Synopsis: After a two-week investigation into Urban Meyer’s handling of domestic violence allegations against former Assistant Coach Zach Smith, THE Ohio State University announced a 3-game suspension for its head football coach. Meyer’s actions (or inactions) apparently didn’t elevate to a fireable offense. At the same time, OSU President Michael Drake believed the head coach deserved to be punished. Following an 11-hour closed-door meeting during which the Board of Trustees decided his fate, Meyer spoke to the press. He certainly missed the mark by failing to show remorse or offer a sincere apology. In response, numerous ESPN “reporters” argued that Meyer deserved to be fired. When will the network learn that its role is reporting and not creating news.
T10B Not Busted: Urban Meyer
After watching the press conference regarding the investigation of Urban Meyer’s handling of domestic violence allegations against former Assistant Coach Zach Smith, I prepared to write an article busting Ohio State’s head coach. By getting suspended, Meyer clearly had done something wrong. Furthermore, his holier-than-thou attitude while reading a prepared statement added to the story. However, the focus of this post changed given the even more egregious holier-than-thou attitudes of the numerous ESPN reporters / personalities who argued that the punishment didn’t go far enough.
Immediately after the press conference, OSU released a 23-page Summary of Findings from the independent investigation. Within hours, ESPN pulled the most salacious details regarding Coach Meyer from the report and summarized them as follows.
ESPN’S SUMMARY OF OSU INVESTIGATION
August 1st, Meyer discussed with the chief of football operations on how to adjust his phone settings so that text messages older than one year would be deleted
Before Big Ten Media days, Athletic Director Gene Smith texted Meyer advising him to acknowledge he knew about the 2015 allegations.
Also that Coach Meyer sometimes has significant memory issues and periodically takes medicine than can negatively impair his memory and concentration.
I planned on including these details in my original post exposing Meyer so I won’t try to soften them despite mitigating circumstances. Instead, I’ll share some details that ESPN seemed to ignore in its coverage.
- Ohio State’s Deputy Title IX Coordinator was fully aware of the 2015 allegations from the start. In fact, she informed AD Gene Smith, who in turn informed Meyer about them.
- When meeting with Zach Smith about the allegations, Coach Meyer told him that if “you hit her, you are fired.” AD Gene Smith also told the assistant coach that he would be fired if charges were filed.
- Courtney Smith, the alleged victim, never filed charges in 2015 so her then-husband was never arrested (and therefore, not fired at the time).
- Meyer impressed the investigators with a sincere commitment to the Respect for Women core value that he espouses and tries to instill in his players.
- The OSU head coach’s actions (or inactions) did not constitute a violation of policy, law or contractual obligation.
During Meyer’s paid leave of absence, many ESPN pundits questioned whether the coach could avoid getting fired. When the investigation didn’t offer the result they wanted, they changed course and focused on Meyer’s attitude during the press conference. Again, the coach should have shown more humility and gratitude for keeping his job. However, I can understand his belief that he should have been vindicated based on the totality of the investigation’s findings.
ESPN COLLEGE GAMEDAY HOST RECE DAVIS
Relative to all ESPN employees who provided a reaction to Meyer’s suspension, Rece Davis offered the most rational, measured response. The College GameDay host viewed the suspension as an inappropriate half-measure. Specifically, he said:
Either what Urban Meyer did raised to level of separation or termination, or it did not. . . . Ohio State’s decision to suspend him for three games was an attempt to appease those who were seeking punitive measures against someone other than Zach Smith.
When asked about Meyer’s tone / body language during press conference, Davis mentioned that he wished the head coach could have used situation better by announcing a donation or volunteer work emphasizing domestic abuse. With respect to whether Meyer’s reading of a prepared statement missed any opportunity to show compassion, Davis commented that it didn’t come off as remorseful as he would have liked. The ESPN host acknowledged that he couldn’t judge the coach’s sincerity. He just wished Meyer had conveyed more genuine compassion and focused on bringing a greater awareness to domestic violence.
