Does The Punishment Fit The Crime?

When the investigation of Ohio State University football coach Urban Meyer was announced, I was not overly concerned. The decision as to his fate would be simple. Either he had followed university protocol or he had not. He would be fired if the latter had occurred and not punished at all if the former was the case.

Cut and dried. The way we like it. No extraordinary circumstances. No hiding behind the curtain. Simple, right? Of course not!

Nothing is ever simple and this case wasn’t either. The investigation involved how Urban Meyer handled domestic abuse allegations against assistant coach Zach Smith. The allegations dated back to their days together at the University of Florida and continued in Columbus. Smith’s ex wife Courtney alleged he had tried to choke her and that she had told such to Meyer’s wife. That would set in motion university policy that the allegations needed to be reported.

Were they? Did Meyer follow the proper procedures? Would the investigation tell us what happened? Would Ohio State do the right thing?

My best response is “I don’t know.” It would have been easier if the punishment had been 1) firing or 2) nothing. Instead the punishment is a three game suspension. That puts most of us right in the middle. Here are some of my thoughts.

1) I don’t like the punishment. It leads us to believe that Urban Meyer was “somewhat” guilty. The punishment suggests that “we” have to do something, or we’ll look bad.

2) I understand that it would be normal for a head coach to defend an assistant, especially if there is no actual proof that domestic abuse took place. You can also defend him by reporting it and letting the facts come to light.

3) Ohio State has fired successful head coaches in the past. Woody Hayes and Jim Tressel immediately come to mind. They will not be afraid to make the tough call.

4) A couple of things don’t pass the smell test. The fact that Meyer – after the whole thing came to light – tried to find out how to delete cell phone messages raises concerns. Was there something to hide? The fact that a university trustee resigned over the weakness of the punishment also makes one question the legitimacy of the university action.

So what do I make of the whole thing?

The view from my seat suggests that we will never know if the right call was made unless more information comes to light. For now I will accept the decision making process and root for the Buckeyes as always.