Well, the Urban Meyer reputation rehabilitation tour has begun, and of course ESPN – the outlet that let go of Brett McMurphy and then had to watch him break the biggest college football story of the year – is giving him the platform.
Meyer is pretty good at these. He’s got a sincere and heartfelt way about him and he tends toward big, lofty ideals rather than specifics. “Was this used van in an accident? That’s all we want to know!” “Well, you have to understand, the world, the way it works, you’re going to have some accidents but you must forever focus on the togetherness that preceded the collision.” And so on.
The accompanying story on ESPN’s website is headlined “Urban Meyer opens up about handling of Zach Smith allegations, reaction toward Courtney Smith.” But of course we have actually heard Meyer’s version of the story several times, and it’s evolved from: I don’t know what you’re talking about to I just tried too hard to do the Right Thing.
Even taking into account how well we understand by now that ludicrously compensated football coaches exert total control over their fiefdoms and are rarely challenged, it’s hard to take Meyer remotely seriously in the clip above.
First off, Meyer, when confronted with Courtney Smith’s claim that he chose to help and enable Zach Smith, Meyer replies: “I didn’t hear that until just now.”
Which means that he has not be paying attention to any of this. Courtney Smith has been abundantly clear, since coming forward in early August, about the fact that she did so to shine a light on the fact that she felt Meyer and (the football program at large) had ignored these issues so that he could keep Zach Smith employed.
And, in a way, Meyer goes ahead and admits to as much, saying: “My intent was to try to help all involved. The only way that I knew how at the time, and I had two choices: fire a man and really put a family in upheaval financially, etc., or try to stabilize someone so you can go up and be a good father.”
Wow. Can’t you just see the HR person dropping by Urban Meyer’s office? “Well, you only have two choices.” That’s beyond absurd. Meyer isn’t some slub working for a giant corporation. It’s his football program. He could have easily handled the situation in any number of ways (paid leave with mandatory counseling, for instance) that would have included actual intervention AND financial stability. But he didn’t.
Meyer also says these words in the interview:
“I’m very clear on my view of life, my view of people. And domestic violence is at the forefront. I can’t stand when I see it, I can’t stand when I hear it. For anyone at this university to believe that Urban Meyer would turn his back on domestic violence, I need to leave. So it’s very clear my stance on domestic violence. I was not suspended for that. I was suspended because I mismanaged a very troubled employee and I went too far to help him.”
Third-person alert! You know it’s serious now.
Except this is drivel. If domestic violence is at the forefront of your view of life and people, there’s no way your wife – who you so often portray as a partner in your work – conceals it from you (as Meyer claims).
He denied being told about text messages between Courtney Smith and his wife, Shelley, regarding the abuse allegations in 2015. He declined to “speak on her behalf” regarding how Shelley handled her interactions with Courtney.
“She has reasoning for why she didn’t react,” Meyer said. “And I’m not here to speak for Shelley, but she had a reasoning and her reasoning was what it was. That’s why she did not alert me or just go anywhere else with it.”
Also, somebody should introduce Meyer to, say, professors and grad students undergrads and just some, uhh, women (and even men!) who do anything whatsoever at THE Ohio State. He will find at least a few who believe he turned his back on domestic violence. I promise.
The last part … there’s nowhere to even go with that. Meyer is so clearly accustomed to talking to players and assistants over whom he has complete power that he can’t even fathom the idea that his words need to make sense. That “mismanagement” involved keeping a man with violent predilections in a fraught relationship. It kept a domestic abuser near his wife and kids. That’s what Urban Meyer ACTUALLY did when given a chance to show what’s at the forefront of his life.
To ESPN’s credit, the network did call on Paul Finebaum immediately after Meyer’s interview to say the sensible and right things:
We’ve seen these situations go down at Penn State. And Baylor. And Michigan State. And with the Ohio State wrestling team. Coaches and administrators whose lives are intently focused on sports suddenly face an issue and – drawing from an existence in which they love to talk about making “difficult decisions” while also being lauded by fervent fanbases – they come up with the idea that they are equipped to handle it.
Or they just cover it up because some bad press is really bad press. And then they try to explain it all as if it were a decision about who should play quarterback and end up sounding empty and lost and nevertheless sure that those in their bubble will choose to understand.
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