Urban Meyer won’t get a chance to add to his career win total in the first three weeks of Ohio State football season.
Make no mistake, though. Meyer got a win on Wednesday night.
The win wasn’t unexpected, any more than the Buckeyes’ upcoming win in its opening game against Oregon State will be unexpected. Meyer, who has been embroiled in controversy over reporting domestic abuse by an assistant coach and, following that, lying about it at Big Ten Media Days, had the home field advantage, so to speak. There was some initial speculation that Meyer might lose his job but when an investigative committee was formed, chock-full of Ohio State trustees, most observers knew the deck was stacked in Meyer’s favor.
I’m going to stop here to make a point without climbing on a pedestal: Ohio State is not the only institution that would not want to fire a highly successful coach. A highly successful coach at Alabama would, in any circumstances short of the most egregious, be difficult to remove. I’m not saying “Nick Saban” here because it is not fair to him, or to University of Alabama president Dr. Stuart Bell, who I’ve met only briefly, to sit here and play a hypothetical game of “What if he did this? What if he did that?” This is simply to acknowledge that a successful head football coach at Alabama or Georgia or a basketball coach at Duke or North Carolina or Kansas is going to have a strong base of support.
Some of that depends on the school, some on the coach. Firing a Mike Price isn’t the same as firing an icon — although the UA president at the time, Dr. Robert Witt had to stand up to Price supporters on the UA Board of Trustees at that time, even though Price had never coached a game at UA. (The decision has been proven right over time.)
So what of Meyer and the half-measures taken by Ohio State on Wednesday night? The wording of the release and the answers at a press conference after it was released made it sound like this: Ohio State knew that Meyer’s actions rise to the level of a fireable offense, but had no one, not a president or an athletic director, with the strength to wield the ax.
No matter how answers were twisted, there seemed little remorse. The kind of legalese where a coach “did not tell the truth” in answering direct questions at a public forum where he was representing Ohio State but “did not deliberately lie” only insults the intelligence of listeners. And the lack of a single mention of Courtney Smith, and only the most bland criticisms of domestic violence, spoke volumes in their silence.
But that wasn’t anything new in this case, where Meyer has been silent in one way or another for nine years now, since his days at Florida. I am for second chances but this wasn’t some isolated incident that escaped notice. That’s why Ohio State should have done more, a one-year suspension from all football activities at least. Better still would have been an immediate firing.
The great debate today around college football is whether Ohio State should have fired Urban Meyer or not. But whether they should have, or they shouldn’t, we know one thing for sure: there is no one at Ohio State, at any level, that could.
Reach Cecil Hurt at firstname.lastname@example.org or 205-722-0225.