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Urban Meyer: Chances of Ohio State coach returning just improved dramatically

Urban Meyer-Ohio State-Ohio State Buckeyes-Ohio State football
Ohio State coach Urban Meyer took ownership of his actions on Friday. (Mike Carter/USA TODAY Sports)

Ohio State Football

Urban Meyer: Chances of Ohio State coach returning just improved dramatically

COLUMBUS — Urban Meyer is not in the clear yet. But the Ohio State coach can probably see the sideline at the Horseshoe again from where he’s standing.

The independent investigation into what Meyer knew about the Zach Smith incidents in 2015, when he knew them and how he handled that information hasn’t even completed a full day yet. But in taking ownership of his misleading, untrue statements about the issue at Big Ten media days and now making clear that he reported the matter through the proper channels, the odds of Meyer returning to the Buckeyes just skyrocketed.

Ohio State opened practice without him on Friday morning thanks to his paid administrative leave. But if all the details he outlined in his letter later in the day are true, Meyer probably isn’t likely to remain absent from training camp for long.

“Here is the truth: While at the University of Florida, and now at The Ohio State University, I have always followed proper reporting protocols and procedures when I have learned of an incident involved a student-athlete, coach or member of our staff by elevating the issues to the proper channels,” Meyer posted in a letter on Twitter. “And I did so regarding the Zach Smith incident in 2015. I take that responsibility very seriously and any suggestion to the contrary is simply false.”

“The power of what I say and how I say it, especially regarding sensitive and serious domestic issues, has never been more evident than now. My words, whether in a reply to a reporter’s question or in addressing a personnel issue, must be clear, compassionate and most of all, completely accurate. Unfortunately, at Big Ten Media Days on July 24, I failed on many of these fronts.”

Based on Courtney Smith’s accounts during a video interview on Wednesday on the website Stadium, it became impossible to believe that Meyer was unaware of what was happening with his wide receivers coach three years ago. And while there is a clause in his contract that would allow Ohio State to potentially fire him for cause due to acts of dishonesty, lying to the media seems almost comically unlikely to end the coaching career of a three-time national champion.

The one thing Meyer could not afford to do was lie to his bosses about what he knew about Zach Smith. And if his latest account winds up being the kind of truthful Meyer should have been initially, that might be all he needs to return to work.

“I understand that there are more questions to be answered, and I look forward to doing just that with the independent investigators retained by the university,” Meyer wrote. “I will cooperate fully with them.

Gene Smith-Urban Meyer-Ohio State Buckeyes-Ohio State football

Gene Smith will need to answer questions about what all happened with Urban Meyer and Ohio State as well. (Birm/Lettermen Row)

” … Please know that the truth is the ultimate power, and I am confident that I took appropriate action. I deeply regret that I failed in my words.”

An apology alone isn’t going to fix everything. But it’s definitely a start for Meyer in the process of trying to reclaim his job.

That is definitely not a guarantee at this point, and that’s why the independent investigation is so critical for Ohio State. There are still questions that need to be answered at this stage, starting with exactly how many of the allegations with Smith that Meyer and the decision-makers at the university were aware of at the time. The fact that Smith was never charged with a crime and that the police reports in Powell were redacted and in some respects still being shielded from the public are likely another factor that would work in Urban Meyer’s favor.

Meyer will still have to address why he felt comfortable keeping Smith on staff for nearly three years when he knew about the allegations. That may well be an issue that comes up for administrators above Meyer, including athletic director Gene Smith. It also seems a bit strange that Meyer would risk his entire legacy and $38 million on a position coach who at best had an up-and-down tenure with the Buckeyes just on the field, even with his loyalty to Smith’s grandfather, Earle Bruce.

It’s still a real possibility that Ohio State may wind up deciding that there is too much of a public-relations stain to keeping Meyer around at this point. If the Buckeyes give him back his whistle, they need to be absolutely sure there’s nothing else out there that could damage the program or the university.

On Wednesday afternoon, it looked like Ohio State and the national-title winning coach parting ways might have been the betting favorite. But the odds have swung now, and that momentum might carry Urban Meyer right back to the Woody Hayes Athletic Center — and soon.

