Head coach Urban Meyer of the Ohio State Buckeyes football team was suspended this week after being placed on administrative leave during the investigation of assistant coach Zach Smith. Smith was the wide receivers coach at Ohio State after Meyer hired him in 2012. The assistant coach has been accused of domestic abuse against his ex-wife over the years and as recently as 2015.
While there is no longer much doubt as to whether Smith committed these allegations or not, there is some questioning as to whether head coach Urban Meyer knew of these crimes and covered it up. In July, Meyer denied any knowledge of abuse, however, he did admit to being aware of an ‘incident’ regarding the couple in 2009, 3 years before Meyer hired the assistant coach. The ex-wife of coach Smith, Courtney Smith, stated in a web interview that she had told Meyers wife about the abuse and even had her take photographs of the bruises she had sustained.
Many find it hard to believe that with all those close to him aware of this situation Meyer could not have been so ignorant to his assistant’s crimes as a key component to being a successful coach like Meyer is attention to detail. But with Meyer thrusting the Buckeyes into multiple bowl caliber seasons, it was easy to overshadow the discombobulation unfolding in the locker room.
Now on August 23rd Meyer received a 3 game suspension for his negligence to act on his employee’s personal life issues. But some wonder if three games are enough for the coach to learn his lesson after what happened to former Penn State head coach Joe Paterno.
Paterno coached at Penn State from 1950 to 2011 when he was fired 4 days after it was revealed his assistant coach Jerry Sandusky had been accused of sexually molesting 10 young boys over the span of 15 years. While sexual abuse and physical abuse differ in nature, the fact of a head coach neglecting to act on a crime still factors in here. Although, Paterno faced a much different punishment than Meyer is facing today.
After over 50 years of service to an institution, Paterno found himself fired from his job and watching his statue being removed from outside of the football stadium. This occurring all while he fights a battle with lung cancer which he would succumb to just months before a jury found Sandusky guilty of 45 counts of child sex abuse. Joe Paterno meant everything to the Penn State organization, and when the time came for his demons to rise they erased his name from the school’s existence.
Now Meyer finds himself covering up one of his coaches abuse of his wife, and he gets handed a 3 game suspension, which is less than a players suspension for steroid use (4 games).
Meyer did not commit the crime, but he also did not stop it. This is a headline those who follow Meyers career may be getting used to, as the head coach is no rookie to football team scandals.
Before his time at Ohio State Meyer was the head coach of the Florida Gators, where he won championships in 2006 as well as 2008. On the field, there was no doubt his team was superior, but off the field was not as pretty. During his time as the coach in Florida, Meyer saw 31 of his players get arrested during his 5 years there. Most notably was star tight end Aaron Hernandez, who kept his gang affiliation throughout his collegiate and NFL career. With Meyers obvious success as a football coach, it is more likely his attention to details did not fail him but more so offered a blind eye to the situation.
The college football worlds reaction to child abuse and domestic assault seems to be on different spectrums based on the punishments handed down to these head coaches. Possibly neither punishment fits the crime, but what is obvious is that there is more going on in those locker rooms than just football.
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