Urban Meyer Debacle Proves NCAA Has Still Learned Nothing

Penn State and Joe Paterno alongside Jerry Sandusky. Michigan State and Larry Nassar. Art Briles and Baylor. Louisville and Rick Pitino.

Those are the names of college coaches and the institutions that employed those men, often under very surreptitious, furtive circumstances. Winning was always more important than the lives of hundreds, if not thousands of people. Of course, these examples are an infinitesimally small sample of the rampant barbaric behavior of college athletes.

Urban Meyer, who has coached at Ohio State University since 2012, was placed on administrative leave while the powers that be with the university scrutinize and investigate claims that Meyer had continued to employ former assistant coach Zach Smith despite allegations of domestic violence against Smith. Smith was fired in July.

The allegations of domestic violence, from Courtney Smith, were initially made in 2015. Courtney Smith claims that knowledge of the situation was widespread.

Meyer, who signed a contract extension back in April, has verbiage in said extension that required him to “report any violations by staff members of Ohio State’s sexual misconduct policy to the university’s athletics Title IX coordinator”.

Furthermore, the specifics of his contract also stipulate that Meyer “as an Ohio State employee who supervises others is required by the university’s sexual misconduct policy to report knowledge of domestic abuse by a university employee”. The contract also goes on to state that an individual “need not be charged with or convicted of a criminal offense to be found responsible for domestic violence pursuant to this policy”.

Title IX, in place since 1972, appears to be less valuable than the paper it was written on. It has become a cyclical process in college athletics; coaches and people in positions that facilitate their ability to take action fail to comply in a deliberate fashion, a media frenzy ensues, public scrutiny follows, and perhaps (though far more frequently now) people lose their jobs as a result, usually deservedly so.

Then, we all forget about it as if it never happened. Reports of a new scandal emerge, and the process repeats itself. It is sheer insanity to expect anything to change with this recurring sequence of events.

Naturally, the primary perpetrators are the people who commit these unspeakable acts of violence. But at what point can enablers (those who permit the perpetrators who emerge unscathed) no longer be simply viewed as deuteragonists? When can all parties be held equally accountable?

Unequivocally, Urban Meyer should be terminated effective immediately if the allegations are effectively substantiated and found to be true. But parting ways with omnipotent coaches is not good enough.

I possess my own theory about how to reinvigorate or optimize organizations, and that theory is culture change. In order to reverse bad fortunes or eradicate the ripple effects of mediocre management, a culture change (whether it be removing personnel who prove to be liabilities, including the highest-ranking people) must be initiated. The NCAA must do that in order to put a stop to this.

Sadly, that day will never come. If found to be at fault, Urban Meyer will lose his job, and Ohio State’s football program may face a tentative postseason ban, and punishing players who had nothing to do with any of the incidents will be viewed as a panacea for the problem. But it won’t change the fact that the NCAA is in the Stone Age when it comes to 21st-century thinking.

 

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