We all wait for the verdict on Urban Meyer and what he knew, or didn’t know. But in the meantime, have you gotten just the slightest sense while waiting…that some would be willing to sell their souls if it would save Ohio State’s football season?
Like you, as an individual I enjoy and respect the loyalty of my friends and associates – those with whom I work.
Like you, I want to believe that the glass is half full, positive, when it comes to undocumented allegations about people, when their lives and careers are on the line.
But as I watched the rallies and people gathered at the gates of Ohio Stadium last week, carrying their signs and swearing unquestioned loyalty to coach Urban Meyer…I had more than a slight twinge of my own questioning. Dressed in scarlet and gray, and having driven from as far away as South Carolina (one individual) to be there, what would these people be saying if the facts come out that prove that Meyer, Gene Smith, and others upstairs at Ohio State did know about Zach Smith? If they knew he had been abusive and had hired him anyway after Smith was charged in 2009?
And what would they say if those same facts confirmed that Meyer knew when the same allegations came back in 2015…and he had kept Smith on staff until just a month ago?
And, given that any of this is true, what does it tell you about a constituency of Ohio State football fans that stood there through stubborn loyalty, with their words, and their signs, intimating that football might just be more important to them than justice, dignity, and the truth?
Whew…and oh, boy!
If you’ve followed this ‘investigation’ period for the past twenty one days there are some troubling precedents – past facts – that contradict that Meyer is safe because he acted in compliance with Ohio State procedure by passing the information that he knew upstairs to Gene Smith, University president Michael Drake, and the board of trustees.
Precedent one, there are the documented facts that while coaching at Florida Meyer had 25 different players that were arrested 31 times. Included in that group was Aaron Hernandez, who three years ago committed suicide while awaiting his fate in prison following arrest for murder. OK, you say, but that can happen to anyone (including Marvin Lewis), and it sometimes does. Coaches always, always, recruit the best athleticism when they sign young men to play college sports; they don’t always recruit the best character. Anyone care to argue?
Precedent two, coaches who are as successful as Meyer, and Nick Saban, and even Woody Hayes, have a habit of doing things on their own terms. Bobby Knight belonged to that fraternity, and made it known in no uncertain terms that he’d do as he pleased, whether it was acceptable or not. But Saban and Knight were coaches at other schools, not Ohio State, and the issue is always outrageous and unacceptable when someone else does it, football be damned. I give you Penn State!
As to those who say that Meyer is in the clear over this because he passed the news on to his superiors…where are the documents, and the proof? In this day of consciousness over domestic violence I would think something would have been written down, notarized even, and produced immediately for public satisfaction when the scandal broke. HERE’S THE PROOF! We did things the right way. So why go through the cloak and dagger thing for the past three weeks if you don’t have to? Just say, “WE HAVE THE PROOF!”
Precedent three, this is a school that has shown in the past that it has no qualms about firing someone who acted out of character. They fired Woody Hayes when he slugged that Clemson football player in 1978; and they fired Jim Tressel when he lied about what he knew about players selling gear for profit. There was no cloak and dagger. But now….?
There’s no question that football is a religion in Columbus – in Ohio – not unlike what basketball is in Kentucky and Indiana. And we know that where there’s religion there’s always religious zealots, from John Brown in the 19th century to Jim Jones in the 20th. We know that there are people who would follow that religion all the way to the edge of the cliff and then jump over…if they thought the cause was worth it.
But others need to realize that Ohio State University itself, and what it’s sworn to represent, is bigger than any one person or any one sport. Another writer was quoted over the weekend, regarding what’s to come with the findings to be released Wednesday. “If Urban did know, how can Ohio State keep both him…and its soul?” In a bigger sense, how can the state of Ohio do it?
Which is exactly what scares me about loyalty at all costs. I saw those pictures of people gathered in front of the Horseshoe arch. I recognized some of them. And frankly, it scared me. They weren’t the same people I thought I knew.