The most telling statement from Urban Meyer came at the end of Wednesday’s press conference to announce his three-game suspension.
“I’m sorry we’re in this situation,” Meyer said. “I’m just sorry we’re in this situation.”
He seemed more upset than embarrassed, actually, more inconvenienced than contrite.
He never mentioned Courtney Smith’s name, never offered to donate a portion of his salary to domestic violence causes.
Meyer, the master coach and control freak, lost control of a situation he controlled right up to his incriminating July 24 statements at Big Ten media day.
I could almost see him kicking himself under the table—what he did was just like fumbling in the Red Zone.
Meyer’s mistake (to him, in retrospect) was unnecessarily needing to lie about his knowledge of a 2015 domestic violence incident involving assistant coach Zach Smith, forgetting he lives in an era where technology and text messages can now more easily trip you up.
He’s not alone, as it is happening to powerful people all over the country. Lying comes so easily to some big-time coaches, they get away with it so often, but the rare slip ups now are twice as punitive.
Meyer is cagey, but not perfect. The 23-page commission report said Meyer inquired as to how to wipe his cell phone of text messages older than a year. And then, when records of phone texts were obtained, there were no messages beyond that time.
“I’m sorry we’re in this situation” is more a statement about Meyer understanding this was a self-inflicted wound that could have been avoided. It was all his fault–the Buckeye Stops Here.
All Meyer had to do to avoid this entire mess was to say at Big Ten media day what he said Wednesday night.
Had he said then what he’s saying now, “I wish I had done more, I wish I had known more,” he would not be about to be missing games against Oregon State, Rutgers and Texas Christian.
Instead, Meyer needlessly told a lie he thought he could get away with—and it backfired. He didn’t realize the reporter he was lying to, Brett McMurphy, would double down on his reporting and produce text messages that discredited Meyer’s account.
That’s why Urban Meyer, on Wednesday, appeared more pissed off than sorry.
That said, the inquiry could not have gone much better if you discount the national blow-back to Urban’s reputation. All Urban had to do Wednesday was successfully win back Columbus–and he did.
Three games? As Paulie Walnuts used to say about a short prison stint on the Sopranos, “I can do that standing on my head.”
The “independent” commission of in-house Buckeyes did a fine job of making their report sound serious while lauding how sensitive Urban appeared to be concerning women’s issues. And while he may have not told the truth, the blue-ribbon panel determined, “he did not deliberately lie.”
So, we’ve learned this week that “truth is not truth” and a “lie is not a lie.”
Every other loose end could be tied up, conveniently, by Meyer’s intermittent “memory loss.”
I saw this tactic used brilliantly, for years, on “As the World Turns.”
Everyone at Ohio State sank a rung lower on Wednesday but ultimately did their jobs. Gene Smith, Ohio State’s embattled athletic director, took his 17-day suspension like a true warrior and took Meyer off the hook by saying it was his job to report Zach Smith’s allegations up the chain of command.
Meyer also said he never saw graphic texts that Courtney Smith sent his wife, Shelley, even though we previously were led to believe the couple shared almost everything.
Michael Drake, the school president, sounded stone-cold serious as he outlined sanctions that will, effectively, not harm Meyer or impact the team’s chances to win this year’s national title.
Nice work Mike!
Meyer always held the trump card in this: his 73-8 record at Ohio State. Had a coach with a 50-31 record done this, he’d be a goner.
It would have been nice had someone at Ohio State, or on the blue-ribbon panel, mentioned Courtney Smith’s name during the press conference.
But this was never about her, or domestic violence. This was about saving Meyer and protecting THE Ohio State University.
Ohio State got caught in lie, is what happened, and needed an adjudicated way to extricate itself from a “situation” that would crawl over the Mendoza line of public acceptability.
Mission accomplished. The Urban Meyer I know will return full force in mid-September and probably won’t lose any more sleep over this (if he lost any at all).
The entire episode might be forgotten in Columbus by the time Gene Smith dutifully recuses himself when Ohio State is being discussed by the College Football Playoff selection committee.
That’s right, Smith is a member of the committee. No worries, though, his suspension ends Sept. 16.