For many people, collegiate sports fandom is more than just a rooting interest; it’s a religion. Go take a look online at any Facebook comment section linked to a blog post or peruse the message boards on sites like Reddit. Fans from all universities have “superfans” who hold the coaches and players of their favorite colleges under the harshest and most esteemed standards, sometimes even with unjust opinions.
While it’s understandable to appreciate the work that these coaches and athletes put in, we as fans need to start holding them accountable for the horrific acts that they perform off of the field when the lights and glamour of gameday disappear.
A recent scandal involving Ohio State University head football coach Urban Meyer and wide receiver coach Zach Smith goes to show that fans and their respective university administrations do not care about the well-being of its players and families, so long as those programs can field a winning product on
The case at Ohio State is interesting to examine. To condense the story a bit, Smith was involved in multiple domestic abuse allegations by his now ex-wife Courtney Smith. Dating back to 2015, Smith was involved in four misdemeanor citations with his ex-wife, ranging from physical assault to stalking. It was later revealed that Meyer was aware of the situation, yet had the audacity to retain Smith and allow him to coach and mentor young student-athletes. Meyer pled innocence to knowledge of the situation at the Big Ten Media Day on July 24 of this year, until evidence of the story’s accuracy was brought to light by national college football writer Brett Murphy.
Subsequently, Meyer was placed on administrative leave as the university began their own investigation into the allegations. Smith was terminated by Ohio State University shortly after and Meyer was slapped with a four-game suspension.
Four games. Wide receiver Josh Gordon, formerly of the Cleveland Browns, was issued a sixteen-game suspension in 2014 for smoking weed. Meyer got suspended four games for covering the tracks of a known violent and dangerous man who terrorized his wife for years before she finally had the courage to end their relationship.
The hypocrisy in the this scandal is unsettling and I believe it can be traced back to one reason: Ohio State wins
Ever since Meyer was hired to take over head coaching duties in 2012, Ohio State has fielded arguably one of the best college football programs in the nation. In 2014, Ohio State shocked the college football world by winning the inaugural College Football Playoff after beating Alabama and Oregon. They have won two Big Ten Football Championships under Meyer and have only finished outside of the top-10 postseason rankings three times since 2001.
To say expectations at Ohio State are high would be an understatement. This is a team that starts every season with the belief that they have a legitimate shot at winning a national championship. The university is aware of the financial benefits the football team reals in year in and year out, so why would they want to jeopardize their intake?
One development I took issue with was the fan support in favor of Meyer after the four-game suspension was handed out. On Aug. 6, 2018, fans rallied outside of Ohio State’s football stadium holding signs such as, “Free Urban!” and “Put Urban back to work now!” proclaiming their support for the lying, boys club coach.
There is nothing wrong with showing support for your coach; you’re supposed to like them. I’m one of the biggest Michigan State Football fans you will run into on campus. However, if their head coach Mark Dantonio is ever roped into a scandal like this, I will be one of the forerunners to having his contract terminated.
Not every fan is delusional in retaining a disgraced coach. I’m sure there were plenty up in arms about Meyer’s involvement in the situation and still feel that way, but the fact remains that we as fans need to recognize that these coaches are humans that make mistakes, and mistakes lead to consequences. If we allow these figures to loom larger than life and morph into, “too big to fail” institutions, only more lives will be put in jeopardy and justice will never be served.