Who's the Real Victim Here?

Headlines about domestic violence and sexual assault have become all too common on our nation’s sports pages.

Many of them, sadly, involve college football players and coaches. As we discussed last week, this epidemic stems from all-powerful coaches, the big money being spent on coaching salaries and facilities, and the resultant win-at-all-costs culture.

The latest example of this, of course, took place at one of the nation’s iconic programs, The Ohio State University, where assistant football coach Zach Smith repeatedly abused his wife, Courtney, over the last nine years.

Smith, an upstanding fellow, has some other charming episodes in his past, including DUI, drug rehab, photographing his private parts during a team visit to the White House, having sex toys delivered to his office at Ohio State, taking high school coaches to strip clubs, and videotaping himself having sex with another staff member.

None of this was serious enough to warrant his dismissal from Buckeye Nation until last month, when the allegations became public and his wife sought a protective order.

Then a blue ribbon committee was charged with investigating the response to Smith’s transgressions (or lack of) by Ohio State’s head football coach and athletic director.

On Wednesday, after a 12-hour meeting with the President and Board of Trustees, the verdict was handed down. Coach Urban Meyer, who’d been on administrative leave for two weeks, was issued a three-game suspension, and AD Gene Smith (no relation to Zach) was suspended for two weeks.

Meyer is one of the most successful coaches in college football history. It’s no coincidence that the three games he will miss are non-conference games against Oregon State, Rutgers and TCU.

We couldn’t possibly have him miss a Big Ten game, now could we?

Pardon the sarcasm here, but the most disturbing part of this incident is that a lot of folks in Columbus, including attorneys for Meyer and Gene Smith, have somehow portrayed them as the victims.

Consider this lovely statement from Meyer’s attorney:

“Zach Smith married a woman he should not have married. Vengeance against her ex-husband regrettably resulted in collateral damage to Urban Meyer, Gene Smith & the Ohio State University.

Well, no. Zach Smith married a woman he should not have beaten.

For his part, Gene Smith’s attorney was even more loutish, claiming that “OSU needed to appease the lynch mob” and that Meyer and Smith were “two great men” who “fell on the sword.”

Forgive me, but that sounds a lot like Sarah Huckabee Sanders.

The Ohio State press conference to announce the findings and suspensions was a total disaster. Meyer raced through a prepared statement, head down, like a six year old apologizing for raiding the cookie jar.

Earlier, at BIG Ten Media Day, he had claimed to have no knowledge of Zach Smith’s violent behavior toward his wife. That was a lie.

The $500,000 committee report was quite charitable to Meyer’s “mis-statements,” noting that he’d had “significant memory issues in other situations where he had prior extensive knowledge of events” and attributing these lapses to “medications that can negatively impair his memory, concentration and focus.”

None of which seems to affect him on the sidelines during football games.

It’s telling that, at BIG media day and the OSU press conference, while apologies were made to Ohio State fans, no apology was made to the real victim in this case, Courtney Smith.

In fact, her name was not even mentioned.

And no statement was made about the tragedy of domestic violence or any commitment to stopping it at Ohio State.

There are signs in the football locker room that supposedly trumpet Meyer’s values. One of them reads: “treat women with respect.”

Got it, coach.

Gary Cavalli - Bowl and League co-founder, author, speaker 

Gary Cavalli, the former Sports Information Director and Associate Athletic Director at Stanford University, was co-founder and executive director of the college football bowl game played in the Bay Area, and previously was co-founder and President of the American Basketball League.

Get in touch//@cavalli49//gacavalli49@gmail.com

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