Ohio State Fans Rally in Support of Meyer

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COLUMBUS, Ohio — One man waved a homemade sign that read: "Put Urban back to work" with a hashtag of #didnothingwrong.

A woman carried a handwritten poster that said: "#urbannation: We love and support you."

They were among the 200-300 people who sweated through 90 degree temperatures at the North Rotunda outside Ohio Stadium to attend a rally Monday in support of Urban Meyer remaining as Ohio State's head football coach.

"It doesn't matter how many we had. I would have been cool if it was just me," said Ohio State super fan Jeff Hamms, who organized the event. "I'm just here to support my coach."

Meyer, 54, was placed on administrative leave Wednesday while university officials investigate whether he acted appropriately in handling a situation involving longtime former assistant coach Zach Smith, who was accused of domestic abuse in 2015. Smith was fired last month.

"I hope they keep him; it would be a mistake if they don't," said Connie McCalla, 70, of Columbus. She carried a sign that read: "Miss my coach."

Hamms drove from Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, to organize the rally. "I would have driven from Alaska if I had to," Hamms said. "I don't fly. I don't care where I was when this story broke, I was coming here."

Although there was no visible university support, Hamms said he received Ohio State's blessing to hold the event on campus. Hamms is known to Ohio State fans because he appears regularly on The Fan 97.1 radio.

He was the only speaker at the event, talking for 10 minutes without a microphone, stating that this was about supporting the coach and not a statement about domestic violence.

Toward the end, Ezekiel Elliott's father, Stacy, showed up and spoke in favor of Meyer. Ezekiel played at Ohio State and now stars for the NFL's Cowboys.

"I love Urban Meyer," Stacy Elliott said. "He is a man of integrity. I know this."

A significant number of women were among the pro-Meyer supporters.

"I don't support domestic abuse but also don't support reporting things without proof," said Maurine Strom, a Westerville resident who has been going to Ohio State games since she was 5.

She says Meyer has made mistakes in this situation but doesn't deserve to be fired.

"A suspension for two or three games, something like that," Strom said. "It might be something to satisfy everyone. But I think he should be back on the sideline."

Ohio State fan Ryan Donnal, 33, showed up at the event wearing a shirt that read: "Love will keep us together."

"Wore it because it was Buckeye colors," Donnal said. "But we are Buckeye Nation, so love will keep us together."

Donnal said he supports Meyer in this situation because he felt what Smith was accused of "was out of (Meyer's) control."

"I feel if did follow the protocol, then I feel the person he talked should be considered in the wrong, instead of Urban," Donnal said.

Hamms said he decided Friday to hold the rally after Meyer issued a statement saying he had followed the protocol by reporting that Smith had been accused of domestic violence. Meyer also apologized for saying at the recent Big Ten Media Days that he only recently heard about the accusations against Smith.

"(Meyer) is beloved at Ohio State," Hamms said. "I believe in my heart that he would not have said he reported this if he hadn't done that."

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August 7, 2018


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