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Jim Ingraham

Jim Ingraham: Ohio State's Urban Meyer just might be fumbling his career away

  • Cotton-Bowl-Football-2

    Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer after the Cotton Bowl NCAA college football game against Southern California in Arlington, Texas on Dec. 29. Is the end at hand for the successful coach?

    LM OTERO / AP FILE

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Welcome to the end of Urban Meyer’s career.

Talk about third and long.

Talk about irony.

The coach who got his job because the previous coach showed a startling lack of good judgment is in danger of losing his job because of a startling lack of good judgment.

What goes around comes around, and because it has, another Ohio State football coach might have to go away.

O-H … N-O!

Say it ain’t so, Urban.

He originally said it ain’t so, but then came a report that said it is so. Then he said — talk about some broken-field running — yeah, it is so.

So, and so long?

Probably.

It ain’t over until it’s over, but the battery light on the Urban Meyer Era in Columbus is flashing. His coachship may have to go deep into his playbook for some sort of third-and-long flea flicker, statue of liberty, fumblerooski gimmick play that will snatch survival from the jaws of demise.

Because the way it looks now, Meyer has been victimized by his own unforced error. Two of them. He either knew about a case of alleged domestic assault by one of his assistant coaches in 2015 and didn’t report it, or he lied when he said he didn’t know about it.

Pick your pick-6.

As it turns out, Meyer DID know about the case. We know this because he said so in a windy, wordy, meandering statement he released Friday, 10 days after he told reporters at the Big 10 media day that he didn’t know about it.

So to review: he didn’t know about it, but he did know about it. That’s in direct violation of the standard Hum-a-na, Hum-a-na clause in most coaching contracts which states, in layman’s terms, that once you decide on your story, stick to it. Because a hem isn’t worth the haw it’s written on.

It’s never a pretty sight seeing one of college football’s highest-paid coaches tap dancing like this. Ohio State officials apparently feel that where there’s smoke there are dots worth connecting, so they’ve placed Meyer on paid administrative leave in order to buy them some time to connect a few.

Meanwhile, a select number of teenagers across the country with Big 10 bodies and skills, and invitations to the Buckeye Football Factory, have their hands hovering nervously over the old de-commit button.

Friday’s Opus Urban coincided with radio interviews given by Zach Smith, the assistant coach in question, who said that OSU athletic director Gene Smith was aware of those 2015 domestic issues, because when Gene found out about them he ordered Zach, on a recruiting trip, to return to Columbus immediately.

In Meyer’s lane-changing Opus Urban, his latest version of the events, he said when he learned of the allegations against Zach Smith in 2015 he “followed proper reporting protocols,” presumably meaning he notified AD Gene Smith.

Yet nothing, apparently, was done until 10 days ago, when Meyer fired Zach Smith, following the issuance by an Ohio judge of a protection order forbidding Smith from being within 500 feet of his ex-wife Courtney Smith. That order came following allegations by Courtney Smith of a pattern of domestic abuse, as revealed by college football reporter Brett McMurphy.

It goes without saying that the issue of domestic abuse is not one that can be finessed. This is serious business. These are serious allegations. This is THE Ohio State University, which now has another opportunity to prove it.

But the school is off to a bad start.

The chance to get ahead of this story dates to 2009, when there was an incident of alleged domestic abuse involving Zach Smith, when he was a member of Meyer’s staff at the University of Florida. Smith not only survived that incident, but was hired again by Meyer at Ohio State.

Then this: 2015 came and went. Nothing. Only now, three years after 2015 and six years after 2009, did Meyer finally fire Smith. Even then, Meyer and the university can’t get their stories straight.

It’s every school’s biggest nightmare: a mushrooming cloud of controversy engulfing the biggest money-making department in the university.

That it’s the hot-button issue of domestic abuse shrinks the wiggle-room for survival even more. Worse yet, Ohio State is chasing a story it lost control of years ago. That makes face saving more difficult still, if not impossible.

Big stories involving big names making big mistakes frequently require big resolutions in order to make amends.

Just ask Jim Tressel, Rick Pitino, Bobby Petrino and Jerry Sandusky.

In this one, Gene Smith seems as culpable as Meyer, the former surely having used all of his nine administrative lives by inexplicably surviving the slipshod tattoogate scandal eight years ago.

Now it’s another trip down the rabbit hole for a program that is sometimes its own worst enemy.

Does Meyer survive this?

Depends on your definition of “survive.”

Contact Jim Ingraham at 440-329-7135 or jingraham4@gmail.com and follow him @Jim_Ingraham on Twitter.


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