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Volume 26 No. 3
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Could Attention Shift To AD Gene Smith In Ohio State Investigation?

Gene Smith previously had to fire football coach Jim Tressel because of NCAA violations
Photo: Ohio State Univ.

Urban Meyer's statement on Friday regarding the domestic violence investigation at Ohio State shows he "won't leave his job without a fight," and also might "set the table for responsibility to shift upward" to AD Gene Smith, according to George Schroeder of USA TODAY. Smith has a "solid reputation as an administrator, but he’s also the athletic director who had to fire Jim Tressel for NCAA violations, and he’s dealing with an unfolding scandal involving sexual misconduct allegations against a former team doctor." Those allegations were from "long before Smith’s tenure," but if "there’s a fall guy, it could be Gene Smith" (USA TODAY, 8/4). In Columbus, Bill Rabinowitz raised the question of whether Smith should join Meyer "on leave during the university’s investigation." Zack Smith recently said that he was on a recruiting visit in '15 when Gene Smith "called him following a call from the Powell police department and told him to return to Columbus." If "that’s the case, then Meyer wouldn’t have had to tell the athletic director because he would already have known" about the '15 abuse allegations (COLUMBUS DISPATCH, 8/5). THE ATHLETIC's Ari Wasserman wrote, "There’s a new face in the world of culpability: athletic director Gene Smith." Meyer has been at the "center of attention with his future on the line," and now Gene Smith is "right there with him" (THEATHLETIC.com, 8/4). USA TODAY's A.J. Perez writes Smith "easily could clear up the timeline if he chose to, but instead, he’s the lone major figure in the scandal that has rocked this area over the last couple weeks that hasn’t said anything" (USA TODAY, 8/6). 

READING THE TEA LEAVES: ESPN’s Paul Finebaum said he is "concerned that the university knows how long it will take to investigate and come to a conclusion." Finebaum: "It sounds like the university may have decided, ‘Urban is going to stay, we just have to work backwards and figure out how to maneuver and manipulate this. [Meyer] threw Gene Smith right out there and under the bus, the railroad tracks, anywhere you want to say, and that to me showed a desperate man who will do anything and say anything to keep his job. When you get down to it, the head football coach at Ohio State is critical. The athletic director can be changed ... so Gene Smith is the one who probably needs to be looking over his shoulders today as opposed to Urban Meyer” (“Golic & Wingo,” ESPN Radio, 8/6). 

ISSUES ARE SCHOOL-WIDE OSU in a statement said that a decision regarding the investigation will be made by school President Michael Drake in consultation with the BOT. In Columbus, Michael Arace wrote there is a "leadership vacuum" at OSU. Arace: "Is anyone else -- faculty, alumni, board members -- wondering what the heck is going on with the athletic department?" Meyer is "lobbying hard to keep his job, to the point of rubbing his bosses’ faces in the cult of his personality." He is "forcing his superiors to decide what the university stands for: Gridiron victories that generate hundreds of millions of dollars to feed the athletic department -- or whatever else the school might cherish" (COLUMBUS DISPATCH, 8/5).

CHOOSE YOUR PATH: In Indianapolis, Gregg Doyel wrote under the header, "Urban Meyer Will Be Fired Unless Ohio State Values Winning Above Truth" (INDIANAPOLIS STAR, 8/5). In Detroit, Rochelle Riley writes Meyer thinks football and a winning record will "prevail over breaking the rules," but that "cannot be allowed to happen" (DETROIT FREE PRESS, 8/6). In Orlando, Mike Bianchi wrote Meyer's statement was "pathetic in many ways -- no more so than the fact that he is trying to blame his superiors for keeping Smith on his staff" (ORLANDO SENTINEL, 8/5).

CHANGING TIMES: The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Bachman & Cohen wrote the "dramatic twists in Ohio State’s widening crisis show how radically the perception of wrongdoing in college sports, and schools’ reactions to allegations of violence, have changed." In "less than a decade, sports fans have realized that college athletes getting free things isn’t a big deal, but domestic violence and sexual assault are." It "remains to be seen whether Meyer will coach another game at Ohio State," and the "uncertainty itself is a remarkable sign of how an issue that has long been diminished or ignored by sports fans has stirred outrage even among some football diehards" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 8/5). In San Antonio, Tom Orsborn wrote, "From a big-picture standpoint, this question needs to be asked nationally: Why are so many coaches and institutions willing to tolerate misconduct among players and staff?" (SAN ANTONIO EXPRESS-NEWS, 8/5).