Not a freshman mistake
It’s during delicate matters like these that somebody — usually somebody with skin in the game — always steps in to remind us that, hey, let’s remember that these are 18-to-21-year-old young men and still prone to life’s inevitable missteps.
We hear it all the time, usually when a district attorney has to get involved in a school’s depth chart.
The key point seems to be that it will still be a life’s lesson for a youthful indiscretion, that “I’ll learn from this.”
More importantly, we’re usually told, hopefully this can be a lesson for all the other youngsters out there, a cautionary tale for the next time they start feeling especially bullet-proof with their celebrity.
And we know how effectively that always works out — usually all the way to the next news cycle.
So, here we go again and … oh, but wait.
Urban Meyer is 54 years old.
Being in charge of The Ohio State University football program is his fourth head coaching gig, all of them rousing success stories— on the field.
And yet here he is, suddenly in a giant pickle, for the stupidest of reasons imaginable.
It turns out that, even with all the Exhibit A’s out there, the adults in charge don’t learn their life lessons any better than the knucklehead kids do.
Meyer, unquestionably one of the best football coaches in America, is on administrative leave from his post with the Buckeyes.
That’s a nice way of saying that the school is hitting the pause button for a moment while it considers its options — maybe some public relations Hail Mary that will magically allow the Buckeyes to keep a coach who, though polarizing to much of college football, is understandably quite the BMOC among Ohio State fans.
Good luck with that.
The “administrative leave” came a week after Meyer said at Big Ten Media Days that he had no knowledge that a longtime assistant, wide receivers coach Zach Smith, had a long, documented history of abusing his wife Courtney Smith that finally came to a head in May.
He did fire Smith after the most recent incident, in which a court granted a domestic violence protective order to Courtney Smith against her now ex-husband.
But Meyer was adamant that he was not turning a blind eye or looking the other way all this time — he said had no idea. It was news to him.
The bombshell came Wednesday when Brett McMurphy, a former ESPN reporter, broke the story on Facebook — hey, its journalism in the new millennium — with evidence that if Meyer didn’t know about it, all the Ohio State coaches’ wives sure did, including Shelly Meyer.
The incriminating texts among the wives focus on abusive incidents in the Smith household from 2015.
And yet Urban Meyer, never heard about it? His own wife’s texts were telling Courtney Smith that she planned to tell her head coach husband about it.
That’s quite the conundrum for Urban. To keep any semblance of plausible deniability he’d basically have to throw his wife under the bus. He’d have to claim that she never told him about the real fears she had for her friend Courtney Smith.
Of course she told him.
What was Meyer thinking?
Evidently, he thought he was as bulletproof as the 30 or so of his Florida players who were arrested did during his six-year reign with the Gators.
Do coaches ever learn?
It’s a classic case of a cover-up maybe being more damning than the crime, at least in the eyes of the Ohio State brain trust that will have to decide where they go from here.
It even has the classic Nixonian Watergate scenario — what did he know, and when did he know it?
It’s not like we haven’t seen this story before.
Was Meyer paying attention when Bobby Petrino lost his Arkansas head coaching job not because he had an extramarital affair, but because he lied about it.
Maybe Meyer didn’t see what happened to Joe Paterno’s Penn State legacy when he tried to protect a longtime assistant while Jerry Sandusky was sexually molesting young boys. But he should have — it was all over the news.
But how about closer to home?
Meyer is (was?) Ohio State’s head coach not because Jim Tressell’s Buckeye players were trading memorabilia for free tattoos. Tressell was fired because he lied to the school and the NCAA about his knowledge of the situation.
And a few ill-gotten tattoos, although an NCAA no-no, is relatively small potatoes in the overall scheme of things.
But apparently Meyer didn’t pick up on that.
And now his employer, having set that precedent, is going to have a hard time spinning this one to his favor.
They never learn.
Scooter Hobbs covers LSU athletics. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org