The decision to suspend Urban Meyer for three games by Ohio State University is a sad sign that, at too many schools, the only thing that matters in college football is winning.
I’m going to have to be a little careful with this article. The decision by Ohio State University to suspend Urban Meyer for just 3 games yesterday has nothing to do really with the University of Georgia so maybe I should stay out of this one. But it’s hard for someone who loves college football as much as I do to just sit back and keep my mouth shut. That’s especially true when you see the values that the sport is supposed to champion quite frankly being spat on. The guy gets less of a suspension for protecting a wife beater than AJ Green got for selling a bowl game jersey… I mean COME ON!
College football is supposed to be about more than just those magical 60 minutes every Saturday. Yes, there are winners and losers just like every other sport, but to fans, that’s not even the half of it. Time and again we are bombarded with coaches, administrators and the media telling us that the reason these kids don’t get paid is that it’s not about the money. It’s about the experience, the life skills, and the education that they obtain. Kids come from the worst circumstances possible and are given the tools that change their lives forever. It’s this vision of a ‘truly noble’ sport that hooks so many fans like myself.
We hear speeches from people like Jim Harbaugh about the great Bo Schembechler, that give us goosebumps. We see the bonds that the players build with one another and weep. We accept these players and coaches into our communities because they become like family to us and that’s what families do. The sport unites so many people from all different walks of life throughout the country in a way that nothing else can.
Moments like last night are a glimpse of the ugly reality that lies behind that beautiful facade. Meyer’s press conference was one of the most cringe-inducing, disingenuous and difficult interviews I have ever had the misfortune of watching. The guy had two weeks to prepare a statement and he still couldn’t even say sorry to the woman who had been abused. The amount of ****’s he gives about anybody but himself is significantly less than zero.
The message was clear. OSU doesn’t care one bit about Courtney Smith and her family that was subjected to domestic violence by a member of their staff. It cares even less about the players that it has sworn to mold into men. These people are nothing when compared to a coach that has taken their team to the promised land once and could do it again. They’re little more than fodder, ready to be discarded when it suits the institution.
Who cares that a woman was subjected to violence for half a decade? Who cares about the hundreds of boys who were taught by a lowlife like Zach Smith how to conduct themselves on and off the field? Not OSU and unfortunately not the vast majority of their alumni and fans either. You think the committee makes this decision if they believed Buckeye fans were not 100% on board? One short visit to any OSU message board will cure that disillusionment pretty quickly. If you ever wonder why women don’t report domestic violence, you’ll find no better evidence than most OSU fans this morning.
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That school and those people made a statement last night. No matter what, there is nothing, NOTHING, that matters more to them than their football team winning. Not the well being of the players that wear the uniform, not the lives of the families who are a part of the program and not the right for women to not live in fear from being beaten. At the end of the day, none of those people mean a damn thing to OSU and their fans. They’re just people after all, and what are people compared to rings.
So why does this matter to a dawg fan? Well, because seeing this should make us feel sick. We as a fanbase need to be better than that. OSU and it’s fans have sacrificed their souls for one more shot a title, and no matter what, we cannot do that in Athens. Kirby Smart has become somewhat of a messiah to the Georgia Football program, and to many, he can do no wrong. But the values and ideals of this institution are more important than any sport.
If Smart himself were ever to find himself in a situation like Meyer these past few weeks, I for one would want him to fall on his sword or have the institution do the right thing. I wouldn’t care if it meant we had to wait another 40 years to win another natty, ignoring a man who has been beating his wife for years is disgusting. Allowing that same man to influence and raise boys whose families trust you is just as bad.
Obviously, I hope that this never happens, but if it does, it’s up to us to not be like the Buckeyes. It’s up to us to demand better. If we want college football to really be about those virtues and ideas that we spout every Saturday in the fall, it’s up to fans to hold people and institutions accountable. We cannot allow anyone to get away with things like this simply because they win, nor can we allow our schools to put a head coach who lacks basic moral standards above our players. These kids are expected to sacrifice everything for ‘an education’, and they deserve better.
Ohio State failed in that duty last night. Based on what many high schoolers said, this incident won’t stop Urban Meyer on the recruiting trail. That in itself is a horrific reflection of how young players and their families have already been influenced by this win-at-any-cost mentality. The school sacrificed its culture and its values last night to protect a man they believe can win them a title. One can only hope that there will eventually be consequences.
Who knows, maybe he will win one more, but the stain of this decision will never leave the University. Eventually, when Meyer is long gone, fans and boosters who enabled him will wonder why everybody despises them. They’ll swear that character and people always mattered to them until they’re blue in the face. But nobody outside of Columbus will believe them because when given the chance between right and wrong, they hitched their wagon to a liar who protected a man who abused his wife.
No victory is worth this kind of sacrifice. Shame on Zach Smith for being an atrocious human being. Shame on Urban Meyer for enabling and protecting him for years. But shame too on the institution and alumni at OSU. They decided that winning means more to them than decency so when a star player beats up his girlfriend, or a coach cheats on his wife or a student assistant gets caught selling drugs, maybe they should be taking a good hard look in the mirror. Ohio State is all in on Urban Meyer now, and as Florida fans can confirm, nobody leaves a dumpster fire like old Urbs. Best of luck out there Buckeyes, I hope he’s worth it.