Nothing about the Ohio State situation looks good for Urban Meyer.
A self-proclaimed giver of second chances, who oversaw a football program at Florida that won on the field but often was a mockery away from football, Meyer is in trouble.
He either knew one of his assistant coaches, Zach Smith, was beating up his wife or he didn’t. And either way, Meyer should be gone.
It’s difficult to imagine that an Ohio State investigation into this matter will result in Meyer being retained. But such a result cannot be counted out, either. Because Meyer is a winning coach (73-8 at Ohio State, 177-31 overall, three national championships) who is getting paid a boatload of money (he’s owed $38 million if fired without cause and is scheduled to make $7.6 million this season), there are benefits of doubt probably in play here.
The evidence is overwhelming that Zach Smith is a bad guy. He was a bad guy in 2009 when he was arrested for domestic abuse, but no charges were filed. Instead, good ole Urban and his wife, Shelley, took the couple under their wings for “counseling.”
Because Urban Meyer is all about making people better, you know? And about giving them lots of rope.
It’s only because of the reporting of Brett McMurphy that this situation has come to light. He is the one who uncovered text messages about the ongoing abuse from Courtney Smith, Zach’s ex-wife (they divorced in 2016), to several wives of Ohio State assistant football coaches. And to Shelley Meyer.
This week, McMurphy reported a text-message exchange between Courtney Smith and Lindsey Voltolini, wife of Ohio State football operations director Brian Voltolini, in which Lindsey wrote that Urban Meyer said Zach Smith denied Courtney’s allegations.
But there’s this: Meyer, responding to McMurphy’s initial report about the 2015 incident at Big Ten media day on July 23, denied any knowledge of the incident.
“I was never told about anything,” Meyer told McMurphy. “Never anything came to light, never had a conversation about it.”
The accounts are obviously at odds.
Here are my questions: If Urban and Shelley Meyer were so concerned after the 2009 arrest, so much so as to offer “counseling,” did they not keep tabs on the situation?
Why did Urban Meyer keep Zach Smith on his staff at Florida? Whey did he bring him to Ohio State? Was it because Zach Smith is the grandson of former Ohio State coach Earle Bruce, a mentor for Meyer?
Smith did finally fire Smith the day before Big Ten media day in late July, but had the fall to say it was a tough decision.
Urban Meyer cannot be salvaged, nor should he be. It’s only because of his huge impact on Ohio State football that this is even being drawn out. If you take 10 minutes to study this case, the conclusion is clear.
Meyer likely will continue to use the excuse that he didn’t know, that his wife never told him what she knew. That will, of course, portray Shelley Meyer as the villain in this situation, and to some degree that’s accurate.
But it’s a huge stretch to believe Shelley Meyer, Meyer’s wife and “life partner” for 29 years, stayed silent on this matter. Especially because of the “counseling” that occurred in 2009. Obviously, both Urban and Shelley were aware that Zach had a problem.
Yet all of the evidence points to both Meyers avoiding a difficult situation by taking the easy way out. It looks like they are complicit in domestic abuse, of taking the side of the abuser over the victim.
All Urban Meyer had to do was fire Zach Smith in 2009. Instead, the coach whose view of himself became larger than his life, decided he would remain loyal to the grandson of a mentor. Meyer would believe, an assistant coach who denied there was anything serious to the allegations made by his wife.
I believe Ohio State will do the right thing. It’s not comprehensible to me that Meyer will be retained as the Buckeyes’ coach, even if Shelley Meyer clammed up about what she knew.
I have to believe the attorneys for both sides are working out a settlement. I have to believe that with any good faith at all, Meyer is trying to retain his job.
Millions of dollars are at stake here and I’m not naïve enough to think Meyer is going to suddenly become honest with all of those dollars on the line.
But I hope he sees the error of his ways and that he’ll explain to his team, his coaches, his administration and his university how something like this could happen.
This self-proclaimed leader of men turns out to be a fraud. He won football games, yes, but on the scoreboard of life he’s fallen way behind.