Urban Meyer Isn't A Criminal, He's A Coach Protecting His School From Toxic Attention
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Politics and Activism

Urban Meyer Isn't A Criminal, He's A Coach Protecting His School From Toxic Attention

The Urban Meyer situation is very different from other recent college sports scandals, yet we're trying to neatly group him in with the Rick Pitinos, Joe Paternos, and Hugh Freezes of the world.


The Urban Meyer situation is very different from other recent college sports scandals, yet we're trying to neatly group him in with the Rick Pitino's, Joe Paterno's, and Hugh Freeze's just to name a few. It's just not the same. Urban Meyer is not a criminal, he's a football coach trying to protect his job and university from toxic attention.

The difference between Meyer and other scandals is that while others committed explicitly criminal acts regarding their sports program (illegal recruiting strategies, molesting children, you name it), Meyer went about protecting his university and his job in an amoral way. Amoral is not criminal.

For those unfamiliar with the Meyer situation, I'll try to explain it as simply as possible, given that it actually is a rather simple situation that we're turning into more of a mess than it needs to be. One of Meyer's assistants, wide receiver's coach Zach Smith, had apparently been rumored to show abusive tendencies toward his wife, Courtney. Whatever Meyer knew or didn't know about his assistant's personal troubles, he chose to keep the situation in-house, under his surveillance, rather than hand it over to the NCAA.

I've heard people criticize Meyer for having a god complex, that his massive ego got in the way of his judgment and he thought he was justice personified at Ohio State. Regardless of his ego, or failed judgment, Meyer was simply enacting his power as a football coach and making a football decision. Zach Smith did not molest children at a college run football camp, nor did he hire escorts to sexually entice recruits into playing for OSU. He was abusive towards his wife, in his own personal sphere. Urban Meyer is not a criminal, nor is he a cop. His obligation was to Ohio State Football and perhaps he kept whatever information he had to himself for that very reason so that something personal and detached from football didn't infiltrate the sport and his job.

Selfish? Maybe. But understandable? I think so. It is fair to say that Urban Meyer had a lapse in judgment. A three-game suspension seems like an appropriate punishment for such a lapse. To those who think he should be erased from the map of college football and demonized for the rest of history, imagine a friend in your group of friends was cheating on her boyfriend. Are you going to be the one to tell him? Are you going to go out of your way to fracture your group because it's the right thing to do? Maybe you are, but if you can't bring yourself to do it, should you be kicked out of the friend group because keeping your mouth shut wasn't morally perfect?

Urban Meyer messed up. He lied, changed his story, and enabled Zach Smith. However, I would argue that the social pressure to be perfect in the eyes of the media and people like me who write about this stuff forced him to say he suffered from memory loss instead of just tell the truth. Urban Meyer should have said, "yea I fucked up," and left it at that, but no, we want him to burn.

If we must be outraged and point fingers, point them at college football. College football's win-or-you're-a-failure culture is the culprit, not Urban Meyer. He is a football coach who thought that staying quiet was best for the University and his job security. Even if he came out and spilled what he knew about Zach Smith, that would have drawn attention to Ohio State and brought distractions from football that Meyer probably deemed unnecessary or not worth the risk. Yes, Meyer had a lapse in moral judgment and maybe he acted selfishly but, as they say, don't hate the player, hate the game.

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