A month has passed since Brett McMurphy's report rocked Ohio State detailing the tumultuous history of domestic violence between former Buckeyes assistant Zach Smith and his ex-wife Courtney. OSU athletic director Gene Smith was prompted by McMurphy's findings to place coach Urban Meyer on paid administrative leave pending an investigation of the allegations against his former assistant. And before the story could fade more keeps unraveling against Zach Smith, who sent $2,220 worth of sex paraphernalia to Ohio State's athletic offices, engaged in sexual intercourse with Buckeyes staffers, and sent nude photos of himself that included one during a White House visit in 2015.
Even if Meyer had no prior knowledge of abuse at the Smith residence, the history between the two men might prove otherwise. The relationship with the Meyer's and Smith's started around 2002 when Smith played for Meyer at Bowling Green. Smith followed his former coach through Florida and Ohio State serving as an assistant before he was fired this past July. The two benefited from the convenient arrangement of Smith's grandfather— late Ohio State coach Earle Bruce—who was Meyer's longtime mentor. When Meyer was reportedly informed of Smith's arrest for battering his pregnant wife while at Florida in 2009, Urban and his wife, Shelly, tried to play the role of counselors to help Zach and Courtney. The details from that incident were never reported to University of Florida administrators, and thus masked away from the public eye.
Among the evidence presented within McMurphy's initial report were pictures and text messages corroborating a second instance of abuse from 2015. Courtney Smith's bruises and cuts suffered at the hands of her ex-husband were reportedly conveyed to Shelly Meyer, once again falling on deaf ears with no corrective action being taken and no report being handed over to Ohio State officials. Meyer was asked about Zach Smith's alleged abuse from 2015 at last month's Big Ten Media Day, but denied having prior knowledge several times-- a statement he would later retract in a written apology to Buckeye fans. New information would suggest Ohio State administrators knew about prior allegations, or had other suspicions about possible misconduct due to added language within Meyer's last contract extension. The verbiage included a clause addressing consequences for not reporting abuse would be cause for termination.
Meyer's misleading gaffe isn't the first time he responded to a situation unethically.
A report from Rolling Stone in August of 2013 revealed the scope of Meyer's involvement with his former tight end Aaron Hernandez at Florida. The famed magazine alleged, "(Meyer) may have helped cover up failed drug tests, along with two violent incidents-- an assault and a drive by shooting outside a local bar in Gainesville, Fla." Meyer knew of Hernandez's troubled past and despite many warning signs was complicit to the out of control lifestyle his former player. Years of "looking the other way" led to the senseless murder of Odin Lloyd in 2013, along with Hernandez's eventual suicide in Massachusetts jail four years later.
A pattern of cover ups, lies, and questionable character issues haunts Meyer's illustrious career, and it comes down to honesty—a quality Meyer has lacked throughout his seventeen years as a head coach. Ohio State's decision makers are able to overlook Meyer's flawed decision making for the greater good of winning. And why not? The superb coach has yet to lose more than two games in each of the past six seasons at OSU with a 73-8 record overall. As one of the highest-paid coaches in college football, a $6.4 million base salary comes with the expectation that winning trumps everything else. And the saddest part is many people believe that to be true.
Since the situation at Ohio State surfaced critics including USA Today writer Paul Myerberg have tried to draw similarities between Meyer's handing of Smith's accusations and the way Colorado coach Mike MacIntyre dealt with damaging information he was given two years ago by Pamela Fine, the ex-girlfriend former Buffs assistant Joe Tumpkin. Both acts are horrendous, but aren't remotely close to being the same.
The difference? Urban Meyer knowingly lied and Mike MacIntyre told the truth about a difficult subject.
Even if MacIntyre "promoted" Tumpkin prior to the Alamo Bowl (as some people would call it), there was no cover up or a delay in reporting the incident. Tumpkin was still a part of MacIntyre's staff and was given extra duties with former defensive coordinator Jim Leavitt departing to Oregon. Furthermore, Tumpkin's case drag out over the course of years with University of Colorado officials being left in the dark about everything. When MacIntyre and his wife, Trisha, were told by Fine about Tumpkin's alleged abuse, MacIntyre did what he thought was correct and ethical by addressed his concerns with CU athletic director Rick George. In fact, that was the process instructed to MacIntyre by Colorado's ethics and compliance office before he was hired in 2012. George and MacIntyre immediately reported Tumpkin's abuse to Chancellor Phil DiStefano, who decided not to suspend the former assistant coach. Fine would file a police report almost two months later, and Tumpkin's contract was not renewed by the university.
Following an extensive internal investigation, the CU Board of Regents determined MacIntyre, George, and DiStefano failed to follow OIEC guidelines resulting in each of them making a donation in excess of $100,000 to domestic violence awareness, along with a retraining of current policies and procedures on the matter. Fine filed a federal lawsuit against University of Colorado officials including MacIntyre, George, DiStefano, and president Bruce Benson claiming they mishandled the accusations against Tumpkin. U.S. District Judge William J. Martinez dismissed the suit and ruled the university did not have a legal obligation to protect Fine as she wasn't affiliated with the school.
The truth still remains MacIntyre is focused on building a quality program dedicated to providing a future for his players. Ohio State will still be successful with the same philosophy after the dust settles with or without Meyer. Nothing has changed going back to the days of Woody Hayes, and don't expect a major overhaul from what some people view as a minor incident. A culture like the one Meyer has fostered is a systemic problem for college sports in general. In the words of the great Dr. Martin Luther King, "We are not makers of history. We are made by history."
Ohio State's board of trustees met to discuss Meyer's future and history set a precedent with no changes coming a week before the season starts in Columbus. Meyer will serve a three game suspension keeping him off the sidelines for no longer than a month. A small price to pay for any dishonest and subservient coach who's willing to forgo values in order to compete for a national championship.