By now you've heard the Urban Meyer controversy. You've probably started gathering your soapbox if it's not already assembled. Meyer probably knew of instances of domestic violence involving his receiver's coach Zach Smith.
When asked about the allegations earlier this week, Meyer claimed to not know of the incidents until the time they came to light and the University parted ways with Smith a few days ago. We now know that Smith's wife and Meyer's wife spoke about the incidents at or near the times they occurred, that Meyer himself and his wife were very supportive, even counseling the Smith's in 2009.
Smith went on local radio to try to help Urban's plight; instead he threw gas on the fire, acknowledging that Meyer knew of the incidents back in 2015 and further, that Ohio State AD Gene Smith knew and told Meyer. The Title IX reporting violations, aka that Federal Law everyone seems to ignore, threaten to bring down the entire regime.
The trail of breadcrumbs back to Meyer gets pretty thick.
The University has given Meyer a paid vacation while they investigate the situation. Translated that means they're balancing how much they'll have to pay Meyer if they terminate him, how much blowback will they get if they don't fire their National Title winning coach, and how quickly the stench of this goes lingers.
This comes months after several journalists wrote glowing pieces about how Meyer had shed his Florida habits, i.e., recruiting bad apples, including a talented tight end who murdered a couple of guys, and how Meyer transformed Ohio State into a bastion of higher ethics, education, and social consciousness. Because of course men of Meyer's age and inclinations, who get paid more than any other state employee, and who work under immense pressure from perhaps the most demanding fanbase in America can merely change their spots.
It's a sell job.
Welcome to the car lot. Everyone's selling something, and college coaches are selling two things: themselves and their program. Those pitches can get intertwined at times.
Don't be mad; we built this monster. We've made coaches CEO of their own fiefdoms with huge paydays, boardroom access, an insatiable audience, and a world of pressure. Their product is tested every Saturday in the fall in front of millions of eyes. They're human, so pressure makes them do things that sometimes we claim we don't understand. Once they attain a level of success, like a National Title, their ego grows and, whether they believe it or not, they start to act untouchable.
If we put you in their position, you might cut some corners too. Actually, I can guarantee I would and almost assure you would as well. But that's not the point, the point is it's a car lot, and everyone's selling. Don't buy into the salesman. You can appreciate the product but maintain a healthy skepticism of the salesman.
If you closed your eyes at the various media days last week, you would've heard the same pitch, almost indistinguishable, over and over again. Unless it's Mike Leach telling you about raccoons or Geronimo, it's the same script. They give us what they want us to have. Generally what they want us to have is "we're doing the right things with the right people," "we have a culture that's different," "we have an institution that's different," and "we are different."
The problem is they tend to be the same. College football, like pro football, is a game of emulation. That's why the SEC has tried to clone Nick Saban for a decade now. If you ever shared a Denny's booth with Saban, you could land a job in the SEC.
Locker rooms across the branches of Meyer's coaching tree have borrowed or adopted his same core values. Last we checked they are plastered to walls in locker rooms at places like Utah, Rutgers, South Florida, Texas, Texas State and Utah State. Right there second from the top under "Honesty" and above "No Drugs" it says "Treat Women with Respect."
Interesting when you read about these core values you'll read that while fumbles and missed tackles are correctable, decisions made without regard to the "core values" will be dealt with in a very "serious manner." If that's really true and Meyer didn't act in accordance with not only his own "core values" and in contravention of Federal Law, then yes, he should be dealt with in a serious manner. Any other response just proves how truly hollow the values are.
They look great on a wall, but in practice, leaders of men turn a blind eye to indiscretions and work to protect themselves and the program above all else. They want us to buy in, "look at our core values, the foundations of the program. We're different." Deep down, winning still matters more than anything else, even the glossy core values.
Co-opting mantras are a classic hallmark of a salesman. If you don't have a pitch, borrow one. Always be selling, because someone out there's always buying. We eat up the gospel according to wall graphics and sound bites. We want to believe we're different and that our guy is always doing things right. Certainly more correctly than their guy.
College football is a dirty business at times. What happens in recruiting might turn your stomach, let alone what team doctors and academic advisors do at the direction of coaches to keep commodities out on the field. I remember watching former Illinois coach Tim Beckman standing up in front of the press at Big 10 Media Days in 2015, just weeks before the University fired him, extolling the virtues of Illinois football, his program. He used words like brotherhood and family. The truth was very different.
Beckman asked non-productive players to give up their scholarships. If they refused, they were locked out of the locker room, berated, and not allowed at team functions. Injuries were not reported, ignored, or worse; coaches overruled doctors to keep them on the field, risking lasting damage.
That's the stuff they don't want you to see, the stuff that doesn't look good on the walls of the football building, the stuff that doesn't sell.
So, the next time you hear a coach wax and wane about the crisis of young men in America, the ethos of his program, how he's found his dream job, he wouldn't have left that other place for any job but this one, his program's core values or how wins and losses don't matter, chances are you're witnessing a pitch. When they act contrary, don't be surprised.
They're selling you something, and it probably ain't the truth.