Golden: Meyer will still get his wins, but his legacy has been stained

Aug 23, 2018
Coach Urban Meyer, above, had Zach Smith on his staff at Florida and hired him at Ohio State as well. Gary W. Green/Orlando Sentinel 2010

It’s time to stop holding college football coaches to such a high standard of behavior.

Sure, they make millions. But money doesn’t make a man.

Integrity does.

To that end, I will say this about Ohio State coach Urban Meyer: He has lots of money.

Meyer will win a lot of games in 2018, and that’s just fine with a football-starved fan base. They paid good money to lure him out of semiretirement, and the administration, that joke of an independent council and the fat cats who helped bring him to Columbus weren’t about to let a few missteps from the coaching savior keep them from chasing another national championship.

Wednesday’s news conference set the coaching fraternity back 50 years. There stood a tanned Urban Liar, head down, fresh off two weeks of paid administrative leave, reading a lame apology to everyone except the one person who mattered.

“I want to apologize to the Buckeye Nation,” Meyer said.

That’s right. The long-suffering fans who’ve had to endure a 73-8 record, two Big Ten titles and a national championship in his six seasons.

Then when discussing former assistant coach Zach Smith, whom he had to finally fire after his off-the-field behavior was becoming too much to simply ignore, Meyer said, “I wish I had done more. I wish I had known more.”

Known more outside of conversations with your wife, a trusted confidante of Courtney Smith, who alleges she was abused for years in a bad marriage to the aforementioned receivers coach you employed at two schools? What’s left to know? Meyer, one of the most prepared college coaches ever, played the plausible deniability card, and no one outside of Columbus bought it.

There was one name that wasn’t uttered by Meyer, athletic director Gene Smith or university President Michael Drake during the entire sad episode — Courtney Smith.

This isn’t to denigrate every football coach in America — I know some good men in the profession — but the mechanism that allows men like Meyer to skate certain responsibilities needs to be addressed. Coaches are given the keys to college football kingdoms and are understandably allowed to bring in the assistants of their choice. In Meyer’s case, he stuck his neck out for a man accused of domestic abuse whose biggest claim was being former Buckeyes coach Earle Bruce’s grandson.

Meyer knew nearly 10 years ago that Zach Smith had issues that went outside the football facility, but he turned a blind eye, tried to discredit longtime college football reporter Brett McMurphy and then somehow wiggled off the hook with a three-game suspension that no one will remember after he puts up another double-digit win season.

He will win, but Meyer can never again speak out against domestic abuse.

He had his chance on the biggest national stage and chose to cover his own backside.