I didn’t question any of these comments and thought Davis did an astute job balancing his commentary with the realization that his and Meyer’s paths will cross in the future (see photo above). However, I thought Davis reached when commenting that the report is an indelible mark that will always be part of the coach’s legacy. Just like future Hall-of-Fame NFL coach Bill Belichick has moved beyond SpyGate, Meyer will move beyond this controversy as well.
ESPN ANALYST TREVOR MATICH
When OSU first announced the independent investigation three weeks ago, ESPN analyst Trevor Matich offered a heartfelt account of growing up in a household with domestic abuse. While Matich’s personal experiences provided an appropriate context, they may have clouded his coverage of the story. Zach Smith is the alleged abuser who needs to be vilified (and prosecuted), not Urban Meyer.
Matich started off his First Take appearance with a reasonable suggestion that Meyer should have apologized first to the alleged victim, Courtney Smith, and second to all victims of domestic violence. From there, the ESPN analyst started to lose footing with some far-reaching commentary. Specifically, he claimed that Meyer demonstrated a willful choice to be ignorant. True to form, Stephen A. Smith jumped on the opportunity to take an extreme view and argued that Meyer should be fired based on the coach’s complicity and willful ignorance.
While offering commentary on ESPN throughout the day, Matich continually referenced the independent investigation’s 23-page Summary of Findings. Based on his comments, I decided to read the report for myself. I thank him for the suggestion because I can appropriately challenge his interpretation of the specific findings.
To be fair, Matich tried to provide a balance by referencing some of the investigators positive comments regarding Meyer. Specifically, he mentioned a section from the report which stated that they believed the head coach would have fired Smith if the full extent of the violence had been know.
First Take host Molly Qerim Rose couldn’t hide her contempt by saying, “Well the report’s bogus then.” Good Golly, Mrs. Molly, but that borders on being defamatory. Are you questioning the integrity of lead investigator Mary Jo White, the former SEC Chairperson and only woman to the be US Attorney for the Southern District of New York? For clarity, the SEC in this case refers to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and not the Southeastern Conference.
Matich subsequently claimed that the investigators excoriated Meyer for failing to reveal Courtney Smith’s allegation of domestic violence in 2009 against her then-husband. Having read the report, I offer the following from page 17.
IV. Potential violations of law, OSU policies and rules and contractual obligations of Coach Meyer and AD Smith.
A. The hiring of Zach Smith: Although it would have been better for Coach Meyer to have informed OSU about Zach Smith’s 2009 arrest, there was no violation of policy, law or contractual obligation by Coach Meyer in not doing so.
To repeat, the investigators found that “there was no violation of policy, law or contractual obligation.” Furthermore, they stated that it “would have been better for Coach Meyer to have informed OSU.” Either Matich doesn’t know the meaning of excoriate (definition: to severely criticize) or he willfully ignored the definition and lied. I don’t work for ESPN so I’ll assume he didn’t understand the nuance between severely and mildly criticize.
ESPN COLLEGE FOOTBALL PLAYOFF REPORTER HEATHER DINICH
Like Trevor Matich, ESPN reporter Heather Dinich referenced the OSU investigation’s summary of findings. When asked about her opinion of Meyer’s three-game suspension, Dinich said:
Urban Meyer’s legacy will be determined by that 23-page report. Anyone who takes the time will have questions about Urban Meyer as a human being.
Dinich aggrandized herself when referencing the inconvenience of having to read the report at 1:00 A.M. given that it was released after the 11:00 P.M. press conference. She apparently was really tired when reading it because she had a very skewed interpretation of the findings.
From page 22 of the report:
V. Other Observations
A. Overall, Coach Meyer impressed us with a sincere commitment to the Respect for Women core value that he espouses and tries to instill in his players.
