Urban Meyer was in purgatory. Ohio State chose to let him back onto his heavenly, Horseshoe-shaped playground by opting for a three-game suspension. Meyer sounded like a man not fully willing to cleanse his sins, offering a forced and robotic apology to the wrong people. He’ll be held half-accountable for his steps by a university half-interested in justice and half-interested in winning football games.
But this isn’t an outrage column. You can throw a dart and hit six of those. There is no shortage of people who will tell you that Meyer should have been terminated, that he’s a disgrace, that he’s fallen far short of the high standards he publicly sets for himself and others.
This ended how we knew it’d end. Ohio State held Meyer as accountable as they wanted to hold him. They held themselves, as a university and presumed beacon of truth and light, exactly as accountable as they wanted to without too much discomfort.
This was a complex situation with actors trying to present the best possible spin for self-interest. OSU, for its part, produced a detailed report aimed at drilling down on all the missteps. Reasonable minds will disagree on the fairness of a three-game suspension as opposed to termination or no penalty whatsoever.
What’s clearer is that Ohio State and Meyer weren’t up to fully facing the music Wednesday night. And here’s the obvious tell:
Consider the absurdity of not releasing the full report before the press conference. Consider that reporters and — not insignificantly — fans had been gathered for nearly 12 hours while the jury deliberated. Consider the stakes and that Meyer has been on administrative leave all month. To not wait 10 minutes so the media could ask informed questions was a deliberate attempt to avoid taking the appropriate medicine and answering the hard questions.
The document dump is full of revelations that must be addressed. The obvious breadcrumbs suggesting Meyer destroyed evidence. The tap-dancing, Bill Clinton-like parsing of when a mistruth is a lie. Disclosure that Meyer suffers from memory loss and is often so chemically altered he can’t focus.
Shielding the rather damning finding from the press and public before the leaders faced the music was no accident. It was carefully considered stagecraft with a goal in mind. To pull off a bait and switch.
The broad strokes used to verbally describe the report weren’t accurate. In fact, one could argue they were intentionally misleading. The circle of accountability broke down at every step, including the one where the press pushes hard for answers.
And they couldn’t because the report wasn’t made available.
Three games may be fair and just. It’s harder to accept that in the wake of Ohio State’s selective accountability. In the wake of them ducking the toughest questions. In the knowledge they’ll never be answered because — you know and I know — that the talking point from this point forward will be that these things “are in the past.”
It was an obvious gambit and it worked in the moment. Perhaps a choose-your-own accountability chapter was the only way for this story to end. Puts a nice bow on the entire episode.