By Pat Harty
IOWA CITY, Iowa - If you can bring yourself to look beyond the physical and mental abuse, beyond the threats and intimidation and beyond the dishonesty that is so much a part of the Urban Meyer controversy, you’ll see a ray of sunshine.
You’ll see that while Urban Meyer apparently hasn’t changed since he left the University of Florida under mysterious circumstances, the world around him has changed, and for the better.
A case of domestic violence that might have been swept under the rug 10 years ago or settled under self-serving circumstances, now could lead to the demise of a coaching legend.
If it is proven that Meyer allowed former assistant coach Zach Smith to stay on his staff at Ohio State despite knowing that Smith had a history of domestic violence, Meyer will almost certainly be terminated and his legacy tarnished forever.
As Bob Dylan wrote in his classic 1964 song, “The Times They Are A Changin,” and that now pertains to college sports, and to sports in general.
The days of turning a blind eye to domestic violence for the sake winning, or as part of damage control, are finally coming to an end because the victims in these cases refuse to take it anymore.
They’re fed up with cover-ups and false narratives, and with putting winning above everything else.
The fact that Smith is the grandson of former Ohio State coach Earle Bruce adds another delicate layer to this controversy because Bruce was a mentor to Meyer and he helped launch Meyer’s coaching career.
I watched at Big Ten media day as Meyer denied any knowledge that Smith had been accused of domestic violence in 2015.
“I was never told about anything,” Meyer said. “Never anything came to light, never had a conversation about it. So I know nothing about it. I asked people back at the office to call and see what happened, and they came back and said they know nothing.”
Smith’s ex-wife said to reporter Brett McMurphy that she told Meyer’s wife about the abuse and that it was common knowledge amongst the assistant coaches’ wives at Ohio State.
Urban Meyer was put on paid administrative leave on Wednesday, and that is often the first step in what ultimately becomes a termination.
Meyer's wife, Shelley Meyer, also could be in trouble if she failed to report the alleged abuse to her superiors. Shelley Meyer works as a registered nurse and as an instructor of Clinical Science at Ohio State and is required under contract to reports cases of abuse.
The cocoon that once shielded college head coaches from the real world, and the consequences that come with it, is being removed for the sake of transparency and for the sake of common decency.
Meyer doesn’t seem to realize that, or he is just so caught up in his own world and with protecting his legacy that he didn’t care enough to change.
The same was said about Joe Paterno, whose once-proud legacy was destroyed by the Jerry Sandusky child abuse scandal, and rightfully so, because Paterno didn’t do enough to help stop a pedophile from preying victims.
Head coaches demand that their student-athletes be accountable, but some head coaches haven’t held themselves to the same standard.
But now some head coaches, who at one time seemed untouchable, are paying a stiff price because the circumstances have changed for the better.
Being an elite coach doesn't mean you're invincible anymore. It doesn't mean that you are the judge and the jury and that what you says goes without any resistance or consequences.
It appears that Urban Meyer had a chance to help stop a habitual abuser, or at least make him accountable, but he failed to do so for selfish reasons.
There was a time when Meyer's alleged conduct probably would have been excused or kept in house, but fortunately, those times are gone.
And now Meyer soon could be gone.