I don’t know about you, but that statement doesn’t make me question Meyer’s humanity.
URBAN MEYER – IS HE HUMAN, OR IS HE DANCER?
As a quick digression, the most telling information comes from page 7 of the report. Just read the bold text if you’re as impatient as I am.
B. 2010 – July 22, 2018
2. Other Conduct:
(d) From October 2015 through 2016, a long-term investigation by the Powell Police Department and the Delaware County prosecutor of Zach Smith for possible domestic violence and cyber offenses against Courtney Smith.
(i) In October 2015, Miechelle Willis, then the Deputy Title IX Coordinator for the Athletics Department, received information from the Ohio State Campus Police about the Powell Police investigation; Willis immediately notified AD Smith, who in turn notified Coach Meyer during a football practice that Zach Smith was under investigation for domestic violence and could be arrested at any time. AD Gene Smith recalls Coach Meyer having an immediate and strong negative reaction to this news;
(ii) AD Gene Smith directed Zach Smith to return immediately from a recruiting trip, and Coach Meyer, AD Gene Smith and others met with Zach Smith a number of times to discuss the issue and ongoing investigation. Zach Smith denied any domestic violence, and Coach Meyer told him that if “you hit her, you are fired.” AD Gene Smith also told Zach Smith that if charges were filed, he would be fired;
(iii) Coach Meyer assisted in arranging professional counseling for Zach Smith at this time; and
(iv) Meyer and Gene Smith monitored the Powell Police investigation regularly for a period of months.
Based on these statements, Dinich clearly overstepped by claiming that the report should make anyone question Meyer’s humanity. To repeat:
- Ohio State’s Deputy Title IX Coordinator was fully aware of the situation so Meyer did not try to conceal the allegations.
- Impact: No Title IX violation on the part of the head coach (i.e. no valid NCAA penalty).
- Coach Meyer said “if you hit her, you are fired.” AD Gene Smith followed up by saying that Zach Smith would be fired if charges were filed.
- I understand that Courtney Smith was the victim, but she never filed charges which would have led to her husband’s termination. Should we hold Meyer responsible for her silence? If so, that’s a slippery slope for any boss.
- Meyer “assisted in arranging professional counseling for Zach Smith.”
- What a heal and questionable human being to offer counseling to a troubled employee!
- While someone may argue that Meyer should have done more than offer counseling, remember that Smith’s wife never followed through with any formal charges until 2018. I believe her unquestionably. However, I don’t think her abusive husband’s boss should be held accountable. Again, that’s a very slippery slope.
BACK TO HEATHER DINICH
In response to Dinich’s condemnation of Urban Meyer as a human being, Stephen A. asked what could have been done to “alleviate” or “eradicate” Meyer’s legacy based on the coach’s presumed ill-advised press conference. Stephen A. has an incredible vocabulary but really struggled to fit these “SAT words” into the question. He didn’t completely miss the mark as Matich did by using “excoriate” incorrectly, but he bumbled through it nonetheless.
Dinich responded by saying:
Urban Meyer could have stood in front of those cameras and those reporters and he could have mentioned Courtney Smith by name. He could have shown some remorse, some emotion, any emotion. Instead he stood up there and bumbled like a teenager through a prepared statement.
Did Meyer miss an opportunity to mitigate any damage to his public perception by ignoring the alleged victim? Absolutely. Should he be fired for it? Absolutely not.
Ever the instigator, Stephen A. asked Dinich if she thought the NCAA should get involved. She took the bait when she said:
If you go to [the report], quite frankly, there are probably some things you could fire Urban Meyer for cause? I’m not a lawyer so I don’t know the answer to that question, but I do think the NCAA might want to look into it.
Dinich failed to realize that the report was prepared by a group of lawyers who addressed that exact question. Specifically, they found no action or inaction that elevated to firing him for cause.
Molly Qerim Rose couldn’t contain herself and segued by stating:
I would like the NCAA to intervene because they intervene in frivolous matters. This would be a perfect one for them.
