- Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer was suspended for three games by the university for his mishandling of allegations of domestic violence against his former assistant Zach Smith.
- In a press conference announcing the decision, Meyer never acknowledged Courtney Smith, the wife of the assistant coach.
- Instead, Meyer repeatedly apologised to “Buckeye Nation,” prompting swift criticism from many.
On Wednesday night, Ohio State University announced head coach Urban Meyer would be suspended three games for his mishandling of allegations of domestic violence against his former assistant Zach Smith.
The ruling is the end result of a two-week investigation into what Meyer knew of the allegations against Smith, and when he knew it.
College football insider Brett McMurphy initially reported on allegations made by Smith’s wife, Courtney, saying that the former Buckeyes assistant coach had abused her physically and emotionally. Meyer denied any knowledge of the allegations during Ohio State’s media day, but further reporting revealed evidence that Meyer likely had been aware of Courtney Smith’s claims, prompting the investigation.
Ultimately, the committee came to the conclusion that Meyer “fail[ed] to take sufficient management action regarding Zach Smith” and was “not complete and accurate on media day.”
At the press conference announcing Meyer’s punishment, many felt the Ohio State head coach made an embarrassment of himself, and only made more clear where the school’s priorities were.
Reading his statement, Meyer repeatedly apologised to “Buckeye Nation,” for letting them down, and the impact that his actions had on a program that he loved so dearly. Meyer said that he gave Smith the benefit of the doubt due to personal loyalties and that he did a “poor job at media day.”
“I appreciate the opportunity to learn from a mistake, and I will work as hard as I ever have to make our strong program even stronger,” he concluded.
Through all of his apologies, one name was notably absent – that of the accuser, Courtney Smith.
Listening to Meyer and athletic director Gene Smith respond to questions from reporters, it became clear that the apologies were not being offered for Courtney Smith, but rather to fans and boosters who had to go through three weeks of seeing their school’s name in unflattering headlines.
Meyer never mentioned Courtney Smith in his apology. When ESPN’s Greg Amante asked what he would say to her, Meyer replied, “Well, I have a message for everyone involved in this. I’m sorry we’re in this situation. And, um … I’m just sorry we’re in this situation.”
The reply, Meyer’s apparent dismissal of Smith’s experience in favour of apologizing to “Buckeye Nation,” was widely criticised across sports media.
“Buckeye Nation,” wrote ESPN’s Heather Dinich. “The loyal fans who pay for season tickets. The boosters who write the checks. The parents and players and recruits who would give anything to be a part of it all. Not Courtney Smith, who can’t seem to escape it.”
“He sold his soul,” said ESPN’s Paul Finebaum. “He sold his integrity. Ohio State still has one of the great college football coaches in modern history, but at what price?”
Dennis Dodd at CBS Sports was even more critical of Meyer and the school’s response. “Now we know what domestic abuse is worth in terms of missing football games – at Ohio State, it’s a quarter of a season.” He went on to note that Ohio State’s explanation for the timeline of who knew what and when was “description of a borderline cover-up.”
Meyer had the opportunity to acknowledge Courtney Smith, to apologise for his inaction and elevate her voice. Instead, he could only be bothered to apologise to the fans and spenders that help make him the highest-paid public employee in the state for the fact that his actions meant that he’ll miss a few games.
You can watch the entirety of Meyer’s press conference below.
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