Within a matter of a few days, Ohio State football coach Urban Meyer went from coaching legend to public enemy number one.
What is decided in the court of public opinion about Urban Meyer in the coming days may say as much about our modern times as it does about Urban Meyer’s conduct.
As background, Urban Meyer is without question a successful college football coach. He has won a national championship at both the University of Florida and Ohio State and has posted a record of 73-8 since his arrival in Columbus.
Meyer’s troubles began at a July 24 press conference when he was asked about whether he knew about the domestic abuse accusations against one of his now ex-coaches, Zach Smith. In the spontaneous back and forth of the press conference, Meyer denied that he did, which was not true. Meyer has since related, "My intention was not to say anything inaccurate or misleading. However, I was not adequately prepared to discuss these sensitive personnel issues with the media, and I apologize for the way I handled those questions."
His inaccurate answer set off a firestorm. Since the press conference, Meyer has been forced to take an administrative leave pending an investigation. Many pundits are speculating that Meyer will be fired. Media critics were quick to make Meyer into a cartoonish stereotype of a win-at-all-cost football coach, with the conclusion being that, with Meyer, violence against women is secondary to Ohio State football.
All of which makes one ask, is such a quick condemnation of Meyer fair?
In our modern instant communication high tech world, you can bet when juicy stories like this come up there will be a rush to judgement, as bloggers and editors fighting for clicks and ratings will sensationalize the story without properly vetting the facts or with little to no care of the fallout to the people in the eye of the hurricane. A moderate, let’s-wait-and-see approach doesn’t feed the bulldog.
Adding to Meyer’s woes, shortly after his leave began, Project Veritas released videos of a select handful of former players who made out Meyer as an uncaring, bullying, and again, win-at-all-cost type of leader. Listening to the one-sided charges from the select group of ex-players, what struck me is that Meyer is more than likely a tough task master in the mold of coaching legends from earlier times, such as Vince Lombardi, Bob Knight, and baseball’s Leo Durocher (of “nice guys finish last” fame). What was once in vogue is now out.
Also, not helping Meyer is, in the post-Harvey Weinstein scandal world, guilt by accusation is now the normal default by the media for men in power who have been accused of misconduct towards women.
While Meyer may not deserve the benefit of the doubt, he doesn’t deserve an assumption of guilt either. What Meyer does deserve is what we all deserve: justice, which is hard to administer without impartiality. Watching the current frenzy, one gets the sense that both the pro-Meyer and anti-Meyer crowds have already made up their minds, and when the facts do trickle in as the days go by, they will be treated as little more than nuisances.
Matthew Kastel is a 25-year veteran of working as an executive in the world of sports, including professional teams, organizations, and some of the largest vendors in the industry. Matt has also written two novels and teaches and lectures at universities on the business of sports. For more information you can visit his website at thirdstrikeproductions.com. To read more of his reports — Click Here Now.
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