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The saga of Ohio State's Urban Meyer mirrors life's challenges

Crunch Time


August 9, 2018

I’ll admit, I’m not as much up to speed on the Urban Meyer situation at Ohio State University as I should be, given that one of my many hats here at the Cheney Free Press is one of sports guru. Or more accurately, one of several gurus.

Meyer, as has been documented in the media, stands accused of essentially looking the other way when it came to knowing and acting upon allegations of domestic abuse by one of his assistant coaches. That’s about as nutshell as I can get for this space.

Meyer denied he knew about these allegations when they surfaced last week in an investigative piece by journalist Brett McMurphy. When his assistant coach’s ex-wife then produced evidence indicating Meyer must have known what was going on because his wife — and other coaches’ wives — knew, Meyer admitted he knew not only about the incidents that occurred in 2015, but also earlier ones in 2009 involving the same couple.

Meyer says they originally attempted to help the then-couple get counseling. It’s not clear if that ever transpired, but in any case, the couple divorced, and while assistant coach Zack Smith has never been charged or convicted of any crime, his ex-wife has managed to secure no-contact orders against him.

Meyer fired Smith on July 24 after McMurphy’s story produced police reports providing details on the abusive situation. Meyer has subsequently been placed on administrative leave pending a university investigation into his conduct.

And of course, stories now surface about Meyer’s possible replacement while Buckeye fans rally openly to his defense. And why shouldn’t they — Meyer is 73-8 as OSU head football coach with one national title to his credit.

Meyer’s conduct mirrors an all-too-familiar pattern when it comes to sexual abuse allegations in collegiate sports — a pattern of first ignoring the incidents, then denying them upon media revelation. This is usually followed by suspension, investigation and finally removal, with the potential for disgrace and embarrassment for everyone involved.

Meyer’s example is also further evidence of how abuse is enabled in sports, as HuffPost writer Jessica Luther points out in her excellent Aug. 7 opinion piece “Urban Meyer And Ohio State Show There Are Many Ways To Enable Abuse.”

But it’s said that sports often mimic life, and in this case, that analogy is all too true. Enabling of abuse goes on at all levels every day. It’s just the more visible celebrity cases that catch the headlines.

How many times have you seen this statement in the Cheney Free Press police reports: Domestic violence/verbal abuse was reported on...? Now ask yourself, how many people may have know that abuse was taking place, but didn’t speak up about it, or intervene?

How many of these cases lead to something more serious, like harassing phone calls or drive-bys of apartments or homes of victims by their abusers?

We will be quick to condemn Meyer and others like him for their lack of moral judgment in these cases. But who among us can say we would do differently? Who would speak up, make a phone call to authorities or offer to help the employee get counseling?

And who among us, if questioned why we didn’t act, wouldn’t take the approach of the Apostle Peter, and deny we ever knew about the incidents? It’s not so easy is it. Not so cut and dry.

Meyer was wrong with what he did. Before we condemn, can we say we would do right?

John McCallum can be reached at


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