August, Meyer then said that he reported the incidents back in 2015, contradicting what he said back at Big Ten Media Days.
Ohio State has long been a premier program in the College Football landscape, and this is not the first time Meyer has had a legal run-in with his program. During the six years Meyer was the head coach at Florida, 25 players were arrested 31 times.
Aaron Hernandez played on his Florida teams. Hernandez become infamous for the 2013 murder of Canadian football player, Odin Lloyd. While Hernandez was at Florida, he was involved in a bar fight and there were unconfirmed reports of him being involved in a double shooting.
Meyer has a history of losing control of his programs, which seems to have finally followed him to Ohio State. Athletic Director Gene Smith had the chance to prove that there are things bigger than athletics, and decided, like most programs, that winning trumps everything. Meyer got a slap on the wrist and is an example that this kind of stuff can keep happening in the landscape of college sports.
With all the comments made by Meyer, from lying that he didn’t know anything, to recanting and admitting, and to Zach Smith’s perceived lack of remorse, this case was handled poorly.
The culture in college sports needs to change, and a firing of a winning coach by a heavyweight program would have prioritized human safety over winning some football games, maybe other programs would have started following suit. After all, he’s not called Urban “Liar” for no reason.