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Meyer’s Job In Balance As Ohio State Reels From Another Scandal

If there’s any certainty in the sports world these days, it’s that any scent of impropriety or scandal will hunted down and thoroughly explored.

And it doesn’t matter who you are, what you’ve accomplished or how long you posed for that statute that stands in front of the stadium you coach in.

Now, it is time for Ohio State’s Urban Meyer to face the inquisition.

Meyer, 54, certainly one of the most accomplished and heralded college football coaches in America, was placed on administrative leave by the university on Wednesday.

Urban Meyer

Ronald Martinez / Getty

How big is Meyer? He is one of just two active head coaches who have won multiple national championships: two at Florida and one at Ohio State. And he makes $7.6 million a year.

Ohio State is looking into allegations that Meyer was aware that one of his assistant coaches, Zach Smith, had been accused of domestic abuse in 2015 and did nothing about it.

The university released a statement on Wednesday. Meyer and Athletic Director Gene Smith have agreed “that being on leave during this inquiry will facilitate its completion. This allows the team to conduct training camp with minimal distraction. I eagerly look forward to the resolution of this matter.”

In question is the apparent discrepancy in what Meyer has admitted to and what the evidence seems to suggest.

A report from Brett McMurphy, a college football insider who once worked for ESPN, asserted Meyer knew of the accusations for much longer than he claims. And the story contains text messages and photos that seem or support that.

While the investigation proceeds, offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Ryan Day will serve as acting head coach, even though coordinators Kevin Wilson and Greg Schiano are former collegiate head coaches. Schiano is also the former head coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Ironically, Meyer was hired in 2011 to rebuild the integrity of a program sullied when it was learned players had exchanged signed memorabilia for tattoos on the watch of Jim Tressel.

It was only after McMurphy’s report went public, and news of Courtney Smith’s filing for domestic violence protection was brought forth, that Meyer chose to fire Smith, a receivers coach and his recruiting coordinator. The Smiths are now divorced.

Further muddying the waters for Meyer is word that Smith, then an intern of Meyer’s Florida staff, had previously been arrested in 2009 for shoving his pregnant wife into a wall and that Meyer and his wife had tried to mediate the situation.

Evidence now shows that Courtney Smith also reached out to Meyer’s wife, an instructor at Ohio State’s College of Nursing, in 2015 asking for help.

Meyer has known Zach Smith, the grandson of former Ohio State coach Earle Bruce, since 2001 when he walked onto Meyer’s team at Bowling Green.

This is already a very anxious time at Ohio State, which is now dealing with an investigation claiming a university physician, Dr. Richard H. Strauss, may have had engaged in sexual misconduct with as many as 100 former students in the 1990s.

It is also the latest in a number of seemingly recurring scandals regarding sexual abuse charges against coaches and physicians that have rocked Penn State, Michigan State and Baylor in recent years.

At times like this, as it relates to Meyer, national columnists have been quick to point out that his time at Florida was also somewhat characterized by the chaos caused by his players, including the infamous Aaron Hernandez.

No fewer than 31 Gators were arrested during Meyer’s time there, many accused of misdemeanor battery, domestic assault and battery or theft. One of them, a halfback named Chris Rainey, texted “It’s Time to Die” to a girlfriend.

But his time at Ohio State has been relatively peaceful, other than the suspension in 2013 of halfback Carlos Hyde for allegedly assaulting a woman.

“All the [coaches’] wives knew,” Smith told Stadium, McMurphy’s internet platform. “They all did. Every single one. “I do believe (Meyer) knew, and instead he chose to help the abuser and enable the abuser and believe whatever story Zach was telling.”

According to ESPN, Meyer’s April contract extension requires reporting violations by staff members of the school’s sexual misconduct policy to the university’s athletics Title IX coordinator. It also says that if Ohio State is considering terminating with cause, Meyer can “explain the circumstances . …unless the circumstances are so heinous that. … it would be impossible for [Meyer] to justify his actions.”

 

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