Right or wrong, Ohio State University’s reputation will be tarnished further this week when a special committee is expected to issue its findings in the investigation of football coach Urban Meyer.
There’s no way avoiding it.
Should the investigation exonerate Meyer and allow him to return to the sidelines and coach, the university will be chastised by critics across the country as being nothing more than a football factory, where winning championships is far more important than a woman’s physical safety.
If Meyer ends up being fired for allegedly not reporting a case of domestic violence, supporters of the popular coach will see him as being the fall guy for a university being swallowed by controversies and in dire need of cleaning up its reputation. Among those accusations are sexual assaults by a former athletic department doctor, and reports that an office created to help victims was not reporting complaints to the proper authorities, thus depriving victims of counseling services.
For his part, Meyer has said he “followed proper reporting protocols and procedures” after learning of a 2015 incident in which longtime assistant, Zach Smith, was accused of domestic abuse. If that’s true, it would be wrong to fire him. However, that statement came a week after Meyer claimed to be in the dark about the abuse, telling reporters during a Big Ten news conference on July 24 that he had learned of the accusations only the night before.
Meyer signed a contract extension this year that mandated his intervention if he found out about episodes of sexual harassment and sexual violence. However, it is unclear whether his previous contract required him to report the 2015 incident. If that contract didn’t classify Meyer as a mandatory reporter, the university may not be in a position to hold Meyer accountable for it in 2018.
Perhaps the worst scenario to play out would be if investigators settle on some middle ground, such as suspending Meyer for a couple of weeks then allowing him to return to coaching the Buckeyes. That would be like saying, “yeah, the coach was aware of the domestic violence, but it really wasn’t that bad.”
If past history is any indication, Ohio State has shown that, if necessary, it is not afraid to fire a popular football coach who has won a national championship. That happened to Woody Hayes and later to Jim Tressel.
Now, we wait to find out about Urban Meyer.