Could she be referencing the “frivolous” NCAA investigation that resulted in Michigan having to vacate the college achievements of her husband, Jalen Rose, while part of the Fab Five? Nah, I’m not that cynical. Actually, I am.
When wrapping up the segment, the First Take host boldly stated, “I’ve seen enough for [Meyer] to be fired.” Good golly, Meyer’s insincerity and arrogance is not endearing, but those traits should not translate into getting fired.
PAUL FINEBAUM – ESPN COLLEGE FOOTBALL CONTRIBUTOR
Whereas Dinich and Qerim seemed to be most offended by Meyer’s insensitivity to the alleged victim, Paul Finebaum focused on the coach’s arrogance. As a preface, Finebaum may be the most knowledgeable person on radio or TV with respect to SEC sports. He unfortunately is the most biased ESPN contributor when opining on anything or anyone in conflict with his preferred conference. In this case, Urban Meyer poses the closest threat to Alabama’s Nick Saban’s stronghold on the unofficial title of Best College Football Head Coach.
When asked about his opinion of Meyer’s reaction to getting suspending, Finebaum commented on the coach’s “petty, surly, petulant approach.” Call me crazy, but those adjectives could accurately describe Coach Saban. Given that Bill Belichick possesses the same traits, it’s fair to conclude that the best football coaches aren’t pleasant, good-tempered people.
Finebaum didn’t stop there and continued by saying that he saw the Urban Meyer he knows. Specifically, he called the coach an “arrogant fraud” and a “liar with no integrity.” When questioned by Qerim why Meyer didn’t show any remorse, Finebuam claimed that it’s not in Meyer’s DNA. The ESPN contributor believes the OSU head coach has been “enabled by sycophants” and “took the attitude that he (Meyer) would be vindicated and owed an apology.” After reading the report, it’s reasonable to argue that Meyer was vindicated. The coach certainly didn’t deserve an apology based on the vindication, but he didn’t deserve to be fired either.
During the interview with Finebaum, Stephen A. brought up the report’s reference to medication taken by Meyer which may have impacted the coach’s ability to remember certain details. The loquacious ESPN personality categorically refused to accept this excuse. Finebaum offered that Meyer had serious health issues resulting in the coach’s departure from the University of Florida almost a decade ago. However, he believes OSU hid behind those issues in order to keep their successful coach.
ESPN GET UP! HOST MICHELLE BEADLE
Saving the best for last, I nominate Get Up! Host Michelle Beadle. Of note, the ESPN boomerang employee offered the most interesting take by claiming that she will now boycott watching college football games just like she’s already boycotted watching NFL games. Specifically, she said:
There’s a reason why this will be the second season I don’t watch NFL and I don’t spend my Saturdays watching college football either. I believe that the sport of football has set itself up to be in a position where it shows itself in the bigger picture to not really care about women — they don’t really care about people of color, but we won’t get into that for NFL either — but as a woman I feel like a person who has been marginalized.
Faced with dwindling NFL ratings, ESPN President Jimmy Pitaro is desperately trying to distance the network from the “false narrative” of his employees’ political bias. Hey Jimmy, how did the experiment of having Michael Smith and Jamele Hill host “Woke Center 1.0” at 6:00 pm work? Now, a co-host of “Woke Center 2.0” is boycotting the NFL and college football. How can any viewer take her seriously talking about anything football related over the next six months? I could mention “Woke Center 3.0,” but I like Pablo Torre and Bomani Jones so I’m happy you’re simply moving them to “High Noon” in Anchorage, Alaska.
As if Beadle’s comments don’t provide the “true narrative” of ESPN, the network has failed miserably in understanding its core viewers. WE DON’T WANT YOUR POLITICS. WE SIMPLY WANT TO WATCH SPORTS HIGHLIGHTS. If you don’t believe me, Jimmy, look at the ratings.
