Sports

Meyer deserves more than a slap on wrist for sexual abuse cover-up

American author Celeste Ng says privilege is people who are “allowed to make mistakes” and lately, it seems like no one is making more mistakes than college coaches. Over the past few years, college basketball has seen its fair share of
scandals.

In fact, the sport has become so embroiled in corruption that the FBI recently had to get involved to weed out all of the shadiness. College football is no better. From helping players cheat at Florida State University to covering up dozens of sexual assaults by players at the University of Colorado and Baylor University, college football has proven time and time again that rules, morals and laws don’t necessarily have to apply to their coaches, especially if those coaches are winning games.

A perfect example of this would be Ohio State University’s head coach Urban Meyer. Inarguably one of the best coaches in the sport, Meyer has recently been entrenched in scandal.

He was placed on administrative leave on Aug. 1 after reports surfaced that he knew about spousal abuse allegations against a coach on his staff, which he vehemently denied having any knowledge of at the time.

Thorough investigation concluded that Meyer was aware of the allegations and “did not uphold the values of the university,” so the Ohio State University Board of Trustees decided to suspend Meyer for a mere three games against lightweight opponents Oregon State University, Rutgers University and Texas Christian University. During this suspension, Meyer is still allowed to meet, practice and discuss game plans with players.

Essentially, this “punishment” means nothing. It would be shocking if the Ohio State Buckeyes did not win their first three games convincingly, even without Meyer on the sidelines.

Two of those games are at home against unranked teams and the last game on the road is against TCU, whom no one would mistake for a legitimate championship contender.

With this appallingly light sentence, Ohio State has sent a strong message to everyone: the college only cares about winning. Winning is not the most important thing; it’s everything. Anything else, including protecting a domestic abuser, is something to be brushed off like it’s no big deal.

Shortly before Meyer was hired by Ohio State, the head coach at the university was Jim Tressel, who was suspended for two games and fined a quarter of a million dollars for being aware that six of his players exchanged autographed memorabilia in exchange for tattoos.

In comparison, Meyer was suspended for three games and fined zero dollars for knowing that a man on his staff was physically abusing his wife. Even worse, four players from the University of North Carolina were suspended for four games earlier this year for selling school-issued sneakers. That’s one more game in suspension than Meyer got for protecting a man whose now ex-wife has filed a protective order against. Does that seem fair?

Meyer doesn’t think so, but not for the reasons one might think. According to reports, he was infuriated that he was suspended at all. He felt, despite his clear mishandling of the situation and his lies about it before the investigation took place, that he deserved none of the minimal sanctions he received.

During his press conference after everything was settled, he seemed frustrated to even have to comment on the matter. The entire issue at hand just seemed to be a huge waste of time to Meyer. He didn’t care about any of it; he just wanted to get back to football. During the press conference, he didn’t even have the decency to apologize to the victim.

This may seem appalling to many, but this is the culture college sports has created. Coaches develop a God complex and begin conducting themselves as if their actions have no consequences.  Perhaps this is because most of the time, as in Meyer’s case, they get away with it.

Throughout the NCAA’s storied history, there is an abundance of shady coaches who have gotten away with misdeeds because of their winning records. Jerry Tarkanian fought off scandals for decades in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s while his teams made a mockery of both other teams and the rules that he was supposed to be following.

Bob Knight had a history of aggression and assault at Indiana State University for three decades until the university finally fired him after he choked one of his own players.  It was public knowledge that Rick Pitino ran an on-campus brothel for his players and was extorted by his mistress before the F.B.I. had to step in and get him dismissed for paying recruits to come play for his school.

In the Big Ten Conference alone, Ohio State now joins three other programs that have been mired in awful scandal this decade, two of which happened earlier this year. In January, Larry Nassar was imprisoned for sexually assaulting hundreds of young girls while those in power at Michigan State aided and abetted his crimes.

In May, a 19-year-old football player died at the University of Maryland’s football practice due to heatstroke, which the school did not address until ESPN put out an in-depth investigation in August.

Before that, Penn State had the infamous Jerry Sandusky scandal in which Hall of Fame coach Joe Paterno knew about his coach’s heinous actions and actively tried to conceal them.

Meyer is a product of the college coaching environment, yet another big name on the long list of big names who thought they could get away with things that the average citizen could not.

The saddest part is that a lot of the time, they are right. These men win games and therefore draw in more money for their schools than anyone else. When forced to choose between morality and money, these schools often choose the latter.

Meyer is a perfect example.  When his three-game suspension is up, he will undoubtedly be cheered by Ohio State fans. They will be quick to forgive the man who has given them plenty of bowl games and a championship during his time with the Buckeyes. He will continue to pile up wins and possibly win more championships.  Soon enough, this injustice will just be a footnote in his football legacy, if anything at all.

One person who will not forget is Courtney Smith, the victim who entrusted Meyer to do the
right thing.

He protected a domestic abuser because they were friends. No matter what he does for the rest of his football career, that will forever be a part of who he is.

Smith and her children will never forget. Society shouldn’t either.

September 13, 2018

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Evan Lewis


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