The Ohio State University held a press conference to announce the findings of a three-week investigation into whether head football coach Urban Meyer violated obligations to report and properly represent any knowledge of domestic abuse allegations against former assistant coach Zach Smith.
Led by Investigative Team Chair Mary Jo White, the conference focused heavily on the fact that the investigation was done by an independent investigative team.
“It's important to emphasize that the findings of the independent investigation are the findings of the investigative team, and they are ours and ours alone,” said White.
White's overall summation of the investigation could have been reduced to one phrase: "benefit of the doubt". With no clear evidence to prove that Meyer deliberately lied about his knowledge of the domestic abuse allegations, the investigative team chose to give Meyer the benefit of the doubt.
To put into layman’s terms, Meyer had cake crumbs on his face, but they didn’t see him eat it, so they let him off easy. This meant suspending Meyer for three games, a far cry from the harsh punishment or firing many were expecting.
The suspension is set to cost Meyer roughly $300,000 from his set compensation of $7.6 million for the current season. This is a little bit less than a drop in the bucket.
The investigation caused a public relations nightmare for the university. Had they fired Meyer, the Ohio State community would have revolted. This was shown in the demonstrations by fans in the weeks leading up to the press conference. Had the university done nothing, they would have run the risk of becoming another Michigan State. This "slap on the wrist" was the middle ground that softened the blow of the entire debacle.
In my opinion, Urban Meyer should have been fired. The investigation clearly showed he knew of the violations committed by his former assistant coach.
The problem in this case lies not in the university decision, but in the culture that surrounds football, especially Ohio State football.
The cultural world of college football needs to have a moment of self-examination. I believe we should not protect those who break the rules, especially rules as heinously broken as these were. We need to set aside the team spirit, set aside the fantasy leagues and set aside the traditions to realize that in the end, teams are still made of people who should be held responsible for their actions.