All Urban Meyer had to do was be quiet for three weeks.
The bar is that low. The media has a nasty habit of moving on quickly from stories about the enabling of domestic violence and sexual assault, if they cover it at all. Sports media, in particular, loves a good redemption story, even when the redemption is unearned and undeserved. Yes, Ohio State’s head football coach was suspended for the first three games of the season for his mishandling of domestic violence allegations against his former assistant coach Zach Smith. But by quietly serving his suspension and demonstrating even a modicum of contrition, he could easily have returned to the sidelines in mid September, triumphant in the eyes of fans and color commentators in the broadcast booth merely by default.
But reflective silence was just too much to ask from a man who has spent a good part of his adult life exerting complete control over virtually everything and everyone in his orbit. (A list that conveniently does not include assistant coaches accused of domestic violence.)
On Friday, Meyer released a statement on Twitter, stating that “a number of things reported in the media … have not been correct and must be clarified.”
He started by nobly stating he was not redacting the apology he initially forgot to give to Courtney Smith, the ex-wife and alleged victim of Meyer’s assistant coach, and their children — truly a heroic act — but then made sure to note that he was “not suspended because I knew about or condoned Zach Smith’s alleged domestic abuse.”
To emphasize the point, he cited the 23-page report compiled by the investigative team hired by the university itself, which went into detail about the multiple times Meyer knew about Smith’s alleged domestic violence, dating back to 2009, and did nothing about it. Incredibly, the report concluded “Overall, Coach Meyer impressed us with a sincere commitment to the Respect for Women core value that he espouses and tries to instill in his players.”
He goes on to emphasize that he is not a liar, and that his major flaw was failing to properly discipline an employee that didn’t show up to recruiting visits, had sex toys delivered to the office, and showed up late to practice. I guess the domestic violence allegations shouldn’t have even been a part of the equation?
— Urban Meyer (@OSUCoachMeyer) August 31, 2018
Urban Meyer is a buffoon, but Ohio State set itself up for this nonsense with its decidedly non-independent investigation. As we noted last week, the report released by the investigative committee was full of contradictions. It detailed the ways Meyer lied and ignored the domestic violence allegations, then concluded that he didn’t lie or ignore domestic violence allegations. The report was commissioned not to seek justice, but to justify the continued employment of Meyer at Ohio State so that the school can continue to win football games. Meyer is perfectly happy to drink the Kool-Aid from the comforts of his taxpayer-funded home while he serves his suspension. And now he’s trying to sneak it into everyone else’s cups, too.
Meyer’s main priority, above all else, is protecting his own reputation. That’s a full time job these days, which leaves no time for taking a deep look inwardly at his own missteps, and at the way powerful systems like Ohio State and the NCAA enable domestic violence.
I have tragic news for Meyer: “Respect for women” is more than just a phrase you paint onto the walls of your locker room or repeat ad nauseam to a room full of young men in order to bank some morality points. It’s an action, one that requires strict, uninterrupted adherence in order to actually matter. Meyer could be using this suspension to think and reflect on that; he could be part of the solution. Instead, he’s worried about making sure “Respect for Urban Meyer” remains a core tenet of the media.