When I wake up in the morning, I instinctively turn to ESPN1 trying to get a compact overload of sports highlights before starting my day. If I’m pressed for time, I quickly change to ESPN2 (i.e. SportsCenter). If I’m feeling surly, I’ll keep watching your expensive excuse for an entertaining morning show hoping to see a train wreck. The co-hosts of Mike Greenberg, Michelle Beadle and Jalen Rose are like oil and water.
While the antagonistic relationship of geek-wanna-be-suave-TV-personality Mike Greenberg and marginally-successful-professional-athlete-turned-likable-TV-personality Mike Golic worked for 20 years on Mike & Mike, it’s clear that the Get Up! crew doesn’t get along. You might not see it, but half of the audience who left the time slot does. Just look at the outfits of the hosts to realize the show lacks a true identity.
WHAT DOESN’T BELONG? EVERYTHING
For my two cents, the show would work much better if you create viral moments like having Phil Mickelson try to hit drivers onto the boats constantly passing by on the East River.
[Update: After writing this article but before posting it, I found out that Michelle Beadle got fired from Get Up! She still has plenty of on-air duties covering the NBA. At the end of her rant three days ago, Beadle said:
The entire thing is a disgrace. I’m just numb to it. I’m just ready for NBA to kick off, quite frankly. That’s what I’m here for.”
It looks like she got her wish. Hopefully for Greenberg’s sake, the network finds a better fit as a replacement. Hey Jimmy, don’t forget the idea about hitting golf balls into the East River.
I highly recommend that you read The OSU report. In addition to the sections I referenced above, there are others which provide more clarity about the entire situation.
For instance, the report states on page 8 that:
Shelley Meyer also maintains that she did not relay Courtney Smith’s expression of fear or allegations of abuse, including the photographs, to Urban Meyer at the time because she had doubts about the veracity of Courtney Smith’s allegations.
During her segment on First Take, Dinich argued that there was no way Shelley Meyer kept the pictures of Courtney Smith from the OSU head coach. As support, the ESPN reporter referenced the open communication she has with her own husband. I wonder how candid Dinich would be if she knew the wife of her husband’s best friend was having an affair. Point being, spouses understandably keep secrets in order to protect each other from uncomfortable situations.
Furthermore, the investigators found (on page 12):
Coach Meyer sent a message (on the eve of the Big10 Media Days) to Gene Smith, Jerry Emig, the Assistant Director, Athletic Communications, Brian Voltolini, Director of Football Operations, and Ryan Stamper, Director, Player Development, stating “I know nothing about this (whether Zach Smith got arrested in 2015)”; he asked “Is there a way to find out exactly what his issues were. I know about 2009 [it was dropped] and last week. That’s it. Need some guidance here so when I speak to media I’m not wrong.” Later that evening, Stamper reported to Meyer that there was no record of Zach Smith being arrested in 2015, only records of a divorce. Meyer acknowledged this, stating “Stamp just confirmed there was no arrest in 2015.”
In case you missed it, the texts show that Meyer was aware of the dropped charges in 2009 and uncertain about the whether Courtney Smith’s accusations in 2015 resulted in actual charges or an arrest.
ESPN contributors like Stephen A. Smith questioned the impact of medication on Meyer’s recollection of facts. Of note, Smith commented that a coach of Meyer’s stature couldn’t/wouldn’t forget details such as the ones highlighted by ESPN. Stephen A. may be right, but it’s not clear based on the text messages highlighted above.
COACH MEYER FINALLY SEES THE LIGHT
Perhaps due to the relentless attack on his character for failing to apology to the alleged victim, Coach Meyer posted the following Tweet two days after the press conference.
Hopefully, the overdue apology will silence Meyer’s critics. If not, the change in Michelle Beadle’s on-air responsibilities should. As Vincent Vega eloquently said, “You play with matches, you get burned.”