The Third Rail of the Ohio State Urban Meyer Decision

It has become hard to separate the fan experience from incidents of domestic and sexual violence

By: Brian Pinero

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This week we will learn of the outcome of the investigation by Ohio State University into their head football coach Urban Meyer. Meyer, as reported previously in July, told media members that he was unaware of the alleged domestic violence incidents concerning Zach Smith, a member of his coaching staff. 

However, Meyer may not have been completely honest about his knowledge of the incidents of domestic violence with Coach Smith. And despite that past knowledge, he continued to employ Smith. We know that there was discussion between members of the coaching staff, their partners and later we learned Meyer reported to officials at the university. Yet little, if anything, was done until Smith was fired in late July when he was the subject of a civil protective order.

Even if Coach Meyer followed protocol and reported these issues to Ohio State officials, there are still significant issues with the decision to keep Smith on staff. Reporting is a requirement of these types of incidents, but it is not a sufficient response to it. In the end, continuing to employ someone who was hurting his wife runs counter to the Woody Hayes Athletic Center’s “core values,” which include “treat women with respect.”

Culture cannot live on written core values, it must be lived in practice and action.

As a viewer and fan, I’m moving to a place in my sport experience where I can’t separate athletics from incidents of domestic and sexual violence. Especially in the time of #MeToo, which showed that silence about sexual harassment, misconduct and abuse helps conceal bad behavior. We all play a role in taking a stand against those who are responsible for or complicit in these types of violence.

Mark Titus, an Ohio State alum wrote for the Ringer:

“Fans have helped Ohio State become the behemoth institution that it is. But the one thing I implore everyone in Buckeye Nation to agree on—and the one thing that the university’s administration surely should not lose sight of—is that Urban Meyer needs Ohio State much more than Ohio State needs Urban Meyer.”

Sport is bigger than anyone who tolerates or participates in domestic or sexual violence. Programs like Ohio State have to decide what they want to be as an institution. But much of that comes from what we as fans decide to concede. Fans are the third rail that powers sport. We have to decide what we want to be as supporters of the teams we love.

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