Typically, when the calendar turns to August, the thoughts of football season being around the corner begin occupying brain-space. August is now more than a week old, and the football headlines continue to be dominated by the latest controversy surrounding Ohio State and head coach, Urban Meyer.
When the news first broke that Meyer had seemingly turned a blind eye to repeated domestic violence issues between his long-time assistant coach, Zach Smith, and Smith’s now ex-wife, Courtney, I was ready to sit down at the keyboard and join the national media in writing Meyer’s coaching obituary. But, like so many other Urban Meyer controversies over the years, this too is filled with fabrications, recanted statements and hidden details. It sure makes an obituary more difficult to write when you aren’t exactly sure who the one being buried will be.
It began with Meyer facing questions at Big Ten Media Day about the recent firing of Smith and what role his violent past may have played in his dismissal. As media members began sharing details based on multiple police reports dating as far back as 2009 in Gainesville, Meyer denied having any knowledge of a particular 2015 incident involving the Smiths that took place in Columbus, Ohio.
However, former ESPN reporter Brett McMurphy, who broke the story, also had strands of text messages between Courtney Smith and Urban’s wife, Shelley, who Courtney had been confiding in while dealing with the fury of Zach’s violence for years.
Upon that discovery, Ohio State placed Meyer on paid administrative leave while the school investigates whether he not only had knowledge of the previous incidents, but that he rightfully reported them to his bosses in Columbus. A failure to report by Meyer would be a breach of contract and would give Ohio State all the leverage necessary to fire Meyer with cause. Meyer is owed nearly $20 million over the next three seasons under the current terms of his contract.
The day after being placed on paid leave, Meyer once again took it upon himself to clear his own name, releasing a one-page statement via Twitter. In his statement, Meyer not only accepted responsibility for openly lying to reporters about the 2015 incident, but he also added something he himself called, “the truth.”
“The truth” according to Meyer, is that not only did he know about the 2015 incident, he also reported it “to the proper channels.” An admission, which if proven to be “the truth,” would give Urban Meyer all the leverage he would need to remain employed by Ohio State and reap the benefits of the nearly $20 million due to him over the next three seasons.
The Buckeyes, ranked preseason #6 by the Associated Press, began practice this week under the direction of interim head coach, Ryan Day. A trustee committee formed by Ohio State has hired an outside law firm to investigate whether Meyer did, in fact, report Smith to his superiors. The law firm announced it will have its investigation wrapped up within the next two weeks.
What the committee will uncover, and who will ultimately pay the price, remains a mystery to everyone. Perhaps even to those directly involved. Although this story is taking on a similar feeling to prosecuting O.J. Simpson for armed robbery, the firing of Meyer could potentially open up Pandora’s Box to a career full of fallacies.
Ohio State hosts Oregon State in their season opener on Sept. 1st.