Ohio State controversy challenges collegiate football culture

Head coach of the Ohio State football program Urban Meyer’s ties to a domestic abuse case do not seem to be affecting his career.

In June of 2009, Zach Smith, an assistant coach of Urban Meyer during his tenure at the University of Florida, was accused of aggravated battery towards a pregnant woman. Courtney Smith, Zach Smith’s wife and the victim of the alleged battery, did not press charges after the incident. When Meyer was hired at OSU, he brought Smith on as a wide receiver’s coach, and Smith went through a standard background check. Because no formal charges were filed, no one on the hiring team knew of the 2009 incident, and Urban Meyer did not disclose any of the information.

Another incident occurred in 2015. Police investigated Smith for domestic violence, but he was once again not charged. Meyer once again did nothing. Urban Meyer wasn’t the only person who knew of Smith’s 2015 abuse allegations. Ohio State Athletic Director Gene Smith didn’t know of the 2009 incident but did know of the one in 2015.

On May 12, 2018 Zach Smith was charged with trespassing after violating the restraining order Courtney Smith filed. After Meyer and Gene Smith learned of the trespass, Zach Smith was fired on July 23, 2018. On August 19, Urban Meyer was levied a 3-game suspension, and Gene Smith was suspended from Aug. 31 to Sept. 16, both without pay.

In response to what her reaction would have been to similar situation, Robyn Daughtery, athletic director at John Brown University, said “As believers in Christ, we are called to be honest and above reproach. To turn our heads or not address a potentially harmful situation is not the way we conduct ourselves as believers in Christ.”

In ‘Above the Line’, a book by Meyer, he said, “Leaders create culture. Culture drives behavior. Behavior produces results.” As great of a sentiment as it is, man have said Meyer’s recent actions create a culture that doesn’t drive good behavior. OSU needs to learn from this situation and know that as great as having a world class coach is, the integrity of your program, and the safety of others should be put above winning.