Ohio State football coach Urban Meyer will not be leaving the university any time soon, which has college football fans and bettors with high expectations for the Buckeyes this fall breathing a sigh of relief.
Meyer received just a three-game suspension (without pay) after an independent OSU investigation found that the second-highest-paid coach in the NCAA didn’t adequately handle domestic abuse allegations against one of his assistant coaches, Zack Smith.
A panel that included university president Ohio State president Michael V. Drake met with the board of trustees on Wednesday to debate Meyer’s fate after receiving a 23-page report prepared by independent investigators.
The six-person group tasked with delving into Meyer’s handling of domestic violence allegations made by his assistant coach’s wife, Courtney Smith, found that neither Meyer nor athletic director Gene Smith, who was suspended without pay for 17 days, properly handled the situation, though the investigative panel did stress that the two were found to have done nothing malicious.
“Although neither Urban Meyer nor Gene Smith condoned or covered up the alleged domestic abuse by Zach Smith, they failed to take sufficient management action relating to Zach Smith’s misconduct and retained an Assistant Coach who was not performing as an appropriate role model for OSU student-athletes,” the school said in a statement outlining the investigation’s findings.
Meyer’s Mea Culpa
After the university announced its findings, Meyer was in front of a press conference reading from what appeared to be a prepared statement. In his remarks he took responsibility for his actions, and accepted his punishment.
“I am fully aware that I am ultimately responsible for this situation that has harmed the university as a whole and the department of athletics and our football program and Buckeye Nation,” Meyer said. “I followed my heart and not my head. I fell short in pursuing full information because at each juncture I gave Zach Smith the benefit of the doubt.”
Though the accusations dated back to 2015, Meyer didn’t fire Smith until July of this year, when he said he first learned of the domestic violence reports. The following day at Big 10 Media Day, Meyer lashed out at a story that said he was aware of Smith’s actions four years earlier.
The suspension covers two weeks of practice and three games. Meyer can not have any contact with the team until Sept. 3, two days after the Buckeyes season opener against Oregon State.
The Buckeyes opened as a 38-point favorite in that game, and the line has moved only one point to 37 since news broke in early August about of the controversy was disclosed on Aug. 1.
Meyer will be allowed to participate in practices on Sept. 3, but will not be able to coach in the next two games, Sept. 8 at home against Rutgers, and Sept. 15 when they travel to AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, to face No. 15 Texas Christian University.
Sportsbooks Settle Down
As a result of the scandal, the team had seen several bets taken off the board at sportsbooks across the country, and bets regarding Meyer’s future didn’t trend in his favor. MyBookie had a line of his getting fired before the season began at -200 yes and +160 no. Odds that he would resign were -150 yes and +120 no.
Voters for the AP Top 25 preseason football poll knocked OSU down a couple of notches. While the USA Today Coaches Poll had the Buckeyes at No. 3 before the scandal developed, that voting took place before any real controversy introduced the notion that Meyer could be out for 2018.
The Buckeyes are No. 5 in the AP Top 25 preseason poll.
Meyer seemed relieved that the investigation was over, and that he will be able to rejoin the program in a few weeks.
“I wish I could go back and make different decisions, but I can’t,” Meyer said. “These difficult lessons are a constant reminder of the duties and obligations that I have as a member of this university and this community. I take full responsibility, I take this responsibility very seriously and I will do better.”