As you're undoubtedly aware by now, Ohio State head football coach Urban Meyer was placed on paid administrative leave on Wednesday afternoon, hours after a Brett McMurphy report laid out extensive evidence that Meyer and his wife Shelley were much more aware of domestic violence carried out by recently-fired wide receivers coach Zach Smith than Meyer had publicly let on. Further records uncovered by Ohio newspapers and a 20-minute interview with survivor Courtney Carano Smith only deepened the hole Meyer now finds himself in, and language recently added to Meyer's contract indicates that by not reporting Smith's abuse, Urban and/or his wife may be in violation of Title IX compliance. In its statement, the University has promised a full investigation of the matter, and an independent investigatory group was formed on Thursday.
Ohio State now finds itself in another crisis situation with no easy exit. It's already dealing with a massive sexual misconduct situation in its wrestling program's past, which is getting more sordid to this day. Meyer is an extremely popular and successful coach, and he has placed Ohio State firmly atop the Big Ten in his tenure in (what had seemed like) a healthy, sustainable fashion. His wife is also a vocal and popular member of the Ohio State community as an RN, instructor and Buckeye football supporter. Meyer also championed honesty and respect for women as core program values. The Title IX language in Meyer's contract is open to enough interpretation that it's unclear where or when his (or Shelley's) obligations began. It's also open to the interpretation that Meyer can and should be fired for cause. And if this costs Meyer his job, that'll be three of the last five full-time head coaches—and the only three to win national championships in the postwar era at OSU—to leave the program in disgrace.
My personal opinion is that Ohio State should be negotiating Meyer's resignation.
We don't know what comes next, or how this all shakes out. What's clear is that no resolution will please everyone. Again: Meyer has been very, very popular. The evidence is also stacked hard against him at this point, and the country has been lurching toward taking gendered violence much more seriously in the past, and all eyes will be on Ohio State leadership as they decide how to move forward.
I have no information that the Eleven Warriors guys don't have, and Jason and Ramzy predicted on air Wednesday evening that Meyer ultimately keeps his job. My personal opinion, however, is that Ohio State should be negotiating Meyer's resignation, and sooner rather than later.
EXCLUSIVE: Longtime Urban Meyer assistant Zach Smith's ex-wife, Courtney Smith, opens up about reported domestic violence and what she believes Meyer knew. pic.twitter.com/dNWA9x2F4y
— Stadium (@WatchStadium) August 1, 2018
This would be a shock, to put it mildly. The Buckeyes' 2018 football season would become a target for controversy and distraction. A portion of the fanbase would be vocally outraged, to say nothing of players and their family members. The media would, well, probably never let it go. But these things are bound to happen in any scenario. Only a resignation protects Ohio State's reputation and allows Meyer to dictate a mutually beneficial separation.
Of course, this scenario would require strong messaging from the university—again, nothing less than its reputation among its most ardent fans is at stake here. It should remind fans of the serious transgressions that preceded all of this, it should state unequivocally that the football program and university have standards that must be upheld, and it should leave fans hopeful that the Buckeyes' standards of excellence won't diminish despite the resignation of such a successful coach.
In other words, it should read like this.
Dear Buckeye Nation:
Like you, I was extremely dismayed to hear about Courtney Carano Smith's allegations of spousal abuse by a former assistant football coach, and the subsequent report published by a journalist on August 1. The assistant coach was terminated immediately upon charges being filed in 2017, but it should never have gotten to that point. The university is providing Ms. Carano Smith with any support she may need, and we encourage any other members of the Buckeye family to be empowered to step forward for support if needed. Domestic abuse is not a Buckeye value—period.
This morning, head football coach Urban Meyer submitted his resignation, and I have accepted it. The Ohio State University Board of Trustees has been briefed on the situation and will continue its involvement as part of its fiduciary responsibility to the university. Ryan Day will continue in his role as interim head coach, and we have already begun the search for the best candidate to guide this program moving forward.
The position of head football coach at The Ohio State University carries prestige and responsibility. Urban and Shelley Meyer have been strong Buckeyes since their arrival in Columbus, and we've been proud of their contributions to our community. Unfortunately, the independent investigation showed that when it mattered most, Coach Meyer failed to live up to the high standards that he set for the football program and that the university expects from its leaders. Coach Meyer and I agreed that the best thing for the program was for him to move on.
We understand that many fans will not be happy to see Coach Meyer go. I would remind them that this great football program won several national championships before his arrival, and fans should expect to win several more national championship as our program moves forward. We will find another coach for fans to be proud of, and we will succeed on and off the field as Buckeyes.
Dr. Michael V. Drake
The Ohio State University
None of this may come to pass, obviously. Remember, Colorado head coach Mike MacIntyre recently survived a similar scandal that was arguably worse. But this is Ohio State football, it's 2018, there's a lot of evidence out there—and it's more plausible than not that Urban Meyer was just caught misleading the public about it.
In this climate, I don't see how Meyer ultimately stays. I don't see how Ohio State looks at the mess at Michigan State and thinks, "that's a model for our success." I also think Meyer has earned the political capital to leave via resignation, rather than OSU firing him with cause (and opening the door to a public, acrimonious legal squabble over the hefty buyout).
It's too bad. It's another big black eye for a conference that sells itself as above this sort of thing, a conference of legends and leaders. Ohio State didn't need Zach Smith in order to succeed, it didn't need Urban Meyer to mislead anybody for Smith.
But here we are, and there he needs to go.