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Brunstar
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Brunstar

So Urban Meyer is only guilty of lying to the media in an effort not to discuss the private life of a former employee. Just reinstate him already, nobody in the US cares about lying to the media, the media lies to us every day.

Bryan Betts
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Bryan Betts

This is all a ploy by Cynthia Smith to sue the University, now that her husbands cushy high paying job at Ohio State in no longer. Her alimony and child support payments are going to decline dramatically. Notice how all these bogus allegations of a cover up came about by Mrs. Smith after his termination. In short, the police did not even file a report and no charges were pressed against Zach Smith. If a paper trail, or email chain exists proving Meyer reported the incident (which again led to no charges being filed by Mrs. Smith, and no Police… Read more »

B DUBS
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B DUBS

He was guilty of one thing: fluffing off a media member’s witch hunt questioning. He should be back at practice on Monday!

Buckeye Fan from up north
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Buckeye Fan from up north

I agree, and i really thought we would lose Coach Meyer. I though he would quit. Why he spoke the aay he didi dont know, but i do know al of us say lots of thngs we wished we would not have or said things that were not true, even if we dont actively try to lie or deceive. Where is forgiveness? Where is grace? There is not much in this world, one mistake, one miscue and they all jump for someones job, to punish them. There has to be someone to blame except the actual perpetrator and the cictim… Read more »

Bringthejuice
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Bringthejuice

This is precisely why I haven’t been worried once about this whole mess. If, instead of blindly following the rioting mob that ESPN has stirred into a frenzy, you sit down and think this through…this was always going to end this way. If Meyer had covered up the 2015 incident, the university would’ve fired him a couple weeks ago when they (and we) found out about it in the news. The administrative leave was a formality and, I believe, done in the best interest of the team considering fall camp was about to start. I also believe Wilson and Schiano… Read more »

Flam7
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Flam7

Letterman Row has been the only Ohio State football media that stayed on the positive side of this Meyer witch hunt. I’m now totally loyal to this website for my Buckeye coverage. Please join me; Share this site on your Social Media. Get the word out. This place has great Buckeye coverage AND they are not afraid to stand up to the media MOB trying to bring down a good coach and great man.

Ron Thomas
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Ron Thomas

Don’t listen to the Common Man then. Caught him by pressing road traffic and disinterest in what else was on radio. Reaffirmed why I don’t listen.

Buckeye Fan from up north
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Buckeye Fan from up north

Here is why i hope Urban Meyer stays at Ohio State. First off, i admire him as a man for the way he lives and does things, the principles and values that show in his walk in both his actions and speech. Because i see goodness in his doings, over time, how he is a loving husband and father and as a believer in God whom is not afraid to speak about openly. ( well, he is getting better at it anyways, but he does speak of faith, which is what he means by faith)How he treats people, his players,… Read more »

Buckeye Fan from up north
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Buckeye Fan from up north

Yes !! They have improved !!
Honestly, i am absolutely thrilled that its turning out this way!!
Because I really love Ohio State Footbal, and Coach Meyer.
And hope he stays and coaches here for a long long time
Thanks for writing a poaitive and hopeful article on this situation!! Its about the only one i have seen from any media and its absolutely wonderful and joyous to me.
I willwrite a longer post on why i admire Coach Meyer, and why it is important to me he stays. Thank you.

Grom
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Grom

Meyer has a history of ignoring problems with players and now coaches. At Florida, many players had criminal records. Even Zach Smith had domestic violence cases then. Meyer equivocates when facing these questions. Keeping a guy because he was the grandson of Earl Bruce is just stupid.

Buckeye Fan from up north
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Buckeye Fan from up north

You are assuming why he ” kept ” him. You do not know that,only what you read and assume.also, do you know that at the top 50 schools last year alone, there were some 900 arrests of players??? Arrests man. How much other bad behavior do these kids come in with?? Its everywhere dude, and until you recognize this, and stop blaming coaches for all these problems, and understand that they have to spend tons of time and resources just to re trsin and teach proper moral behaviors elementary things to many folks, to these kids, the. You will have… Read more »

Austin Ward is Lettermen Row's senior writer covering Ohio State football and basketball. The award-winning journalist has covered the Buckeyes since 2012, spending five of those seasons working for ESPN after previous stints at the Casper Star-Tribune and Knoxville News Sentinel.

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