Ohio State University officials reaffirmed the idea that winning is more valuable than morality in college athletics with its decision to keep head coach Urban Meyer on Wednesday, Aug. 22.
Reporter Brett McMurphy published Courtney Smith's text messages on Aug. 1, which hinted at Meyer’s knowledge of Zach Smith’s 2015 domestic abuse and that he lied at Big Ten Media Days. Many thought that Meyer would be terminated.
Wednesday’s decision was foreshadowed when the university called for an internal investigation and placed Meyer on paid administrative leave on Aug. 2. It was likely Ohio State was going to find a way to keep Meyer based on how long this investigation took.
Even as more concerning reports about Smith came about, one could still sense that Ohio State was going to do the bare minimum and only suspend Meyer.
One of the main reasons for the initial belief that Meyer would be fired was because Ohio State had removed legendary coaches for lesser offenses before. It fired Woody Hayes after the 1978 Gator Bowl for punching a Clemson player. Ohio State also forced out Jim Tressel prior to the 2011 season amid NCAA investigations of players receiving improper benefits.
Many thought Ohio State had set a precedent of zero tolerance with its past decisions — winning football games wasn’t the most important thing at their institution. That was tarnished with its decision to suspend Meyer for only the first three games of the season.
The reason for Ohio State’s decision is simple: he wins.
Perhaps we should have known about Ohio State’s true objectives when it hired Meyer in 2011.
Meyer was a notable winner at Florida from 2005-10 with a 65-15 record and two national championships to show for it. However, his Gator teams also had 31 arrests that included charges such as domestic violence, assault and burglary. Many of the charges were either dropped, pleaded down or never went to trial.
These off-field scandals were no secret back when Meyer was at Florida, and Ohio State showed that it was willing to look past them when it hired him a year after he left Gainesville.
It is evident that Ohio State kept Meyer because he wins, but the question still remains: Why did Ohio State fire Tressel after the 2011 tattoo scandal, but keep Meyer after knowing he kept a domestic abuser on his staff and lied about not knowing?
Tressel had a successful tenure as the Ohio State head coach from 2001-10 as he went 106-22 — 94-22 after NCAA sanctions — and won five Big Ten titles and one national title in 2002. Many would think that Ohio State would have kept Tressel just like it did with Meyer because he won, too.
The answer is simple. Meyer has been better for the Buckeyes than Tressel was. Tressel was one of the top coaches in the country at Columbus and any program would have taken him if he was on the market, but Meyer was better.
Meyer retired from coaching in 2010 because of health and family reasons. About six months later, Tressel was forced out by Ohio State because of NCAA violations. An explanation for Tressel’s termination was that Meyer was on the market and Ohio State knew it had a chance to get the coach it always wanted.
Ohio State hired Meyer after the 2011 season. On the field, it has since paid off with a 73-8 record, two Big Ten titles and one national championship in 2014. Off the field, however, it has been a much different story and was summed up by the Zach Smith domestic abuse scandal.
Overall, Ohio State knew everything it was getting with Meyer, both the good and the bad. It was more than willing to look past all the facts during its investigation and does not mind the negative publicity that will come with the decision to keep Meyer.
Ohio State showed this is still a game, and it will do whatever it takes to keep winning the game. Even if the nation will hate them for it.