Opinion: Pressure on Ohio State to Do the Right Thing

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The Columbus Dispatch (Ohio)


It's Wednesday evening and the television is on in the background, tuned to ESPN, and there are a lot of football people breaking down a case of domestic violence.

They're asking, "What did Urban Meyer know and when did he know it?" They're speculating about whether Meyer, the Ohio State football coach, lied to the world during the Big Ten media gathering last

They're asking, "What did Urban Meyer know and when did he know it?" They're speculating about whether Meyer, the Ohio State football coach, lied to the world during the Big Ten media gathering last week. They're cautioning not to jump to conclusions until all the facts are known.

An hour earlier, it was announced that Ohio State had placed Meyer on paid administrative leave. This came nine days after Meyer fired his receivers coach, Zach Smith, when a report surfaced that Smith had been charged with aggravated domestic battery in 2009. (Back then, Meyer and Smith were coaching at the University of Florida.)

Since, at least nine reports by the Powell police department have included Smith's name or his wife's -- Courtney Smith -- involving domestic disputes. The reports are dated from January 2012 through July 2018.

Among the reports is an alleged incident of domestic abuse in October 2015. It was brought to light last week by veteran college football reporter Brett McMurphy. Meyer at first denied knowledge of the report. Then he said he didn't find out about it until recently. And now ESPN is on, and there's a former player on the phone talking about what a great guy Urban Meyer is.

Courtney Smith is in the wilderness here. Courtney Smith has confided in McMurphy, who has remained in front of this story. Courtney Smith said she told Meyer's wife, Shelley, about what was going on back in 2015, said she has the text messages to prove it.

On Wednesday, a video interview was posted and, in it, Courtney Smith tells her story. She shows pictures of abrasions she had on her neck and one of her arms.

What did Urban know and when did he know it?

Is that really the question the great state university should be asking as it conducts an internal investigation? (Hopefully, they're using different investigators than the crack team that looked into Jim Tressel's coverup of Tattoogate in 2011.)

As ESPN shifted to coverage of the MLS All-Star Game, I surfed over to the Ohio Domestic Violence Network's media guide, which has useful information for journalists who have a mother, a wife or a daughter.

On the list of 10 things to know: Domestic violence is rarely an isolated incident; a batterer's tactics are usually broader than physical violence and threats of physical violence; other tactics include extreme monitoring of a victim's activities and communications, threats or actual abuse of children; separation or leaving is the deadliest time for domestic violence.

What do we know?

Zach Smith and Courtney Smith divorced in 2016.

Zach Smith is a grandson of Earle Bruce, the noted Ohio State football coach who died in April. Meyer worked for Bruce and considered him a mentor.

Shelley Meyer is a registered nurse and an instructor of clinical practice at Ohio State.

We also know that, in 2011, when then-OSU president E. Gordon Gee was asked in a news conference whether he had given any thought to firing Tressel, Gee said, "I'm just hoping the coach doesn't dismiss me."

Ha, ha, ha.

The present scandal isn't funny. It looks like a case of domestic violence has been ignored, at least, and possibly covered up. There may be serious Title IX issues involved, and if Urban Meyer and/or Shelley Meyer did not report what they knew, when they knew it, it could be grounds for firing. See: University Policy, Section 1.15.

When OSU President Michael Drake shows up on ESPN -- soon, hopefully -- it would be best if athletic director Gene Smith isn't there as his sideman and that Urban Meyer is nowhere in the picture.

Do the right thing. Given the many scandalous clouds that surround the great state university, it would be novel and welcome.

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August 2, 2018


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